Sermon by Richard Barton 25th March 2018

Notes from the Sermon by Richard Barton 25th March 2018

Readings:

Zechariah 9:9-10

Luke 19:28-40

“As they were untying the colt its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt” They said “The Lord needs it”

Can anyone here recall an incident, maybe when they were young, or perhaps older, when they were caught doing something that they were not supposed to be doing! This is a rhetorical questions, unless anyone feels the strong urge to confess!  When I was about 5 years old and at school with a pair of scissors and for some reason decided I wanted to see if they would cut my socks! They did but my mother was not impressed with the result of one sock with a long slash at the top and she said something like “What did you think you were doing?!” I tried to get out of that one by saying that another child had done this when I was “playing dead during a playground game, and my mother told me to find the other child and get the cost of new pair of socks from them, which lead me to return home the next day to confess!

But this phrase, What are you doing?! Is one we have all probably heard at one time or other, sometimes the verb to think is often added in “What do you think you are doing?!

This little incident before the triumphant progression into Jerusalem, is a curious one but recalled by all three of the synoptic gospel writers. The disciples asked to go the village ahead, find a colt and take it, Jesus needed some transport to get into Jerusalem, and if they were challenged as they were to say “The lord needs it”. No wonder that the colt owers said, “Why are you untying the colt” “What do you think you are doing?!” Or perhaps even the implied questions was “On what or on whose authority are you doing this?

I don’t know about you but fear that if I was one of the disciples tasked to do this, I might have said… “Eh Jesus, you cant just take peoples animals, I mean, do you know these people,?”

On this Sunday, Palm Sunday – we reflect on the day when Christ’s ministry, went from being tentative at times, wandering around Galilee carrying out acts of healing and teaching and sparring occasionally with the Pharisees and Jewish authorities to going into Jerusalem openly, defiantly, ultimately fatally to be arrested, and tried and crucified, before rising again on the Sunday.

This is part of a poem called coming to a city nearest you by the Canadian Mennonite paster Carol Penner imagining the events of Palm Sunday now.

So he goes into Jerusalem as a King, but a strange one, not on a horse but on a colt or donkey depending on the translation. He is fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah “Shout for joy you people of Jerusalem, Look your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of a donkey”

Lukes version of Palm Sunday is not only notable for not mentioning palms(!) but for the focus on peace, the crowds shout, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven. Again echoing the words  of Zechariah, “The Lord says I will remove the war chariots from Israel and take the horses from Jerusalem; the bows used in battle will be destroyed”. And  the Pharisees are looking on and saying “What does he think he is doing!” Or more probably “Who does he think he is?!” “On whose authority is he doing this?”

And rest assured, when in the next section of this chapter, Jesus goes into the temple to overturn the tables of the money changers to speak with a passion that’s probably unique in the gospels about the importance of justice. The corrupt stall holders and money changers would have been saying “What are doing? What do you think you are doing?!” Who gave you the authority to do this!

And this is the questioning that we may have to face when we are called to go head for Jesus,, to untie the colt, – what are you doing, what are doing going to church, why are believing fairy tales, why are you trying to buck the system, turning the words of Jesus – that are probably the most misunderstood against us – the poor will always be with us, why are bothering with such people?

But perhaps its also important to realise that some of the antagonism, particularly towards the established church comes from the negative experiences of people to religious or other authority. Linda and I have been watching a programme about pilgrimage where a group of people, some celebritys, take the pilgrimage to Santiago De Compostela across northern spain. One of the pilgrims is a journalist Raph Rowe who for 12 years was wrongly imprisoned for murder and robbery and who has a real distrust of authority including religious institutions and did not want to go into any of the churches on the pilgrimage, but in part from an admitted mistrust of peoples motives, and in part from a curiosity he would often get into conversation with other pilgrims asking “What are you doing” or “why are you doing this?”

And perhaps Im getting it all wrong about the owner of the colt. What if the tone of the questioning is quite different. More What are you doing, why do you need the colt, who is your Lord, tell me about him? And this kind of questioning, not an aggressive challenging one but a curious, interested questioning is perhaps for some of us even harder to answer? What do we say when people ask us, What do you believe in, why do you go to church, Im curious, why does your church believe its important to stand up for asylum seekers, why does your church seek to provide a place where people can come and worship regardless of their sexuality, tell me about your belief? And if you are like me you find it just so hard to talk about belief about God about Jesus about religion, with friends and work colleagues and relatives and the people you meet.

