Category Archives: Worship

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

0 Like this?

Generosity is good for you!

generosity

 

 

 

 

 

Here are 7 good reasons why…

1. Because it’s what God is constantly doing

God loves us so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him may have eternal life (John 3:16)

God is a GIVER! And we are made in God’s image- generosity is in our DNA

2. Because your generosity bounces back to bless you

If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated. (Luke 6:38)

It is by giving that we receive. You can never out-give God!

3. Because you need to give, to keep your spiritual life fresh

Your gifts of money are like a sweet-smelling offering or like a sacrifice that pleases God. (Philippians 4:18)

When we cease to worship, we shrivel up spiritually. This goes for our giving just as much as our praying or hymn-singing.

4. Because Jesus had a lot to say about it

Jesus looked up and saw some rich people tossing their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow putting in two pennies. And he said, ‘I tell you that this poor woman has put in more than all the others.’ (Luke 21:1-3)

1/6 of Jesus’ recorded words, and 1/3 of his parables, are about people and material possessions. To Jesus, little else is so potentially deepening or damaging to our relationship with God.

5. Because you get to see other people blessed

Your generosity will lead many people to thank God when we deliver your gift. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

6. Because it’s the way to true contentment

More blessings come from giving than from receiving. (Acts 20:35)

Generous giving is a great antidote to greed and selfishness- which are a temptation and danger for us all.

7. Because it involves you in God’s work

Your heart will always be where your treasure is. (Matthew 6:21)

Giving buys us in (literally) to the work of God. Every penny and pound we spend can be an investment in God’s kingdom 🙂

0 Like this?

All things bright and beautiful

We finished it! 300 pieces of prayer puzzle to see in Creation season 🙂

lindisfarneFor from him and through him and for him are all things. To God be glory for ever!  (Romans 11)

0 Like this?

Making prayer bunting

This morning we are making prayer bunting to remind us to pray for each other and our neighbours.

0 Like this?

Maunday Thursday / Passover Meal

Maundy Thursday was an amazing evening of Jewishness, Jesus and Junk Food!

Our Jewish friend David Winston (with Heston as his sidekick) led us through a Passover meal; the ancient liturgy and symbols helped us to understand more deeply the ‘past’ of our Christian faith, and also the ‘present’ message of freedom and hope it offers in our modern world. This was especially poignant with our night shelter guests (fleeing homes in danger, longing for freedom and fullness of life) sharing the meal with us.

Then we had a wonderful (partly-kosher!) dinner courtesy of our Junk Food Café; our imam friend Adam taught us about wudhu (ritual washing before Muslim worship); and then David R-H led us reading John 13, saying our prayers and washing each other’s feet.

It was a very special and moving night. Jan said it was a deeply profound inter-faith experience and encounter; David Winston said it was like a big multi-culture-and-faith group hug 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 person likes this

All Hallows’ birthday weekend!

The first of November, All Saints, All Souls or All Hallows – and the weekend that we take as our patronal day, or if you like, our birthday!

And what a birthday weekend we had!

It started on Friday with Pumpkin Pie at the cafe. Then on Saturday late afternoon we decorated the church, prepared food and set up all manner of crazy things for us to do in the evening.

The evening consisted of fantastic pizza, more pumpkin pie and other food prepared by Simon and a load of young helpers. In the church we had a “marquee” where apple bobbing and other strange things happened. Loads of giant Lego bricks (otherwise known as cardboard boxes) where used to build castles and trains.

Eventually everyone settled down to watch “The Lego Movie”, an awesome theological treatise on the purpose of life!

Finally to bed. Some softies went home (including the author) but many more adventurous types spent the night in the “marquee” or huddled around cuddly toys and boxes. I understand that some sleep was had but judging by what I saw in the morning, not a lot!

Then Super Simon and his crew rustled up a cooked breakfast which revived us all. Thank you Simon!

