Category Archives: Steves thoughts

An extract from one of Steve’s recent sermons…

As a child of 6 or 7, I remember hearing read in church the ‘sermon on the mount’ (Jesus saying ‘”Blessed is this kind of person and blessed are those people…” and thinking about which of the categories I would fit into as I went through life: I wanted most of all to be one of the peacemakers; they were to be called the children of God.

Later on (around 9 or 10, I guess) I read in the bible that some people are given gifts of healing and so I then desperately wanted to be given that gift. Why, at that age I wasn’t sure but looking back it feels like it was again a desire for recognition and approval. Anyway I wanted to be a peacemaker and a healer, to be wanted and needed and loved.

So it will no doubt come as no surprise that all through my life since that time, in every job I have done, it’s been the exact opposite. I’ve learned, slowly and painfully [because I’m a painfully slow learner], about what healing and peace are really about. All my adult life seems to have been about experiencing the exact opposite of peace and healing: my own inner chaos and doubt; my own dis-eases and weaknesses and vulnerabilities –  feeling somehow not entitled to the peace and health of an integrated life. In other words, my own need for healing and peace.

Another thing I learned is that peace-making and healing aren’t things that I always do myself. In fact the deepest kind of inner healing, and the kind of peace that is not just peace of mind but the peace that extends to the depths of your very soul, this healing and peace, I’ve discovered, are gifts of God – and sometimes other people. Often uncomfortable and sometimes painful gifts, true – they arise out of the cauldron of life’s events and experiences and mistakes and misunderstandings and most of all it seems to me, through life’s wounds, sometimes cruel undeserved wounds at the hands of others, sometimes self-inflicted wounds like misplaced guilt or our determination to nurture our hurt or our rage and sometimes even our selfish motives and intentions – cue St James and St John in today’s gospel reading!

James and John want to be given the honour of sitting next to Jesus in Heaven. And in the ensuing heated discussion among the other disciples- evidently about who’s going to be at the top, who’s going to have power and status and so on… Jesus eventually shuts them all up with:

“Whoever wishes to become great among you must become your servant … and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all… because I came not to be served… but to serve… and to give my life… as a ransom for many.”

His crucifixion – his death on the cross was the supreme gift: he gives himself, unconditionally, as the ultimate example of what God is like – that is of course, total, unconditional love.

Jesus Christ comes, as he always has and always does – to give. To give as he always does, selflessly, sacrificially and unconditionally – the love of God in person, showing us in everything he says and does, firstly how much God loves us, and secondly how we ought to live… being bearers of that same selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. The point being that the sacrificial giving that found its zenith, its ultimate expression on the cross, became the very means of resurrection – new life beyond death – healing and peace like no other, given to us as a free gift.

Looking back at myself as a child, I remember now that wanting to be peacemaker was also partly to do with the thing about becoming a child of God (Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God) and I realise that this bit is about relationship – relationship to God was something I certainly didn’t understand but I seem to have intuitively been attracted to it in some way. And today I know this much – that the real peace and healing we all seek in life has something to do with this relationship with God. With the people in the gospels who Jesus healed, there was an exchange of some sort – he touched something in them or vice-versa … there’s something about healing and peace that seems to need a relational dimension, an interaction of some sort.

For us Christians that relational aspect finds its expression in prayer – not just prayers of asking and thanking, good and proper though they are but our deepest prayers are like the communication in our most meaningful human relationships – those times of being with, getting to know, telling the other how we feel, opening the door of our lives and hearts and sharing our inner selves … when we do that with God we call it ‘Contemplative prayer’, a way of deepening our relationship with God and experiencing the unconditional love of the God who gives and goes on giving…

As a child I wanted to grow up being seen to be a healer and a peacemaker and for a long time, a bit like James and John wanting to book their place at the top table, I wanted to get the gift of healing and I wanted get to be a peacemaker – because I wanted, deep down, to get healing and peace. For those of us who are striving to ‘get’ things now, perhaps for a way forward in life; for some meaning that life has yet to reveal to us; some idea of our true selves as yet undisclosed; some way of being acknowledged, accepted, or maybe for an understanding of the things that have happened in life so far here is a reminder that the answer lies   in understanding that these things come not by our desire to get, but by our willingness to give – and to be given, both the true attributes of the healer and the peacemaker.