In the British Social Attitudes survey of a couple of years back half the population said they belonged to a religion – and of those about 90% said they were Christian. And on the matter of belief in another recent survey one third said they believed in God, one third had no belief in God or any higher power, and one third either did not believe in God but did believe in a higher power or just didn’t know.

So it seems to me that the people of this country are finely balanced in what they feel and believe about matters of religion and faith. And like the crowds during holy week maybe some of the time we get shouts of Hosanna, and some of the time Crucify him.

Pope Francis seems to me to be a person who certainly has many people in the Catholic church saying (probably in private) What does he think hes doing! But also is someone who has got people talking about matters of faith and humble living.  Last year he was given a gift of a very fancy Lambourghini sports car, he auctioned it and gave the money to various charities including one that supports women trafficked into prostitution. So the world at large was asking why he was behaving as he does, whats behind the desire to live very simply and to place more emphasis on issues of peace and justice.

So when we go out into the world beyond the church walls, and into the wonderful, crazy, mixed up, scary world, and we are called by Christ to service, whether we face the ridicule and aggression of those who just don’t understand a life of service to Christ and question its value, or we get to meet people who are curious about our values and our beliefs and want to learn more, may we, through the spirit have the strength, the courage, the humour and the sensitivity to share our faith and our conviction of the God of Love in Christ, in everything we do and everyone we meet.

Amen

This Week 26 March – 1 April 2018

Mon 26 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Mon 26 March @ 6-7pm ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ Holy Week reflections and Eucharist at St Chad’s, Far Headingley
Mon 26 March @ 6-8pm All Hallows goes to jail! Visit to HMP Leeds #1
Tues 27 March @ 6-7pm ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ Holy Week reflections and Eucharist at St Chad’s
Tue 27 March @ 7:30-9pm Bible Study at David’s house (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 28 March @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Wed 28 March @ 6-7pm ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ Holy Week reflections and Eucharist at St Chad’s
Wed 28 March @ 7pm Sung Mass and Compline at St Aidan’s, Harehills
Wed 28 March @ 7.30pm Wild City Retreat at Left Bank Leeds
Thur 29 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thurs 29 March @ 7pm Maundy Thursday Seder/Eucharist and dinner. Only by RSVP (for catering purposes) – revheston@gmail.com
Fri 30 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 30 March @ 12-3pm Good Friday worship – 3 hours with God and hot cross buns! Time and space for silence, music, reading and prayer stations
Fri 30 March @ 6.30pm Rainbow Junktion Bengali Bistro! Book here
Fri 30 March @ 7pm St Peter’s Singers in concert: Bach’s Mass in B minor (at Leeds Minster)
Sun 1 April @ 6:15am – sunrise! Easter Sunday dawn worship followed by cooked breakfast
Sun 1 April @10.30am  Easter Sunday all age worship

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

This Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and we are fast approaching the climax of the Easter story, time perhaps to slow down and reflect. This Sunday Richard Barton will be sharing his thoughts and reflections on Palm Sunday and the readings will be from Zechariah 9:9-10 and Luke 19:28-40. After the service you are invited to join us as we visit Hope Pastures donkey sanctuary in Weetwood and get close up to real life donkeys.

Hyde Park Big Lunch / Sadaqa Day

What do you get if you invite Christians, Muslims, Jews, local people of faith and no faith to a Big Lunch / Sadaqa Day event on a snowy Sunday afternoon in March?

Well, it’s snow joke but it was fun, educational, emotional and very warm!

A Sadaqa Day is a Muslim day of social action and this time we were honoured to be able to host the event at All Hallows sharing food, getting to know each other better and hearing about some of the issues that our brothers and sisters experience as our Muslim neighbours. Adam shared with us the craziness of certain hateful people and Shahab’s brilliant response of “Love A Muslim Day” on April 3rd.

