Tag Archives: Sermon

Sermon – 16th June 2013 – Ven. Paul Hooper

This morning we were visited by the Archdeacon of Leeds, The Venerable Paul Hooper. Here are the notes from his sermon:

Galatians 2.15-end
Luke 7.36-8.3

Today’s gospel drama is set in the beautiful courtyard of a fashionable house belonging to a prominent religious leader. Here two people met with Jesus – two very different people.

One is a man of high social status and of great material wealth. He owns the house, with its prestigious post code, ideally suited to the regular dinner parties at which this well respected Pharisee entertained others from the religious establishment. The other is a woman of ill repute, a sinner of low social status. Materially poor, on the margins of society and shunned by the religious elite and by orthodox believers.

What a contrast! But there they were – both in the company of Jesus. There was a contrast too in the way they approached Jesus. One saw him as a Rabbi who could entertain, the other saw him as Saviour who could forgive..

Simon, the owner of the big house, thinking that his other, more sophisticated guests, might be interested, even faintly amused to hear the quaint views of the country Rabbi, adds Jesus to the bottom of the guest list. But when Jesus arrived (bottle of Cana wine in hand) Simon’s greeting was cold and formal. There were none of the little gestures – the footbath, the kiss, the perfume – which would signify a warm welcome. The truth is that Simon regarded this rustic Rabbi as inferior. Soon the guests were invited to the table and as the custom dictated, they reclined on low couches facing the table, with their feet behind them. Often the doors of a large house would be left open and through the open door on this night came a woman. She approached Jesus from behind and in a lavish expression of gratitude and devotion she provides all the gestures – the foot washing, the kiss and the anointing which Simon had so rudely omitted. Tears welled up in her eyes before she was able to get the stopper out of her bottle of perfume, and forgetting something that a decent woman never did in public, she let her hair down to wipe the feet of Jesus before she kissed and anointed him.

Through all this, Jesus did not turn around, he had no need. All that he needed to know about the uninvited guest he could read in the mirror of Simon’s shocked and horrified face. “If this man were a prophet, he would know the kind of woman who was touching him – a sinner..” Simon of course didn’t say a word, but it was written all over his face – he despised the woman. As far as Simon was concerned, Jesus was no prophet – or he would have known about this women.

I wonder what would have happened if, instead of being drawn to Jesus, this woman had approached Simon the Pharisee, seeking forgiveness? As a woman of evil ways and with an evil reputation (Simon recognised her) she had offended against the law. Simon felt no compassion for her, he would have had nothing to do with her. Most certainly the Pharisee would never have allowed her to touch him – she was unclean. She was beyond hope, doomed.

But the woman approached Jesus, not Simon, and Jesus accepted her gestures of penitent love and of grateful adoration. The most profound difference between Simon and the woman was not their income, nor their address, not their social status nor even their involvement in the religious life – what distinguished them was this. The woman was contrite and the man was condescending. The woman knew she needed the forgiveness that only Jesus could offer, and Simon felt no such need. The woman was spiritually alive, Simon was spiritually dead .
It is often said that there are three “yous” and three “mes”. The first me is the me that you see. The second me is the me I know myself to be. The third me is the real me, the truest me, as God sees me – “for the Lord looks on the heart and not on outward appearance..” (1 Sam 16.7) There is a world of difference between outward appearance and true reality. In this drama, Jesus lays bare the true character, the “real me” of Simon and the woman. Simon’s façade of uprightness and virtue is shattered, and his hard, selfish and unloving character is revealed. On the other hand, the woman’s notorious lifestyle and sinfulness is passed over and her underlying love is exposed.

