Category Archives: Sermon

Sunday Morning Worship 17th June

This morning we revisited the story of the Good Samaritan by all taking part in a drama of the story narrated by Heston. We were each given a heart outline with a break in it to write on a situation where someone was hurting, we then joined all the hearts together to make a heart “daisy” chain by mending the hearts with a small “God Loves You” sticker. For our prayers we wrote the name of someone we wanted to pray for on a plaster and stuck them onto a wooden cross.

And here are some of the quotes that Heston used during the service for us to reflect on:

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer, no disease that enough love will not heal, no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.

— Emmet Fox


Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.

— Brennan Manning


You are loved strongly and relentlessly, faithfully and without reservation. Your God does not watch you undecided, she does not wait to be convinced, the jury is not out. The verdict in Christ is you, always. Without hesitation, deviation, and with endless repetition.

— Chris Russell


‘Welcome to the Real World’ by Godfrey Rust

I didn’t know
that Love is real life,

and everything else
just a more or less entertaining way
of dying.

And I didn’t know
that Love is like nothing on earth.

Love isn’t what you fall in.
It’s what pulls you out
of what you fall in.

Love isn’t a good feeling.
Love is doing good
when you’re feeling bad.

Love means hanging in
when everyone else
shrugs their shoulders
and goes off to McDonalds.

Love means taking the knocks
and coming back
to try to make things better.

Love hurts.
That’s its way of telling you
that you’re alive.

And the funny thing is that after all
Love does feel good.
People say Love is weak.
But Love is tougher than Hate.
Hating’s easy.
Most of us have a gift for it.

But Love counts to ten
while Hate slams the door.

Love says you
where Hate says me.

Love is the strongest weapon
known to mankind.
Other weapons blow people up.
Only Love puts them back together again.

And everything that seems real,
that looks smart,
that feels good,
has a sell-by date.
But Love has no sell-by date.
Love is Long Life.
Love is the ultimate preservative.

I don’t know too much about Love
but I know a man who does,
up there on the cross
Loving us to death.

Love is the key
to the door of the place
he’s prepared for you
in the kingdom of God.

If you’re beginning to understand
then welcome to the real world.

 

This coming week is Refugee Week, let us remember the story of the Good Samaritan and love and welcome the hurting stranger, whoever they are.

Sermon by Heston Groenewald 3rd June 2018

After sharing his thoughts with us about Luke 9:28-62 and being overwhelmed Heston left us with some quotes and thoughts to ponder over.

For pondering…

The simple fact is that the world is too busy to give the Holy Spirit a chance to enter in… (William Barclay)

A spiritual life is simply a life in which all that we do comes from the centre, where we are anchored in God: a life soaked through and through by a sense of his reality and claim, and self-given to the great movement of his will.  (Evelyn Underhill)

 The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:7)

 When Jesus had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’  (Luke 3:21-22)

 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.  (Romans 8)

 Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’  (John 20:22)

 The Holy Spirit is the manifest Energy of God in the world. She is, moreover, the Strengthener, Guide, Revealer, Consoler and Encourager who dwells within us and acts upon us. (Carroll Simcox)

 There are very few people who realise what God would make of them, if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace… (St Ignatius of Loyola)


 Developing Holy (Spirit) Habits: following Jesus in Luke’s Gospel

  • Bible learning/teaching
  • Fellowship and eating together – including (especially!) across social divides
  • Praying – communal and individual
  • Giving
  • Service
  • Worship – in ‘church’ and in the great outdoors
  • Gladness and generosity
  • Making more disciples

For praying…

Come, Holy Spirit;
send down from heaven’s height your radiant light.

Come, lamp of every heart,
come, parent of the poor; all gifts are yours.

Comforter beyond all comforting,
sweet unexpected guest, sweetly refresh.

Rest in hard labour, coolness in heavy heat,
hurt souls’ relief.

Refill the secret hearts of your faithful,
O most blessed light.

Without your holy power
nothing can bear your light,
nothing is free from darkness.

Wash all that is filthy, water all that is parched, heal what is hurt within.

 Bend all that is rigid, warm all that has frozen hard, lead back the lost.

 Give to your faithful ones, who come in simple trust, your sevenfold mystery.