We also heard from Leeds No Borders about their work with refugees and asylum seekers, how we might help and we wrote to our MPs in support of the fasting “prisoners” at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

Kate shares with us about the work of Leeds No Borders

Kate shares with us about the work of Leeds No Borders

Adam talks about "Love a Muslim Day" on April 3rd

Adam talks about “Love a Muslim Day” on April 3rd #LoveAMuslimDay

A little bit of Craftivism!

Despite the snow and ice there was a great turn out and we all made new friends. A great afternoon!

This Week 19 – 25 March 2018

Mon 19 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 20 March @ 7:30-9pm Bible Study at David’s house (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 21 March @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thur 22 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thur 22 / Fri 23 March @10-3 Community Free Shop
Fri 23 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 25 March @10.30am Palm Sunday morning worship
Sun 25 March @12pm Palm Sunday donkey sanctuary visit! Hope Pastures, Weetwood Lane, LS16 5PH

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

This Sunday

This Sunday we are being led in our worship at 10:30am by our superdooper students, Robin Fishwick, Quaker Chaplain at Leeds University Chaplaincy, will be leading us in his thoughts about Luke 19:1-27, and Heston will be leading us in the Feast of Life.

After worship why not join us for  The Big Lunch / Sadaqa Day from 1pm to 3pm when we hosting and showing solidarity and love for our Muslim neighbours.

Inspiration – an honoured guest

Last week (4th March) the congregation of All Hallows’ joined with St Chad’s and St Michael’s at St Chad’s to celebrate their patronal festival (a sort of birthday party!) Ted Schofield was inspired to produce the painting in response to the reading:

When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

This Week 12 – 18 March 2018

Mon 12 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 13 March @ 7:30-9pm Bible Study at David’s house (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 14 March @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Wed 14 March @7-9pm PCC Meeting
Thur 15 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thurs 15 March @ 7-9pm Theology Night – Did God kill Jesus?? WHAT happened on the cross…? at AH vicarage
Fri 16 March @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 18 March @10.30am Sunday morning worship led by our students
Sun 18 March @1-3pm Hyde Park Big Lunch / Sadaqa Day

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sermon by Paul Magnall 11th March 2018

Notes from the sermon by Paul Magnall on the 11th March 2018

Readings:

Psalm 37

Luke 6:20-49

What are the stories that we live by?

What are the stories that shape or control or direct our lives?

I don’t mean Harry Potter, James Bond or Little Women.

I mean stories like:

– Survival of the fittest – a story that has us trampling over everyone else, laughing down at those who fail and living in fear and awe of those who do better than us

– Perpetual economic growth – a story that has us accumulating more and more stuff that we don’t use and we then throw away. A story where we live as though there are unlimited resources. (there is no planet B). This story has it that we are all independent actors in an economic model of growth. In this reality it is money that gives us value, and we don’t need anybody else because we have to buy what we need. That is the society that this story portrays.

– And at the same time there is the story of a world of scarcity that helps to fuel the first two stories. This is a story where there is a shortage or lack of money or food or iPhones or tickets for concerts and so we have to compete to obtain them. We have to use power to overcome others in order to obtain the things that we want and that we believe to be scarce. At a personal level we see it in the January sales where people fight each other to get items on sale even though they don’t need them, and sometimes don’t actually want them! On a national and international level a perceived shortage of oil leads to wars in the Middle East, a shortage of water is likely to lead to fighting in the near future. And who knows, we may end up going to war to secure fertile land to grow food.

– Then there is the story of superiority, that “we are better than them”, “we deserve more than them”, “they are too different from us”, “you have nothing to contribute” – a story that has us building walls or barriers, rules and regulations, or attitudes and behaviours designed to keep foreigners or coloureds or women or gays or disabled people or old people or young people – anyone different to us – out of our country, our homes, our churches, our political system, our organisations, our sight. A story that leads to detention centres like Yarl’s Wood, that leaves elderly people alone in care badly run care homes

– The story of fear and security where we perceive someone to be a threat to us and so we need to be better armed than them. If we have the armaments that can destroy them should they attack us then we will be safe. A story of deterrence and Mutually Assured Destruction, of fear and paranoia. A story where our lives are more valuable than theirs.

These stories speak of separation, scarcity and powerlessness

• Separation – we are separate from each other, from nature, from the world. What we do doesn’t affect anyone else and we can’t change things because we are on our own.