It’s exam time for many of our young people. This morning you and I can test ourselves to find out if we are spiritually asleep or alive. Ask yourself – do I have any feelings of sorrow for my shortcomings, my weaknesses, the grief I cause others and the Lord? (Simon didn’t – woman did). Do I have any feelings of joy and gratitude that I am forgiven, that on the cross, Jesus has born the grief and punishment for all my faults and failures ? (Simon didn’t – woman did)

St Paul was a Pharisee like Simon. But unlike Simon, Paul was spiritually alive! He felt both deep sorrow for his shortcomings and exultant joy and gratitude that God has forgiven him through Christ. Once he had become a Christian, this knowledge and these deep feelings shaped the whole of the rest of his life, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2.20b.

Simon the Pharisee could never have spoken those words.
The woman who anointed Jesus could.
I hope you and I can.
Amen

Sermon 25th November 2012

Sermon preached by Katherine Salmon on Sunday 25th November – Christ the King

Sermon Notes
Our Gospel this morning seems to have much more to do with Holy Week than the last Sunday in the Church year.

Look at why Christ the King was created as a Feast, and what the Gospel passage from John says about the theology of non-violence.

Christ the King officially marks the last Sunday of the Church’s year, and generally is the time when, if you have any dealings with small children or teenagers, the gleeful shouts of how many sleeps until Christmas start to annoy you more frequently. For many years, this Sunday was known as “Stir-up Sunday” so cooks knew it was time to get the pudding ready. I am not sure about puddings these days, but I do know some All Hallows friends who make amazing Christmas Cake and normally have them done well before today!

The most important emphasis of today is celebrating the centrality of Christ to our lives and our mission. It was declared a feast just over 80 years ago, when Pope Pius XI felt that Catholics in Europe needed a new focus after the First World War, and wanted people to have a sense of security. With the perfect vision of hindsight, we can see how fragile this peace was, with the roots of WW2 already looming. Looking at it in our troubled 21st century world, we know as Christians that we can only have a certain amount of trust in earthly powers. We have recently seen the huge personal power of Obama in the presidential elections, and, much as many of us here probably breathed a sigh of relief, we know he and his party are not perfect. They may operate in many ways that we approve of, yet they are fallible.

We are all concerned about the balance of power in parts of the middle east., and we only have to read Rev Andrew White’s blog from Baghdad to realise how difficult life is for Christians in other parts of the world. Depending on our ages, we may remember some of the power of the communist regime shattering when the Berlin wall came down. The church that proclaimed the feast of Christ the King wanted certainties. Probably there are times we would like that assurance, but with our knowledge of recent history and politics, we know our peace is fragile, even peace in our own society with the riots that tore many cities apart only 18 months ago.

How different is the reign of non-violence that Jesus promises. Unlike other regimes where there are always the haves and the have nots, Richard Rohr speaks of Jesus as the only one that gets away from dualistic thinking- not the powerless or the powerful, but, as we say in our Eucharistic prayer the powerless and the powerful, both trapped by exploitation and oppression. Jesus knows that outside of his kingdom, there will always be a regime that traps someone, either because they hold tightly to their own power, or because they believe they are powerless. Jesus wanted to raise up those who were oppressed by the law, but also rescue those who thought the only way to succeed was to keep all the rules perfectly.

This year has also been one of huge Jubilee celebration. We will, I am sure, have had mixed feelings about the pageantry, the expense, and the royal family itself, Perhaps we can reflect on the Biblical nature of Jubilee, the cancelling of debts, the righting of wrongs and raising up the downcast and binding up the broken hearted. Christian Aid has launched a campaign highlighting the unfairness of our tax systems that favour our financial institutions and hit small businesses, and this has become known as the Robin Hood Tax, after another man who turned royal and rich regimes upside down. Hopefully this campaign is something that will, eventually make a difference to those who are bowed down by tax burdens. We can continue to speak out about the financial irregularities of our system, and thankfully, we now have an Archbishop who believes in speaking out on some of this.

The crucifixion reminds us of the ultimate act of non-violence, Jesus laying down his life for his friends, building bridges, making new relationships. He gave an entirely new meaning to Kingship- complete vulnerability. No crown, no money, no earthly authority.