 Give virtue its reward, give, in the end, salvation and joy that has no end.

 (Venite Sancte Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit)


When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy.

When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song. 

When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides, shutting me out from beyond,
come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner,
break open the door and come with the ceremony of a king.

When my mind is blinded by delusion and dust,
O thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sermon by Jan Betts 20th May 2018

Notes from the Sermon by Jan Betts 20th May 2018 (this was a baptism service)

Readings:
Acts 2:1-13
Luke 8:40-56

It was in September 2016 that we baptised Edie and Thor and it is very good to welcome all of you either back to All Hallows back or here for the first time, for the baptism of Edie and Thor’s siblings, Fraser Nye and Maeve Beatrice.

Last time I talked about Jesus wanting us to love God more than family, a tough text. I wiped the sweat off my brow when I read todays much kinder reading!

We are reading through Luke’s gospel at the moment. Luke was a doctor, a physician, who cared deeply about people being well and ill, about healing and wholeness, and he recognises and highlights Jesus’ longing for such healing and wholeness in people. Maybe that was what drew him to be a disciple in the first place, because we do respond to the invitation of Jesus from our own needs and passions. So in the last two weeks we have heard how Jesus can come into the stony places of our lives and make them fruitful, and how he cared for despised people who were outcasts. .. Jesus cares about people being healed physically and more importantly spiritually and emotionally. Jesus wants us to be totally alive.

Today in what could be called the tale of two daughters, we focus of two people who thought Jesus could do some healing for them. Jesus thought so too, but as always what Jesus does as well as what he says has more than one layer to it.

Both situations involve emotions which instantly speak to us. We have a father who was desperate for his really poorly daughter to be well again, and a woman equally unhappy, with a physical disability. Both were willing to do anything to get what they wanted but they needed courage and what must have felt like some extremely risky trust. And this risk was shared, in his total generosity and love, by Jesus.

Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, a respected Jew. Jesus wasn’t yet the really troublesome figure he was going to become to the Jewish authorities, but he certainly wasn’t part of the Jewish hierarchy and he was a slightly maverick teacher who was a bit suspect. By coming to this maverick Jesus, Jairus the respected Jew is risking ridicule and his reputation, but he doesn’t care. As parents we will dare so much for our children! There was no other option left but the one of risky trust. Please will Jesus come and lay hands on his daughter, he asks.  Jesus, who adored children, willingly went with him.

In the gospels we often find accounts of men and women running in parallel, underlining the way that men and women are equal before God. That’s the case here. There’s an interruption. The woman who interrupts Jesus and Jairus as they go to his house is as desperate as Jairus. She is permanently bleeding, perhaps from fibroids. Now bleeding women, – if you’ll pardon the phrase – were totally unclean in Jesus’ time, as they are in many countries today. They should keep themselves apart while menstruating, and were certainly not to be touched, or they made a man unclean. So here is a woman who is permanently outcast, always to be hidden, always feeling that she is unacceptable in public, in pain, and probably terrified. She can’t ask publicly that Jesus break the purity codes of the Jews and touch her. But there is no other option left. So she thinks that if she can only touch the tassels on Jesus’ outer garment, she might, just might, be healed, because Jesus was a healer and the tassels of his garment, the sign of his being an observant Jewish man, could be powerful. But she risked being rejected, and even physically abused if people recognised that she was touching a man while bleeding.

The woman was healed as Jesus was on his way to Jairus’ house. Helping and healing takes effort, on both sides. When our little ones are demanding and unable to access their emotions we need to listen carefully to find out what’s going on and it can be knackering to patiently listen and help in the way they want. So Jesus was aware of what had been asked of him, by being alert and sensitive to what was going on around him. Why does he not let the woman go away and go on his way with important Jairus?? He risks too: he acknowledges that he has been touched, and he very probably knows it was someone unacceptable because why else would it be secretive, but he still stops.

Because healing is about more than the body. Miracles are miracles of healed relationships probably more than of healed bodies. Jesus knew that anyone who touched him in need was probably unhappy as well as ill. He wanted the woman to be affirmed. He wanted her social isolation to be healed as much as her body. So Jesus shows immense courage himself, turning and acknowledging that he had been touched- and it turns out by an unclean woman, who he welcomes, and treats with dignity and calls daughter. And he probably looks at the crowd and dares them to molest the woman now he has said she is welcome to touch him, and dares them to say he has done something wrong in extending his love to her.