So to the service and the sermon. Who knew that the Lego Movie was such a source of awesome theology? Well, obviously, Heston did! And so we discovered that we are all awesome, we are all saints, we are “the most talented, most interesting, most extraordinary” people in the universe and we are “capable of amazing things”. The Lego Movie says so, and so does God! He has called us to join Him in being “Master Builders” of His new kingdom here on Earth.

Communion was a little different in that we all crowded into the “marquee” and we reminded each other that we are all saints.

After the service there was more awesome food and then it was time to clear up. I’ve never seen so many cheerful “clearer uppers”, a huge thank you to all of you who made clearing up such fun.

And then, all the saints, all the master builders went home to catch up on their sleep in readiness for their role in the next week of helping to build God’s Kingdom.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

0 Like this?

Marvellous Methodist Morning

Yesterday we were warmly welcomed by the Hyde Park Methodists, for a joint service of Baptism and Holy Communion. We had a great time, singing Wesley hymns, getting the Methodists hooked on Rachel’s wonderful Bread of Life, and sharing the Cup of Blessing shot-glass-style 🙂

2015-08-16 11.48.07

Over coffee and pub lunch afterwards, several folks reminisced about our two churches regularly worshipping and serving the parish together. We all thought more of that would be a good thing. And so- striking while the iron is hot- they’re returning the visit this coming Sunday at All Hallows! Hurray and halleluyah.

 

Here is Ben’s brief brilliant sermon:

In light of today’s reading I want to think about what it means to be a Christian.

What it means for us to be here, together, witnessing a baptism and participating in communion.

From the outset, such thinking seems to be a complex and daunting task.

Am I going to have to unpack what the author of John means by eternal life?

Does the meaning of Christian faith in this passage rest upon Jesus’ promise to raise people on the last day and our belief in that?

As important and interesting as these themes may be, I think there is a simpler, more immediate truth for us to find.

The voice that speaks to me from this narrative is not in fact that of Jesus. It is the words of the disputing audience members which have a particular effect:

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

This question relates to the meaning of Christianity because it relates to the meaning of Jesus.

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

The giving of his flesh to eat is self-sacrifice, selflessness, self-giving-love. How can he do this? Because that is what he represents and is and therefore what God represents and is.

The famous German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that ‘the transcendent is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbour who is within reach in any given situation.’

To repeat: ‘the transcendent is not infinite and unattainable tasks, but the neighbour who is within reach in any given situation.’

Regardless of creed, colour, background or belief, God is to be experienced in the neighbour who is within reach. Being there only for others, giving one your flesh, is what it means to be a Christian.

The world is kept alive by such meaning and for us it is affirmed in the rituals of baptism and communion.

The openness, equalizing effect and unity of these practices, here in this Church today, dissolve our differences and allow our neighbour to be heard.

0 Like this?

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday was Heston and Lydia’s first “official” service with us but we didn’t want to work them too hard on their first day so we had an all age service on the theme of “Nurture”. Can you spot how these activities relate to nurture?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

0 Like this?

Transfiguration

On Sunday we looked at the Transfiguration (Mark 9.2-9) and, as usual, the children had far more interesting insights than we adults! Here are a few of their pieces of work that I managed to catch on camera. If you can’t read the text click on the picture to view a bigger version.

transfiguration01 transfiguration02 transfiguration03

0 Like this?

The heavens were torn open…

Our all-age service on Sunday actively and creatively celebrated the story of John the Baptist, and his surprising baptism of Jesus. As Alison said, it often helps to act something out, to bring new experiences into our hearts. Different people had the experience of eating “locusts” and honey, or dove-making, and we all took part in a ritual act of writing something we wanted to let go of, and seeing it melt to invisibility in the waters.

I had been struck by the phrase “the heavens were torn open” when Jesus was baptized. God breaking into human life, a glimpse of a deeper reality and the possibility of new ways of being. Tearing blue paper envisioned this radical act, and when glued into a frieze, we caught glimpses of brilliant colours made by the children.

The prophet Isaiah prayed, “if only you would tear open the heavens and come down…” Hundreds of years later God did just that, to dramatic effect. What is it like when God does this today? And what is it like when God does it at All Hallows and in our community?

Pippa

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 person likes this