Jesus knew that Barabbas would be set free and would walk that lonely road to Calvary himself, yet I believe he walks it with all those who go through dehumanising experiences, those who are downtrodden, those who have been oppressed. He alone has the power to overturn that power and to make all things new, to enable people to begin again. Only Christ can revisit with us those painful parts of our lives when we could cheerfully shout “release Barabbas” when we endure suffering and pain. At times it may well feel that Jesus is asking us to walk the impossible way, the way that leaves us vulnerable. Every time we walk with someone who is struggling, and build them up, we see them, and us become a littler more Christ-like.

Christ the King is a feast that looks both ways- back through the year we have come, and forward to the new coming of Christ in Advent, in a new way to us, because every encounter we have with Christ is new. It is healthy to look back, individually and as a community, to see where we have found Christ close to us, and where we have struggled, and to look to the new year with open hearts to what Christ might be doing, in our lives and here in the midst of community. It may be helpful, in a quiet moment, to acknowledge our mistakes to ourself and God, and to ask for healing. It may also be appropriate to give thanks for the times God has been close, perhaps in times of trial, to look at the parts of our lives we have struggled with and hand them over.

I will finish with a quote from Greenbelt speaker Brian McLaren:

I believe in Preaching Peace’s power to help others see the Gospel in a broader, deeper, more hopeful light because it has helped me in exactly this way. If we want to change the world, we need to change the stories it lives by, and Preaching Peace helps Christian leaders to discover a story of peace and reconciliation rather than one of condemnation, conflict, and exclusivity. – Brian McLaren

 

Sermon 18/11/12

“Impression… obsession… fascination”

Hebrews 10:1-14; 19-25 – priests making daily sacrifices for sin… but Jesus died once, for all. This is grace – unlooked-for and undeserved favour, and faith in this gift is what we have in our hearts. It finds its way of expression in “holding fast to the confession of our hope without wavering; provoking each other to love and good deeds and meeting together and encouraging one another”.

Mark 13 1-8

1. A disciple is awestruck by the magnificence of the temple buildings & the size of the stones… and Jesus’ response is that not one stone will be left standing on another.

2. Andrew, Peter, James and John ask about when this will take place – and Jesus launches into a discourse about the end of the world and the final judgement: “You’ll hear of wars and rumours of wars – but that will be just the beginning.”

3. Jesus also talks about false messiahs coming claiming to be Jesus himself – and many will be led astray by them.

These three aspects of today’s gospel seem to me to have a common theme: the things that … impress us, obsess us and fascinate us.

1. Firstly the thing about buildings:- we tend to be impressed by size and magnificence generally – particularly when it comes to human-made structures; buildings that are both huge and beautiful as well as being made for special purposes such as religious worship, often tend to leave people awestruck; I’m thinking particularly of our cathedrals – most of them pretty impressive buildings – but our problem – our weakness – is that too often we can be dazzled by size and beauty and forget what these buildings – like the temple in Jerusalem – are actually for: they’re intended to be places of prayer – and prayer is an activity of the heart and the mind, regardless of where or when it takes place. Remember the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria (John Chapter 4) where the woman says,

“Our (Samaritan) ancestors worshipped on this mountain but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” And Jesus said to her, “The hour is coming when true believers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”

In other words, outward things will be of no consequence; it is the things of the heart, where true worship and genuine prayer comes from, that really matter with God.