Then Jairus. He must have been so impatient, so longing to say to Jesus don’t stop, my child is ill and this is only an unclean woman and I am an important man. What are you bothering about? Jesus says effectively, ‘this daughter is as important as your daughter and I have time and love and courage enough for both’.. And then to underline Jairus’ point they hear the child is dead. ‘Hang in there’ says Jesus. I love you too.

Jesus is also willing to look like a fool, being mocked because the child is dead and what can be done for her? But he goes into the child and she is restored to her parents.

Jairus came and asked boldly, the woman had to be secretive. We can ask for healing up front so to speak, maybe even a bit defiantly, or we can creep to God and say maybe, if I just ask, just whisper, just go into a church and acknowledge God as God and say I’m desperate, or I’m stuck, or I’m really unhappy something might happen. God hears them both, hears the trust, the courage and the risk. Such prayer happens when we start unclenching our fists and reaching out, in vulnerability and need. Then God risks in return and trusts us to accept what is offered.

Life is iffy. It’s full of what if’s, especially at times of crisis. What if I did this or stopped doing that? What if I faced up to something? God is somewhere to go with the iffiness. What if I touched that hem and asked for God’s power to help over something? What would I lose? God asks us for the courage to trust and to open up to our what if’s. We need courage and trust to live life fully. Isn’t that the sort of life we would want our children to lead, to be absolutely willing to open themselves up to all that life has to offer, trusting in parents and friends and God.

These are two reflections of how Jesus is about life, and courage, and trust and vulnerability. We lay ourselves open to God and in return God can affirm us as people who have meaning, as people who matter. And God risks for us, risks our rejection.

Finally to underline the sense of life giving and changing that we have today it’s Pentecost. Jesus came as a baby at Christmas, God squashed down to live and experience as we do, God died at Easter, and was brought back to life – then left again. At Pentecost the spirit came, the new form of God with us, bringing courage and trust to frightened disciples cowering away in a little room not knowing what to with themselves. Life burst out in flames and then in the courage to preach about Jesus the risen God. Peter, the big blustering man who denied Jesus at his trial and crucifixion, had no trust or risk at all, rushed out and preached a totally fearless and absolutely cracking sermon on the risen Jesus.

What God did for Jairus and the unnamed woman changed their lives, as baptism today will change these children. There is no magic in the cross that they are signed with or in the water they are washed in but there is great symbolism. God has received these children through love, through the faith which brings you here and the acceptance into the family of God. The cross on their forehead will never disappear. It’s the mark of God’s love for them, of Jesus saying yes of course I’ll be there in your life, you are my loved children, trust me. It’s an act of God and we recognise that in our welcome of Maeve and Nye into our community.

What I said last time I say again

Nye and Maeve, our new brother and sister, we want to make you welcome. We want to say welcome to our Christian community here as well as to the enormous community of baptised people of God. We want to tell you that like your godparents who will make formal promises, we all want to support you and your parents as they bring you up in the way of Jesus, of truth and love, of life and trust and courage, knowing their – and our own – true place as children of God.

We know they will be hurt, through their own desires and through the desires of others. We can’t always protect them. They don’t always know what is best for them. But we want them to learn to steer a course though life which is full of loving life, of trust ad of courage to reach out to others.  God has blessed them with his love. Let’s bless them with our love now.

 

Sermon by Peter Hemming 22nd April 2018

Notes from the Sermon by Peter Hemming 22nd April 2018

Readings:
Acts 4:5-12
Luke 7:1-35

NT Reading Acts 4:5-12 is the story of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) after healing the man at the Beautiful Gate. It ends – ‘there is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved.’ Unequivocal stuff.

Overview – Luke 7 …

Audience: Gentiles. Where Mt. gets tangled in the OT references, Luke’s writing to us. He writes good Greek –literary stuff. Greek was the best language of the day for reaching intelligent people.  He dwells more than others on women and other ‘non-folk’. The Gospel is LONG – almost a Coffee Table Book. (Cf Threads in Revelation): add Acts and it’s huge.