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Who needs sunshine…?!

Today (Saturday 7th July 2012) has been a lovely day. Firstly It’s been a day of celebration for Darren and Michael who celebrated their civil partnership with a service of prayer and thanksgiving here at All Hallows. What a great bunch of people came to help them celebrate, too – a totally joyful affair. Secondly Tony, who for two or three years has been cutting the grass in the area behind the church, turned up at the vicarage. He has had a change in his circumstances and is currently staying at St George’s Crypt. Anyway he cut the grass in the vicarage garden and said he’d be back on Tuesday to do the area behind church as well. When I offered him the customary amount for his hard work he refused it and would not be persuaded to take a penny. The reason? The help he’d had from All Hallows when he was first without a roof over his head. For him, doing some work for ‘the church’ was a way of saying thank you. In his action there was a generosity and a dignity that I  rarely see – and this from a man who has almost literally nothing. And thirdly, after days of rain the sun came out and shone on Darren and Michael’s celebration, on Tony cutting the grass – and on me too, although thinking about the happenings of the day I find myself thinking, “Who needs sunshine?’…

Steve

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Steve’s thoughts about the future…

As we at All Hallows look to a new phase in the life and ministry of the church in this part of Leeds I want to put some thoughts together to help us in our thinking, praying and discussing.

Our use of the church building has for some time been a moot point, with some of the worshipping congregation expressing feelings about having to be responsible for maintaining the place – and some feeling that if we weren’t so focused on the building we might have more freedom to focus on people. Some talk of the importance of the community cafe to local people and our responsibility as the parish church to the deprived community around the church. Others point to the stunning location and its potential for enhancing worship and (importantly) attracting paying users of the multi-use space. There are those who see the church as deserving investment to make it financially and environmentally sustainable. Again, we are not the only group who use the church – in the week there are many people for whom the building is an important focal point in their lives. And there are issues like our ministry to LGBT people and others who are marginalised, excluded or damaged by life.

ALL HALLOWS A

At present the feeling in the leadership of the church is that our way forward under God is to try our best to stay in this building and we are slowly exploring all that needs to be done to achieve that. At the same time there is an awareness that we have big task in front of us and we need to be open to all God’s guiding on this as the exploring continues. So recently we held an all-church afternoon to look at these things and our views, mixed as they are, are all displayed in church for everyone to see and add to. We shall shortly be summarising the outcomes of this process.

It seems to me that it is absolutely essential that whatever we do in terms of the building – and in fact all of our resources – we must be led by our vision of what God is asking us to do and be, both here in the parish and in the places where we live, work, study etc…

The model of how the Christian Church operates is changing and we here need to be able to minister to a rapidly-changing world. Perhaps one of the things we need to be open to is not just changing the externals but allowing the Spirit of God to change our view of the needs in the world around us… the 43% of the children in this parish who live in poverty… the many students who are our parishioners… what are we doing about them? Do they matter to us? What else is God calling us to?

What is at stake is not just what happens to ‘our church’ but the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in as well as beyond the parish. Please spend time in your daily prayers earnestly asking God for guidance in these matters and for grace as we continue to discuss and listen to each other’s views.

With love,

Steve

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An extract from a letter from Aristides, a 2nd century Christian philosopher, writing to the Emperor Hadrian in the early 130s AD. I wonder, how do we measure up today?

Oh Emperor, it is the Christians that have sought and found the truth, for they acknowledge God.

They do not keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them. They do not covet what belongs to others, but they show love to their neighbours. They do not do to another what they would not like done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way, they make their enemies their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies. They live in the awareness of their own smallness. Everyone of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing. And if any of them sees a homeless stranger, they bring them into their own home, under their roof. If any one of them becomes poor while the Christians have nothing to spare, then they fast two or three days until everyone can eat. In this way, they supply for the poor exactly what they need. This, oh emperor, is the rule of life for the Christians. This is how they live…

(see also    http://www.gaychristian101.com/aristides.html)

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