2. Secondly to do with knowing the sings and the times:– we do like, don’t we, to have knowledge – or perhaps the power that comes from knowledge. To know all we can about what is going to happen in the future is natural, of course; it’s part of our human conditioning to grow up learning how to manipulate our environment to our own advantage. But then we get obsessed with knowing how long or short we might live, and knowing what to eat and drink and do – and what not to eat and drink and do – that will help us live long, we hope and expect… we can get obsessed about the future of the world, how long it will be until the oil runs out, the food runs out, time runs out, and what will happen then… we want to know about if and when asteroids might collide with earth, will we make it to Mars or another planet before this one that we insist on polluting day after day finally gives up the ghost… and yet we spend so little time on the knowledge that really is important – knowledge of the love of God, inspiring and empowering not just what we might do as the human race in the future, but what we might be … how we let our knowledge affect the kind of people we are. Colonising the galaxy might be part of our future but we have yet to tame the human heart with its passions for lust and jealousy and greed and war – all the things that are spoiling and wrecking this beautiful world that we’ve been gifted with.

3. And lastly, our fascination with Messiahs – be they religious, sporting, or just some of the ‘celebrities’ that seem to fill the newspapers and most TV shows it seems to me. I wonder if these are the ones Jesus was thinking of because these people and the whole cult of celebrity with its cheap competitiveness and mindlessness do indeed lead so many astray from – what was that phrase from Hebrews again? – “Holding fast to our hope without wavering and provoking one another to love and good deeds and encouraging one another”. Again, the theme here seems to be a focus on outward things: excitement, spectacle, competition, money, success… rather than the inward things of the heart that make for real reasons to celebrate. The tendency to try to find our identity or our security in other people or institutions is in contrast to what we’re called by God to do- to seek and find the Kingdom of God within us, among us, in our thoughts and prayers and actions and relationships as we hold fast to our hope and provoke one another to love and good deeds and encourage one another…

Being impressed by the size and magnificence of human structures

Being obsessed by the power that comes from knowledge

Being fascinated by false messiahs – not all of them religious –

… all things that place importance, and demand us to focus on, and lead us to believe that our salvation is tied up in, these external things, on things outside of ourselves, rather than remembering the kingdom is like a seed within us that needs internal focus and care in order to grow and blossom and produce fruit in terms of provoking each other to love and do good deeds and to encourage one another …

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Here at All Hallows we know about these things don’t we –

1. In terms of buildings, at the moment we have to concentrate on this building more than many of us would like! – yet it is what the building is used for, rather than its beauty or magnificence that inspires us – it’s the mission and ministry that goes on within these walls through the week that makes us want to do all we can to ensure those things can carry on: the groups that form part of the family of All Hallows that are just as important as those of who worship here Sunday by Sunday.

2. Where knowledge is concerned, there is a distinct lack of it at the moment in terms of what the future holds for the church – here at All Hallows, in the Deanery of Headingley, and in Ripon & Leeds Diocese with the possibility of a New Diocese coming our way in 2014 there is much uncertainty. For us, we need to be gathering knowledge about our parish and those places where we live, in order to ; be of better service to those around us. Selflessness rather than self-serving and love rather than knowledge should be our watchword : ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

3. And lastly, messiahs are so mesmerising aren’t they? And for some it’s all too easy to fall prey to the charm of someone who seems to be so much more pious, or ‘good’ or religious or clever or well-versed or whatever… But for us at All Hallows we of all people know that ‘we are what we are’, created as God intended, loved by God, cherished and empowered by God. Many of us have seen or met with so-called messiahs – and seen right through them, because they are all false, except one. And despite all the glittering magnificence, all the knowledge and power, all the celebrity or false salvation the world offers, we set our hearts and minds and lives on Jesus Christ alone.

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.

Sermon 7th October 2012

Hebrews 1:1-4 and 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Concentrating on Jesus on divorce as second part of Gospel overlaps with Jan’s amazing sermon of two weeks ago, beautifully illustrated with Baby Dave!

In our Gospel reading this morning, Mark’s discipleship catechism turns to the tricky passages that show the less heroic yet perhaps more difficult practice of the Way in daily life. Jan pointed out a couple of weeks ago that the theme running through a lot of Mark 7-9 was about littleness, not trying to be the greatest, and last week Alison talked about healing and God working through miracles, but also through the wonders of medical care.

