Category Archives: Mission

Sermon for Transfiguration / Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Reading: Mark 9 – The Transfiguration of Jesus
Lord, I pray that the words that I speak, and the words that are heard contain something of your transforming glory so that we can join together in the work of bringing about your kingdom here on earth. Amen
In Mark’s Gospel so far, Jesus has been leading his followers up a metaphorical mountaintop to give them a new view of God’s kingdom which he was ushering in. However so much of what Jesus has said and done has been a mystery to those experiencing it. Gradually, though, their eyes are being opened and they are starting to get glimpses of things as they really are. Jesus’ many miracles and parables are starting to show them that he is the Messiah and they are beginning to understand more fully what that means.
At the Transfiguration, it is no longer just metaphorical, we are on an actual mountaintop. God’s voice confirms what the disciples are gradually realising: “This is my Son, and I love him”. Just like Moses and Elijah received their calling from God on a mountaintop, Jesus also meets God on a mountain. He is sent out to finish the work started through the Law and the Prophets. The transfiguration is a sign of Jesus being entirely caught up in the transforming love, power and kingdom of God, so that it transforms his whole being with light. This is the sign that Jesus is not just indulging in fantasies about God’s kingdom, but that he is speaking and doing the truth. It’s the sign that he is indeed the true prophet, the true Messiah.
For us, experiencing the kingdom of God in Jesus shouldn’t mean merely a few minor adjustments to our ordinary lives. Jesus’ whole being was transformed until he was shining with the light of God. The transfiguration account invites us to a whole-hearted transformation of ourselves, so that we too can pick up our cross, like Jesus did, and follow him. We should be transformed by God’s light, until we’re overflowing with the light of the world. We know that, but do we really allow ourselves to be fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus? Are there areas of your life that continually resist full transformation?
Our Chapter of Mark continues with the argument between the disciples about which one of them was the greatest. It amazes us that they have spent so much time with Jesus and yet they still don’t understand the upside down kingdom that he has been talking about and bringing about. But, if you’re honest with yourself, do you really get it? Are you completely immune to the pressures of this world for material success and status?
We know that in God’s upside down world God is biased towards the poor. The theme of Church Action on Poverty Sunday is “Poor Church, Transfigured Church”. What can the account of the Transfiguration teach us about what we should be like as a church? If our churches are to be communities that put the poorest first, how must we change? What must we let go of? What sacrifices are we called to make? How can we allow God to transform us into what Pope Francis has called a “poor Church for the poor”?
First we need to see God in Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration are two times that Jesus is identified as the Son of God, both times by a voice from heaven. The only time he is actually recognised as the Son of God by a human being is at his crucifixion. And this wasn’t by someone who had walked with him and listened to him – Jesus was recognised for who he really was by a gentile, a Roman centurion. And it didn’t happen when Jesus was at his most powerful. In fact it was when Jesus was at his most vulnerable – he had been stripped of everything and was at the mercy of the authorities. Jesus’ divine identity was most truly revealed when he was at his weakest.
We need to see God in Jesus and then we need to see God in each other. I think Emma reminded us last week that the Quakers try to see “That of God in everyone”. Do we really see God in those who, by the world’s standards, are weak and seemingly at the mercy of the “system”? Those people who are as weak and vulnerable as Jesus was at his crucifixion? When we see people in poverty do we see the face of Jesus Christ, and want to listen and learn – or do we see “them” as people who are not “us”, do we see “them” as a problem, do we want to fix “them” and sort “them” out? Fixes that come at cost to “them” but not to “us”; that change “them”, but fail to transform “us”?
Part of Church Action on Poverty’s mission has always been to give a voice, a face and a name to those of us who experience poverty on a daily basis. To create a space where there are different voices and people truly listen to each other.
I think we, at All Hallows, are not too bad at doing this. We have a lot of things going on in our building during the week. Through our work with refugees, through our café, and through many other things that we as individuals are involved with we encounter people different from ourselves.
In our café just last week we took part in a Big Conversation as part of the End Hunger UK campaign which is co-ordinated by Church Action on Poverty, and Student Christian Movement is part of. Emma, Sarah and I asked people to write on paper plates their response to the question: “What one thing would you ask the government to do to end hunger in the UK?”. The significance of using paper plates was that we were asking the government to “step up to the plate”! It was fascinating to listen to people’s conversations as they struggled to narrow it down to just one solution! You can see the ideas they came up with displayed in the café. It was a vivid reminder to me how much I have to learn from listening to people and learning from their experiences.
Have a think about your week ahead. How often will you make time to encounter someone with a different lived experience to you? Can you make some more time to sit and listen, maybe to someone who has had their benefits sanctioned or who has had to make the impossible choice between heating or eating? Can you make more time to hear people’s experiences for yourself and be transformed by them?
When thinking about the possibility of being a poor church for the poor I’ve been challenged to think not only about what we do in mission but also about our act of worship here on a Sunday morning. We like to think of ourselves as an inclusive church, and we try very hard to be, but how varied are the voices who lead us? Heston is very conscious of being a white male, although at least he is from another country and challenges other stereotypes of a parish priest! How many people of different colours, countries and financial situations are involved in designing our worship services? Is it actually possible to be inclusive for the person who struggles to read, while being inclusive to those who love the beauty of liturgical language? And what about being inclusive of the person who didn’t finish school, while being inclusive of those who like an intellectual debate about the finer details of eschatology? I don’t think there are easy answers but, to truly be an inclusive poor church for the poor, they are issues we need to be grappling with. How do we ensure we are a church where people from all backgrounds and life experiences can meet with the transforming love of God?
Instead of providing our own opinion of the solution, how do we equip and enable those individuals with personal experience of the challenges of life to exercise leadership? How do we empower them to make the changes they themselves have identified as necessary? It’s probably more costly, especially in terms of time which is a real challenge when we feel so time poor, but is it what we should be doing? Like Church Action on Poverty, how are we ensuring that we’re not just a voice for those without a voice, but that we’re helping those who are not heard to use their own voice?
As I finish I’ll leave you with some inspiring words from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche which could transform us as individuals and as a church if we’re brave enough to follow them and really become a poor church for the poor:

“If you enter into relationship with a lonely or suffering person you will discover something else; that it is you who are being healed. The broken person will reveal to you your own inner hurt and the hardness of your heart, but also how much you are loved. Thus the one you came to heal will be the healer. If you let yourself be moulded thus by the cry of the poor and accept their healing friendship, then they may guide your footsteps into community and lead you into a new vision of humanity, a new world order, not governed by power and fear but where the poor and weak are at the centre. They will lead you into the kingdom Jesus speaks of”.

Lydia Groenewald

For further inspiration: ‘Poverty is many things’ by Tony Walsh

Poverty is not entertainment, it’s not noble or romantic.
Poverty is… heavy.
It’s heavy hearts and heavy legs.
It’s sore skin and hollow eyes.
It’s upset and downhearted.
It’s hunger. Malnourishment. It’s always thinking about the next meal.
Poverty is bailiffs, it’s food banks, it’s queues and lists, it’s never being told what you’re entitled to but always being told.
Poverty is being shown up then put down.
It’s missed payments and mistrust.
It’s always answering questions but never answering the door.
Poverty is hiding in plain view. It’s hiding.
Poverty is high bills and low pay.
It’s higher costs and lower self-esteem.
It’s invisible scars and visible pain.
Poverty is living nextdoor, it’s living on your nerves, it’s not living, it’s… barely surviving.
Poverty is… everywhere. With… nowhere to turn
It’s a gut-wrenching silence, screaming.
Poverty is depressing, demotivating and dehumanising.
It’s degradation, desperation and despair.
Poverty is feeling… worthless, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling excluded, it’s feeling rejected, it’s feeling ashamed, it’s feeling trapped, it’s feeling angry, it’s feeling fffrustrated, poverty is…. exhausting.
It’s not feeling anything. It’s… numb.
Poverty is… crushing. Empty. Lonely.
Poverty is cold. It’s damp. It’s ill health. Bad housing. Sadness, fear and human misery.
Poverty is ignored and abandoned. It’s sanctioned and sectioned. It’s late payments and early deaths.
Poverty is not something that happens to… “others”.
Poverty is our old people, our young people, our sick people, our disabled people, our mentally ill people, our homeless people. Poverty is people seeking asylum, it’s people who are refugees, people who are migrants. Poverty is over-worked, under-paid everyday people.
Poverty is people. It’s children. Babies. Not… “them”. Us.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Poverty is growing in our country. In 2017.
Poverty is many things, but
it is not
acceptable.