• Scarcity – the things we need are in short supply. There is a shortage of wealth, of material goods, of love, of happiness, of good things and we have to compete for them if we want them and then hoard them and protect them at all cost once we have them.

• Powerlessness – we are powerless to change things because we are on our own. Even in the groups we form we cannot change things because the problems are too big. If I change the way I do something it will have no effect on the rest of the world so why bother?

Just some examples:

The story of our political system screams, “Us versus them”

The story of our economic system screams, “Scarcity!”

The story of our medical environment screams, “Be afraid!”

Together, they keep us alone and scared to change.

These stories are breeding ground for violence – not necessarily the use of guns or of domestic violence but the violence we find in competing for things where other people get trampled underfoot or the world gets trashed, where things of real value in the world are actively rubbished.

So how do we change this?

It is often said that we can’t change the world using the same stories that the world runs by. We can’t bring peace by force, we can’t bring equity through inequitable systems. There is a saying “You can’t grow corn by planting tomato seeds”. The story that we live by is born out in how we live.

So maybe we need a new story. A story that brings hope to our world, a story that brings healing, that brings

• interdependence instead of separation

• abundance instead of scarcity

• freedom instead of powerlessness

• peace instead of violence

This brings us to the story of the Bible and the story of Jesus. People over the ages have discovered that the stories woven throughout the Bible can transform and bring healing, not only to individuals, but to society, to the world.

The Old Testament has many examples of people trying to move from an old story of separation, scarcity, powerlessness and violence to a new story of interdependence, abundance, freedom and peace. A classic one that Heston has talked us through before and I believe you looked at two weeks ago is the Exodus story. The Israelites were in Egypt, separated from their homes, kept as slaves and in fear of violence by an oppressive regime. They had been swallowed up by the story of the land of Egypt. God, through Moses, leads them out of Egypt into the wilderness where they struggle to let go of the old story of Egypt and embrace the story of interdependence, abundance, freedom and peace. They keep falling back into the old ways – they worship a golden calf, they try to hoard the manna that feeds them, they argue and bicker and have power struggles. It takes a whole generation before they are ready to embrace the new story and move into the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.

A similar story can be seen with the life of Jesus. Despite all the miracles and teachings of Jesus the people struggled to let go of the old story of Roman domination, of religious manipulation, of fear and violence. It takes the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to change that story, to open the eyes and minds and hearts of his followers, to lead them into a life of interdependence where they share in the abundance, freedom and peace that they find in the new story.

“Before they are able to enter a new story, most people—and probably most societies as well—must first navigate the passage out of the old. In between the old and the new there is an empty space. It is a time when the lessons and learnings of the old story are integrated. Only when that work has been done is the old story really complete.” (Charles Eisenstein)

Lent and Easter are a time where we can examine the stories that we live by and take the time to bring them to a conclusion and move into the new story that God brings, a story that will bring healing to our lives, to society and to the world.

So let’s have a brief look at a bit of those stories that we see in today’s reading in Luke:

1. love your enemies

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.

This is so “other” to what we are brought up to believe. The story of the world is that the enemy is to be feared, to be resisted. We should arm ourselves to the back teeth to deter them and to threaten them with annihilation should they try anything. Whether it is the Germans, the Russians, Chinese, North Vietnamese, Iraqis, Iranians, North Koreans, Muslim extremists, hackers or aliens! This pervades our story books, our films, our whole life story. And yet here we are told a new story – love them. Love our enemies.

And this isn’t a passive love, it is an active love. We should do what is best for them – bless them if they curse us, pray for those that mistreat us. And verse 29 is an incredibly powerful verse. This isn’t saying “lie down and let them trample over you”, it is an act of resistance. A slap around the face was what the superior did to the inferior, the masters did it to their slaves, husbands to their wives, parents to their children, and Romans did it to the Jews. The point was to put someone who was out of line back in their place, to reinforce the hierarchy. But if you turn your other cheek you can’t be slapped (right hand only here!) you would have to use the fist – but only equals used their fists and the last thing the oppressor will want to do is demonstrate equality. By turning the cheek the “inferior” is saying: “I’m a human being, just like you. I refuse to be humiliated any longer. I am your equal. I am a child of God. I won’t take it anymore.”