Luke presents Jesus: The Saviour of the World – all of us. What Jesus did/does is relevant to us/ now. Our humanity – everyone can be reached.

[It will be helpful too for you to know: My view of Scripture – how I read the passage for myself, and thus will preach! And My view of Mission! There is a risk of all my sermons becoming Missional!]

Structure

Jesus has just finished the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (contrast the Sermon on the Mount in Mtt.); 6:17-end covers the ground that Mtt did in 3 chapters. It ends, as does Mtt with the story of the Wise Man and the Foolinsh Man, building their houses on rock or sand. This passage, starting at 7:1 – 35 is at the beginning of the section 7:1 to 8:21 is entitled ‘The Good News’ in the BST commentary. It is the point where the Theory of the Sermon becomes the Practice in the real world. Wise men will …

Though the ‘bibles’ have three headings for the two ‘healings’ and then ‘the message from John’, I see five sections in the Gospel. If you have bible to hand keep it open at Ch 7.

Sections – points to make!

HEAL 1. The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant 1 – 10 (The Text for my confirmation)

Greek words matter. Sozo = save and heal: (As sotḕr = saviour and healer).

Going into a Gentile’s house would render a Jew ‘unclean’: Jesus was quite prepared to do this – the Centurion prevented him. The Jewish Leaders saw the Centurion as ‘worthy of Jesus’ attention, because he had ‘built the synagogue’: not sure how interested Jesus was in this, but Luke records it.

The phrase ‘under authority’ demonstrated that the centurion recognised that ‘the instruction’ mattered more than ‘being there’: Jesus recognised this as the Centurion’s faith.
The slave was ‘valued’: even the underdogs of society don’t need to be unvalued by their owners.

See Peter’s preaching to Cornelius (Acts 10) – the unexpected recipient of grace is not in mainstream church!

HEAL 2. The Raising of the Widow’s Son in Nain 11 – 17

Only in Luke – none of the other Gospels carry this story. A large crowd was there – did Jesus see through the mass of people who’d ‘come to the funeral’ to realise the utter desolation of the Widow?  Compare Elisha’s healing of the widow’s child. (2Kings.17) Luke saw this as an important story to tell, here.

JB 1. The Question from John the Baptist 18 – 23

John was in prison for challenging Herod over marrying ‘his brother Philips’ wife’. For John, the expected Messiah of Malachi was going to bring fire, a burning of chaff and gathering of wheat, a sword, a judgement and doom, a challenge to the Roman Authorities: a visible consumption of all that was evil.

Jesus just didn’t look like the coming one: He hadn’t spoken out loudly against John’s imprisonment – or other injustices. If Jesus’ work was not clear then, how much less obvious is it now!

Jesus’ answer is for John’s disciples to ‘look around’. The sick are healed, the dead are raised, (first two sections) and the poor have the Good News preached to them.  Both the first two sections example folk who were ‘poor’ in ‘church’ status – the Gentile and the Widow. Jesus illustrates that here is ‘Good News’ for everyone, particularly the marginalised.

What alerts you to faith? I am excited when I hear about someone who’s ‘come to faith’ – penny dropped!  

What do you look for? Cash in the plate? Numbers rising? Home Groups growing as folk seek to deepen their faith? More social action? Freedom for ‘captives’?

JB 2. Reflection on the Question 24 – 30

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you,” was a masterful amalgamation of the OT in Ex.23:30 and Mal.3:1: John was indeed the direct forerunner for Christ, yet John was still outside the Kingdom – he had not grasped the change needed to move away from Judaism (as it was) to discipleship (as it was going to be) following Christ.

The Pharisees chose to sit outside the sphere of John’s baptism, as it would have reduced their social status. There is a challenge here for us! Where do we sit in the embrace of the Kingdom?

JB 3. Soliloquy 31 – 35

John wouldn’t play ‘weddings’ and Jesus wouldn’t play ‘funerals’.

John expected everyone to have a hard time; Jesus wanted people to love God, His Father as He did.