A collaboration between Church Action on Poverty and Tony Walsh

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Where’s Wally – Sadaqa Day

In this great action shot from Makkah Mosque yesterday… You get 10 points each for finding:

  • Amanda
  • Andrea
  • Chris
  • Emma
  • Mandy
  • Sarah
  • Sheraz
  • and 50 points if you can spot Thor!

sadaqa day

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Sadaqa Day 2016

Our Muslim sisters and brothers would like our help feeding hungry people… Anyone up for a Palm Sunday procession to Makkah Masjid??

sadaqa day 2016

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Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan starts tomorrow (Thursday 18 June), and we’d like to deliver a card like this to each of our 3 local Mosques: Leeds Grand Mosque, Makkah Masjid, and Makki Masjid and Madrassa . All in favour, say Aye??

ramadan wishes

And let’s remember our Muslim sisters and brothers in our prayers this next month… ‘Loving God, Good Shepherd of us all: We give you thanks and praise for the rich diversity of your world and your people. Give us humility to see your Spirit at work in the life of others; give us joy to show your Spirit at work in our life; and above all give us love to embrace and break down the barriers that separate us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’

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Happy Christmas!

Christmas, a time for giving and a time for receiving, a time of joyful celebration and sharing.

So no room for politics!

But … Christmas is a political statement!

Mary’s song (the Magnificat) speaks of the birth of a new king who will scatter the proud, bring down rulers, lift up the humble and redistribute wealth.

A new king, one who becomes a refugee in the first few months of his life.

What could be more political?

“Simon” puts it very well in his “a sideways glance” blog – he says that Christmas is the:

“most political festival in the Christian calendar (apart from all the others!), it is the perfect moment for Christians to be talking about the things that matter to God – justice, equality, being practical good news to the poor, and challenging elites and the wealthy to use the resources under their command to work for God’s agenda in the world.”

So, I would like to wish you all a very happy and political Christmas – may the message of the kingdom that Jesus came to bring into the world be our inspiration for the New Year, and may His Spirit and our fellowship together be a resource to sustain us as we work to “make all things new”.

Paul

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Christian Aid – working in Brazil

Harvest-2013-church-magazine-article_tcm15-69838

Katherine Hogg of Christian Aid shared today about some of the work that Christian Aid are doing in Brazil.

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All Hallows’ Break dance leader ‘Beanz’ makes it to Semi-final of National breakdancing competition

Scott Coulson (aka ‘Beanz’),  co-leader of the break dance group ‘Shaolin Shadow’  who practise in All Hallows on Saturday evenings made it as far as the semi-final of the Red Bull breakdance competition recently.

Scott, who has shouldered more of the leadership of the Leeds group since Shane Fenton has been more involved in the national scene, is hoping along with his partner Rawgina to start break dance and exercise  classes at All Hallows in the not-too-distant future. We wish them luck with this venture which has as one its main aims the health and well being of youngsters in the local area so look out for that!

Meanwhile, click on the link below and have a look at the video of Beanz and the other competitors – and also a clip of a Saturday night session at All Hallows!