We now move into   a powerful explanation of what the cross is about, where the cross is more than non-violent resistance to the powers, but the struggle against patterns of domination in interpersonal and social occasions and relationships as well. Today’s passage relates specifically to the marriage relationship when there is divorce,  and it is part of Mark’s cycles of teaching. In this cycle he goes from greatest to least, outsiders and insiders, aggressors and victims, and comes next to male and female.

Mark is in teaching mode- it exhibits certain similarities to catechetical traditions found elsewhere in the NT that concern questions of power in family and community life- like the house-tables in Col 3:12, but also shows alternative readings of community.

The underlying refrain in the whole of this section (CH7-10) is that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. This is not one of these mystical paradoxes, but a concrete ethic that begins, following Jesus’ Jubilary logic, with the situation of the least in these social situations. Jesus teaches that society can be transformed only from the bottom up, and that we are called to be part of that transformation. How do we live out those Jubilee promises and turn the Pharisaical ethic on its head as well?

Jesus’ journey continues south into Judea, progressing slowly but surely towards Jerusalem, the culmination of his ministry. Mark turns now to a setting where issues of power and justice are more often overlooked: marriage and divorce.

The Pharisees try to engage Jesus in an argument not about the morality of divorce, but about what constitutes the legal grounds for a man to dismiss his wife (10:20)

This subject was vigorously debated between the two great rabbinical schools of the period, Hillel and Shammai. Jesus refuses to get involved in legalistic debate. The Pharisees are accusing the disciples of disloyalty to the tradition, meaning the tradition that they themselves governed- Jesus takes case law to refuse to recognise the authority of this oral law, portraying it as human tradition in contrast to the commandment of God. He contends that the purity code needs overturning. He isn’t going to be trapped by the Pharisees, but takes the debate into a place of liberation for both men and women.

Here he addresses the system of male power and privilege in which a woman who has been dismissed by her husband became a social outcast with little means of supporting herself. A situation where women were often forced into prostitution or destitution- Samaritan woman good example.

Jesus argues that the original vision of Genesis stipulated equality between men and women. The marriage covenant, far from delivering the woman into the power of the man instructed the man to break with the patriarchal house in order to become one flesh with his wife. Jesus’ conclusion in 10:9 refers to the way in which patriarchy, not divorce drives a wedge that tears this equality asunder.

As in Jesus’ previous conflict with the Pharisees, a private explanation is given to the disciples, which seems contradictory, but in fact is saying the Jewish law puts you in a  situation of adultery if your marriage failed and you  married again- Jesus came to turn the law on its head. It recognises the fact of divorce, yet maintains the principle of equality.

Jesus goes way beyond Jewish laws of the period. At this time a man could commit adultery against another man but not against his wife. He directly contravenes the teaching of the rabbis by allowing a woman to initiate divorce proceedings- under Jewish law this right is the right for men. Bearing in mind that the lifespan in first century Palestine was 35 for women, 30 for men, we can imagine children not yet in their teens being forced into marriage by parents wanting their daughters to leave the parental home and produce grandchildren, These women would be left destitute if their husband abandoned them.

Jesus is not trying to minimise the pain of divorce or the tragedy of the one flesh of marriage being torn apart. Yet even here Jesus refuses to overlook the actual relations of power. The woman must no longer be treated as an object. She is a fully equal subject.

This is an example of just how radical Jesus’ thinking about human relationships was. In so many relationships where power in unequal, someone comes off worst. We are in a society where divorce is legal and acceptable, but still leads to tragedy and grief, but following Jesus’ pattern does offer the possibility of ending  a relationship as two adults- rather than infantilising the woman in ways that automatically cast one partner as the “have” and the other as the have not.  Even in a situation where we have a welfare state, the provision for both partners and children after divorce is so vital.