John wanted a renewed Judaism, possibly; Jesus wouldn’t do things properly: he was too much fun – he wouldn’t discuss morals and religion, ethics and abstract things: he was too normal, too much fun.

For John, like the cat in ‘Oi Frog!’, ‘doing the right thing’ mattered. For Jesus it was not about doing the right thing by conventional wisdom but doing the right thing by God’s yardstick.

As the Kingdom breaks in, life is always unexpected and upsetting: it is hard to fit with men’s (the church’s, the bishop’s, our) preconceived ideas and prejudices. I just wonder if Jesus thought, for a moment, no-one understood him!

What does it say to us? (to me?) What do I feel are the challenges?

  1. Do we still acknowledge that Jesus has the power to heal? Do we crave Jesus’ presence, when his word of power is what is needed even in life and death situations? (Read bit of Judy Acheson’s story from DRC).
  2. If God appears inactive – then what? Jesus says that ‘by this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. What ‘Signs of the Kingdom’ should we be looking for today…?

Are there times when we feel to be real disciples we have to ‘be like John’, real ascetics’?

Are we still concerned to be proper about our faith – and ‘Church’?  Are we afraid of breaking the mould – every time we meet together? Are we keen to be really different and present Jesus to others?

How can we, as a church, be more appealing for people to want to join us?


 

Questions for you! 2 mins. In 2s or 3s. Choose ONE question…

  1. What ‘Signs of the Kingdom’ should we be looking for today…? Growth in £p, numbers, depth … ???
  2. How can we, as a church, become more appealing for people to want to join us?

Seek responses! Pick up on things we do together.

What did Luke intend?

That folk such as us, Gentiles, could get to hear the story of the Saviour of the World. My hope is that from what I’ve said and you’ve thought this morning, you see how this some of this fits together. We can never know the full picture, but we can see Jesus at work and acknowledge his power.

What will you take away?

That I have talked too long or have taken the stories at their face value, and not challenged their authenticity, and I have not been rigorously theological and can therefore be ignored?

Or: ‘We must learn to see Christ at work – together.’ In Acts, the Sanhedrin saw that ‘They had been with Jesus’: not Peter alone, but They, plural. We are included; we have been called. It’s not up to you or me; it’s up to us.

What do I intend?

Luke, in Acts, put uncompromising words in Peter’s mouth – ‘there is no other name under heaven …’.

Jesus’ demands on us are also radical: they change everything for us – they changed everything for me.

Today, people don’t respond to the Good News by reason alone. They must be loved into the Church.

If we try to present God to ‘them’: we must remember that God is at work in the hearts and minds of our ‘audience’. Our task is to ‘join in’ trusting that Jesus/ the Holy Spirit will do their bit too.

Whatever you have thought, keep thinking. God’s thoughts don’t go away – SD…

We all see growth differently.

We must become disciples together.

Amen? Amen.

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

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.

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

Inspiration from a withered hand

Ted Schofield has been inspired by David’s sermon on Jesus healing the man with the withered hand to produce these paintings. Ted says “the point that came across to me is that the man had the courage to stretch out his hand and reveal his weakness to Christ. I have created several different hands which represent different people and different kinds of pain.”

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Sermon by Rev David Randolph Horn 25th February 2018

Notes from the Sermon by Rev David Randolph Horn on 25th February 2018

Reading: Luke 6 vs 1-19

I think you are going to find this story of the man with the withered hand inspiring and encouraging.

It is one of those fabulous passage in which the love and challenging character of Jesus shines through. It is one of those passages that shows how inclusive Jesus was and is. We are called in the first commandment to love God and this passage shows Jesus wonderfully at work and shows how he works today in our midst.

In verses 1-5 the scene is set the Pharisees are out to get him for failing to keep commandments to observe the Sabbath and Jesus say he is Lord of the Sabbath the golden rules is to love God on the Sabbath and to observe it by being good to yourself and to others : (the second commandment) .   He says elsewhere the Sabbath was made for humanity not humanity for the Sabbath.  So we read that on the day the Pharisees were watching him. They had power over the people they were in bible language “oppressors” and these oppressors were watching him. Bob Marley in his song “downpressor man” is singing about these people. He asks on judgement day where are you going to run to downpressor man.