In that story of honour and shaming, the “superior” has been rendered impotent to instil shame in a subordinate. He has been stripped of his power to dehumanize the other. As Gandhi taught, “The first principle of nonviolent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.”

The new story is saying “Stand up for yourselves, defy your masters, assert your humanity; but don’t answer the oppressor in kind. Find a new, third way that is neither cowardly submission nor violent reprisal.”

2. Give your tunic

If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

Debt was a big problem in Jesus time, and is now as well. Debt is part of the old story of scarcity and the Bible challenges this again and again. In this verse where Jesus says “If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” Jesus is not saying give them what they want, he is again saying use the system against itself. Don’t live the old story, live the new one. People were usually poor because they were in debt due to an oppressive system. The land grabbers of Jesus time imposed exorbitant interest rates to drive land owners deep into debt and eventually people were literally left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. A cloak was a very important piece of clothing. It was the way you kept warm in cold weather. It kept the sun off in the hot weather. It served as a blanket or pillow at night. So if you were letting your cloak go it was probably as a pledge – you are so poor you have nothing else you can offer as surety. In Exodus 22:26 God commands that if a man takes another man’s cloak as a pledge, the cloak must be given back before nightfall so that he can have something to sleep in.

So why give your undergarment as well as your cloak? This would mean that you would be stripped naked! In Judaism at the time nakedness was taboo but shame fell not so much on the naked person but on the person who saw you naked (Gen 9:20-27). The creditor here is being shamed, the poor man has turned the tables on him, he is protesting against the system that has created his debt, it is almost as if he is saying “You want my robe? Here, take everything! Now you’ve got all I have except my body. Is that what you’ll take next?” The story changes from one that shows a poor man down on his luck to a story that unmasks an unjust system that creates debt. The rich man, the creditor, is revealed, not as a legitimate money lender, but as a party to the system that impoverishes others. The action of the debtor changes the story and offers the creditor a chance to see what he is doing and a chance to change his ways.

I could go on. The next verse is verse 30 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” There is a story here as well, this is rooted in the Old Testament and God’s teaching about borrowing and about the principle of the Jubilee which includes forgiving debt every 7 years.

The story that Jesus gives us is so different from the story by which the world operates. The story of the world is about separation, scarcity, powerlessness and violence – if we stop and look at how we live and find these things we know we are living by the story of the world. If we find that we are bring interdependence, abundance, freedom and peace then maybe we are starting to live the Jesus story and bringing healing to our fragmented and hurting world.

But doing this on your own is almost impossible. As we know from New Year resolutions and trying to commit to giving things up or taking things on during Lent, it is so difficult to do. The story of separation, scarcity, powerlessness and violence that the world gives us is shouted so loudly and whispered so subtly through everything around us that we often feel powerless to change things and to live that different story. It is like building a house on sand, everything keeps collapsing.

Charles Eisenstein says “usually, people cannot hold a new story by themselves. A story can be held only in community” and that is one of the reasons we come together. So that we can

• Share the story of Jesus, of hope and of healing, of interdependence, of abundance, of freedom and peace.

• Support each other and remind each other that there is another way,

• Encourage each other and cheer each other on,

• Stand with those who are naked and with those who are in debt, those who are threatened with deportation, those who are lonely and isolated, those who feel undervalued or worthless, those who feel they have nothing

• Celebrate with those who find release and healing, who have found abundance in life

• When we share the Feast of Life we are re-enacting a new story of hope and healing, a story of interdependence and reconciliation, of abundance and freedom, of peace. A story that contrasts with the old story of the world.

In short, by living the new story together we bring in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now.

The world tells us to seek success, power and money.

God tells us to seek humility, service and love.

— Pope Francis

References and resources

Jesus and Non-violence – A Third Way, Walter Wink

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Charles Eisenstein

This Sunday

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent. In our service at 10:30am Paul Magnall will be sharing some thoughts about the stories that we live by and how difficult it is to change them, Heston will be leading us in sharing the Feast of Life. Readings include Psalm 37 and Luke 6:20-49. Everyone is welcome to join with us!