We can translate this into the many areas of human relationships today- partnerships built on equality and on a foundation which does not automatically imply culpability when something goes wrong.  As many of us engage with the public and ecclesiastical debate over the redefinition of marriage, and encourage a definition that demands inclusion of Civil Partnerships for those who wish, this passage reminds me that in so many contexts there is no sitting on the fence- we cannot be impartial.

There has been so much in the news recently on sexual mores where one party comes off worse, that as Christians we have to engage somewhere in the difficult and messy debate- whether this is encouraging the redefinition of marriage to include gay and lesbian people and allow straight people to enter into civil partnerships, or standing against those who ignored the grooming of innocent teenage girls by Asian men because they were seen to be from financially poor communities and therefore made morally questionable decisions. Probably many of us are concerned that our government has appointed an “equalities” minister who seems to have a very selective definition of equality.

Our Hebrews reading reminds us why we have not only an obligation to care for a brother or sister who is at risk of harm,  but also the support for speaking out when someone’s rights are threatened or taken away. We can model ourselves on the person of Jesus- made a little lower than the angels, but also sustaining us by the power of his word. Jesus is the one who calls us to that ministry of non-violence and to resistance. We all have, as Revd Sr Una Kroll, one of the first Anglican women priests in Wales said, a vocation to resistance wherever equality is threatened.

Jesus providing purification for sins was a huge paradigm shift away from the Pharisees’ culture where some sort of sacrifice had to be made for wrongdoing- Jesus says- what I have done is enough- I have laid down my life in a non-violent way to redeem all whose life is governed by violence, for all who are put down by others. Later on in Chapter two of Hebrews is the reminder that we are brothers and sisters together and we are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper.

I was reminded at Greenbelt this year very eloquently by the singer Grace Petrie that injustice wins every time I say that someone else’s suffering is not my concern, and she adapted a song from the Resistance in the Spanish Civil War for the concerns of our day, and I thought it might be helpful in our reflection.

Katherine Salmon

Sermon 19th August 2012 – Guidance for holy living

Sermon 19th Aug

Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Our theme running through this morning’s readings could be guidance for holy living- as both readings focus on being close to God and how we do that as Christians. They are both pretty uncompromising readings where we are left in little doubt as to the author’s message.

Eph 5 is a very challenging passage- this morning we find ourselves in between the passage telling us to be imitators of God and encouraging us to live the life of love, and the one about wives submitting to their husbands- which I am very glad I am not preaching on. But this is a reminder also about taking care in how we look at scripture and how we take these words into our context. I was recently in Edinburgh- share Anne Hepburn’s words about how we look at Scripture.

So much of Eph 5 is about holy living, being careful how we live in relation to one another, and how to make the most of the opportunities we are given. I think it is important to remember that when Ephesians was written, the early Christians were confident that Christ would come back soon, and they did not want to be found wanting in holiness, so getting ready for Christ is a theme that keeps returning.

We are encouraged to be wise, because the days are evil, and however we define evil, we can all find examples of this in our world, things that we keep away from, but also things we are encouraged as Christians to take a stand against. However much many of us are encouraged by the Olympics and by our wonderful medals total, I was glad to see those who are trying to keep the human rights track record of some of these countries in the public gaze-stop the traffic in Trafalgar Square and Amnesty international highlighting the situation for the Russian punk band Pussy Riot in the daily papers- trying to ensure that human rights issues are not removed from the public eye during the Olympics.

We are encouraged to submit everything to God in reverence of Christ- as a community, AH has taught me so much about submitting decisions to God in terms of my ethical decisions. There are churches where it would be much easier to focus on the not getting drunk on wine but being filled with the spirit, and while this is important, we do not, on the whole, get legalistic about this, but I just want to pause on this verse a minute to think whether drunkenness can apply to anything we can’t give up- whether this is one of the things people normally associate with addictions, or whether this can be more subtle- in my time in different 12 step fellowships I have learned that while there are obvious addictions like food and alcohol, we are part of a society so addicted to wealth that it can be difficult to “opt out” – people who decide not to have a car, a mortgage, a credit card etc.