David sings  “Downpressor man where you going to run to? Downpressor man where you going to run to, ohhhh on that day “

Tom in his sermon a couple of weeks back introduced us to parallel gospels and I am passing one round and you may notice Luke alone tells us that the wounded man had a wounded right hand and only Luke tells us his wounded hand was his right hand.

Andrew Mustapha is going to help us think about it being his right hand that was withered.

(Andrew shared what the left hand and right hand are used for in North African cultures ie the right hand is kept for “clean” things)

In Jesus day there was no running water easily at hand all water had to be carried from a well. So the right hand was used for greeting people the right hand was the hand used to eat with.  And often they would eat from a common dish .The left hand was the one used to go to the loo and to clean your bum after wards or to wash yourself when you had a period.  And a right hand is crucial in doing many kinds of work where greater dexterity is needed.  A man with a wounded right hand would be poor excluded from society and regarded as unclean. He would have to eat alone. The Latin word for left is sinistra from which we get our word sinister. So Luke tells us something important and Luke all along includes stories about the often overlooked that is children, the poor, the excluded, the oppressed, the women, all get to be heroes in Luke.

So picture the scene! How do you see it?

I picture the man with his wound hidden. Perhaps you have wounds that you hide perhaps some things from your childhood. Perhaps abuse, perhaps incest, perhaps things your parents did and said which wounded you and which sapped your confidence.  Perhaps you discovered you were gay/bi/or Trans and were terrified of people finding out.

And Jesus is there but so are the Pharisees and you are not sure about Jesus disciples. But Jesus says come and stand here and then he says the most awful thing stretch out your hand show your wound. Bible study on Tuesday last was gripping… humbling…. awesome as people talked about deep wounds they normally kept hidden. God/Jesus/ Holy spirit alone is the healer of these things.

So who is helping who do what?

Jesus s healing the man

Jesus and the man are teaching the disciples who are about to be called Luke’s ordering of stories is inspired.

Jesus and the man confront the oppressors the downpressors the Pharisees.

Jesus does not just heal the man he calls the wounded soul to be his partner in challenging others.  In spite of your hurts and wounds Jesus is calling you. Because of your wounds Jesus is calling you!! Because of your wounds Jesus is saying stand here with me so oppression can be confronted and Liberation won.  Paul had a wound he asked Jesus to take away. He did not and Paul with all his gifts of healing was not healed but he was still used and used powerfully.

Isn’t Jesus fabulous? He is the same today so stand up and show your wounds and come be part of Jesus work of liberation.

Stretch forth your hand for healing in the prayer time set aside for healing. Stretch out your wounded place and come offer yourself to be in partnership with Jesus. Commit yourself with all your wounds to follow him for ever, for always.  Let him be your Lord your healer, your friend, your God. Love him follow him open your bible every day open your heart every day and of course come to Bible Study on Tuesdays. Can’t come Tuesdays tell me when you can come and we will start another group.  Don’t be shy…. be prepared to be amazed.

Sunday 18th February 2018

Readings: Luke 4 – Jesus in the desert testing his ‘Chosen One’ vocation vs. the Exodus story with the Israelites in the desert testing their ‘Chosen People’ vocation.

Heston took us through the parallel stories of the Israelites leaving Egypt and wandering in the desert for 40 years, and Jesus being tempted by the devil in his 40 day fast in the wilderness.  The desert sand tray and water effects were all very effective!

Whereas the Israelites failed to keep faith with God, and created the Golden Calf whilst Moses was up Mount Sinai receiving the the Ten Commandments, Jesus turned the devil away and resisted all the temptations.

The two pictures can seem to tell an unattractive story.  The people having a great time worshiping the calf are about to be thumped by Moses, whereas Jesus’s victory over the devil involves huge self denial.

The two images show the opposite reactions to this time of testing in the desert. The point that came through to me was that Jesus won through; whereas the Israelites lost heart, he showed he was stronger than the temptations of the world.  But I wanted to show that he really was hungry…..if he hadn’t been, it wouldn’t have been a real victory at all.

Ted

Jesus being tempted to turn stones into bread in the wilderness

The Golden Calf….can you spot Moses?

 

Pictures by Ted Schofield, inspired by Sunday’s service.