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/video/2013/sep/06/b-boys-dont-break-breakdancing-video

Steve

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Steve’s sermon 25/8/13

The gospel reading today is from Luke chapter 13 – which is basically all about judging.

I’ve been reading a colleague’s sabbatical study on the spiritualities of the Coptic and the Celtic churches – which among other things shared the idea of a Rule of Life that centres on

  • ·Gender equality
  • the importance of the Created order its care
  • ·Self-discipline
  • Communal activity

All of these areas of life call for judgement of some kind.

Life is full of judgements isn’t it? –

Ø Egypt and the conflict between a regime acting on the will of millions of people to topple a seemingly corrupt leadership – and a political group whose democratically elected leader has been summarily arrested and imprisoned…

Ø The partner of the Guardian correspondent who was held for nine hours at Heathrow airport under terrorist legislation without charge or arrest…

Ø The cull of badgers – unnecessary wiping out of innocent defenceless creatures, or essential protection dairy herds…

Judgement always has two parts – our words and actions in expressing judgement (including sometimes saying and doing things we don’t realise give away what we really think, feel, believe) – and the judgements we hold in our minds and hearts.

Sometimes these two don’t match as neatly as we’d like them to… especially in those judgements that affect us more personally; think for a moment. In your dealings with each other and with other people, what are the things that determine your judgements – your intentions, words and actions?

Because among the many gifts that nature in her wisdom has given each of us, is a very strong instinct for survival and this often leads us into conflict, doesn’t it… conflict between our wants and what we know from our discipleship of Jesus the Christ and following his Way, are his wants for us.

In the news over the past couple of days was the story of the British soldier, a bomb-disposal expert, the first foreigner ever to be honoured by the Danish government. This was for an incident that happened in Afghanistan when the soldier shielded his Danish colleague with his own body.

I wonder what went through his mind in the second or so he had to make a decision about preserving his own life or potentially saving the life of another? Maybe you think that that kind of incident is far from your life and the judgements you need to make day by day – But I would argue that it’s precisely this kind of thinking that has to rule everything we do. We Christians talk about the Way of Christ; in our welcome at the start of our Sunday services we often use the words, “Everyone is welcome to receive communion – all we ask is a heart open to God and a respect for the Way of Jesus”… Well we’ve already made a judgement about who can have communion (everyone) – but we also judge that a heart open to God and a respect for the way of Jesus is more deserving than perhaps a tortured heart that knows nothing of God and has never even heard of the way of Jesus…

Judgements – more tricky than perhaps we sometimes think!!

So it was for the poor leader of the synagogue in today’s reading from the gospel of Luke. He obviously had something against the woman who Jesus healed, or maybe he even had a thing about women in general? Or perhaps he was just a mean-spirited man who you just want to slap?

He was evidently defending (rather too hard, you might think) his received religious instruction to keep the Sabbath, and that meant no work of any kind – which for him and many others included healing, As our Old testament reading says:

If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath,
   from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the Sabbath a delight
   and the holy day of the Lord honourable;
if you honour it, not going your own ways,
   serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;*
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord…

Maybe there is a point here that we miss at our peril: could the leader of the synagogue have been genuinely, even faithfully according to the received teaching, exhorting people to put even their need for healing (or their desire to heal?) secondary to the importance of keeping Sabbath – focussing totally on the things of God to the exclusion of all else? His fervour does seem genuine…

15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’ 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

There always seem to be winners and losers when we get involved in judging … in Keith Hebden’s book ‘”SEEKING JUSTICE”, in writing about our response to people we judge to be wrong-doers and how justice and forgiveness are always personal, he says this:

“Finding a way to forgive an offender is often challenging. We have been taught to believe that the natural human response to being offended against is to seek retribution” ­– There has to be payback, punishment, JUSTICE!!

The leader of the synagogue in our gospel reading is a good example of this. It seems to me that Jesus’ compassion for the woman is paramount and rightly so, but what about the man?

What is your response to him? What does the way of Jesus say about how we ought to treat him?

On Jesus’ response to the man’s complaints, the gospel says, “all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.”

Well hooray for our side! Jesus is the winner and this horrible man and people like him are all losers.

But let’s look at that again:

When Jesus replies 15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites (PLURAL!)

And then goes on to suggest something positive – “…ought not this woman be set free on the Sabbath?”

Two points here: firstly, you might say the leader of the synagogue is wrong and needs to be castigated in some way; made to feel shame for his thoughtless and uncaring attitude…

But wait – the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 58. 9 & 10):

If you remove the yoke from among you,
   the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
   you shall be called the repairer of the breach!

So if you were to offer the ‘food’ of your compassion to this evidently spiritually hungry man you might say he is just a poor individual whose religious fervour and devotion have led him to make a wrong judgement. So when Jesus replies in the plural, could it be that he is not having a go at this one man in a condemnatory way but is actually talking to a whole Community about getting the right message about making judgements?

Keith Hebden echoes this in his chapter on ‘Making Community Personal’ when he distinguishes between an individualistic outlook on the one hand – and a personal world-view on the other. With Individualism the individual strives to be materially and emotionally self-sustaining; in other words it is based on a selfishness that serves to divide communities and make us dependent on a system that is beyond individual control. Personalism assumes that we have collective needs and an ability to express a consensus; and that this can only be done as we learn to meet one another with personal responsibility. Individualism makes the needs of others less important than our own needs and manufactured wants. Personalism seeks to hear the needs of others and find ways to communicate our own real needs.

And the second point, Jesus asks a really powerful rhetorical question that is designed to help people, (the leader of the synagogue included) to reach the right conclusion about judging between our conditioned responses, and the Way of Jesus… “…ought not this woman be set free on the Sabbath?” 

Whenever we make judgements: whether we are judging others or ourselves, or we are seeking justice for ourselves or others, this question of Jesus’ is the kind of powerful question that challenges our conditioning when we’re tempted to choose habitual practice over what our heart tells us is right… as such it is also the kind of powerful question that is designed to invite us to listen more closely to what actually is there, deep in our hearts… it’s the kind of powerful question that encourages us into a way of being where justice and mercy, in the words of psalm 85 ‘kiss each other’… it’s the kind of powerful question that warmly beckons us to the Way of Jesus.

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DANCE – AND SO MUCH MORE! – @ ALL HALLOWS

Terrarium at All Hallows                                                                       

Saturday August 10th saw an exciting evening of brilliant contemporary dance, visual art and fantastic break dancing.

First up was ‘Terrarium’ with Simon Birch Dance, fresh from their successful tour including the City of London Festival and the SALT festival in Cornwall. Debbi Purtill and James Southward performed the powerful and moving to John Hughes’ specially-composed soundtrack played through eight ‘Ambisonic’ speakers and the effect was breath-taking.

chapelart2

 

In an extended interval the audience had the chance to view an exhibition of beautiful visual art by Sheffield artist Trish O’Shea and local artist Nick Greenhall.

beanz 

To cap the evening off, break dance group Shaolin Shadow gave a magnificent display of break dancing followed by a ‘dance battle’ – inviting some local lads to join in and show off their skills too.

 

Quite apart from being a scintillating  evening’s entertainment, the event raised over £700 towards our plans to repair and renovate the church roof – but even more wonderful than that was the atmosphere of excitement, togetherness and sheer delight in  the variety of creativity that was so generously on offer. Many thanks to the artistic contributors and to all whose efforts (box office, bar, food, raffle) made the evening so lovely and so memorable.

Love to all, Steve

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PRIDE SUNDAY – 4TH AUGUST 2013

PRIDE 2010 084

This coming Sunday is Leeds PRIDE and at our 10.30am Communion service we shall be welcoming as our preacher Kerry Cockerham

All are , as always, most welcome!

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