I was recently reading Richard Holloway’s book, Leaving Alexandria and he talks about one of his parishes, Old St Paul’s in Edinburgh, where the team of three clergy and their families experimented in communal meals, and the strain that put on their family time, particular when one of the priests was continually called to deal with pastoral emergencies and the others continued in fellowship without him. It was a sign of maturity in that community to recognise that in order to be effective in their ministries, something had to give, and the communal meals went, but for Holloway, one of the profound discoveries he made was a need for time on his own, walking one of the dogs or sitting in the back of church, in order to be effective. He is a man who has struggled with his own defects, whether tobacco, or as he puts it an ability to continually say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place in prophetic ways–example from AIDS ministry – Jane Millard.

P34 RR things hidden

As a dispersed community, it can be hard to see how we reflect this togetherness- many of us respond individually to things close to home, or ask for support on announce etc responding when someone is in hosp- one of the things we do very much is pray for one another- thanks for support for school in the last week’s of term after a students tragic death/faithful prayer for women bishops/support through AJAR for Asylum Seekers.

This brings us to our Gospel passage- J is pretty uncompromising in his teaching about communion. There was a lot of debate in the early Christian Church about communion- what exactly it was, how often people should receive, who should receive etc, and the debate was still going on. The early Christians had to defend themselves from charges of cannibalism- how on earth to explain communion to those outside- some were clear the were sharing a meal , others believed something very special happening at the moment of communion- these debates still go on and the debates about who cn be accepted to receive communion still continue!! I often feel fortunate that there are so many places where I can receive communion!

Importance given to communion in the Gospel-because that is what J did the night before he died. Importance in today’s reading. We will all have our own feelings about what aspect of communion means the most to us- but I imagine we would all agree that there is something in what we receive at the Eucharist which is beyong our understanding- we gain strength physically and spiritually at the table because all are welcome. I hope and pray we will never lose sight of the importance of being together for communion. How we celebrate communion at AH is very important to many of us. Particularly those of us who have experienced exclusion from the table in other traditions – yet, inclusion is something we need to be vigilant about- a few of us became aware when someone with limited sight came to church a few weeks ago just how challenging our wiggly circle might be- how do we guide someone through our communion service which I sensory, but also requiring of some movement? We are very aware of the importance of using non-alcoholic wine- yet we use real bread, which could exclude someone with a gluten intolerance- we must continue to be mindful of those who come to worship and their needs.

Many of us who are Greenbelters will remember Sara Miles speaking about the importance of communion in her conversion. She walked into church as (in her words) a foul-mouthed atheist- and someone gave her bread and she found God.

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Once Miles came to faith, she could not divorce communion at the table in church from feeding people in need in her community. Her church was in a part of San Francisco where many people struggled to make ends meet. After discussion, the church started a food pantry- giving away free groceries one day a week to all who came. Over time this built up to several days a week. For Sara Miles, there were two things that were particularly important- food should be given to all who came- no questions asked. The second was that the food was given out from the altar. She felt it was important to have no distinction between what happened on Sundays and what happened the rest of the week.

Important principle, but very challenging in practice for some in that community! How would we respond? What is communion for us, and what did Jesus mean when he told us to do it? Sometimes communion gets very complicated with rules in different denominations. Maybe in the moments of silence we can think about what is the essential meaning of communion for us?

Katherine Salmon

Jesus the Bread of Life

John 6. 35, 41-51 Eph 4.25 – 5.2 BREAD FROM HEAVEN / IMITATORS OF GOD

Last week was LGBT Liberation Sunday so we had special readings which meant we missed the normal readings including the feeding of the five thousand – so to briefly bring us up to speed…

Jesus has fed the five thousand and come back from the other side of the lake in mysterious circumstances – (the crowd know he didn’t get in the boat with the disciples so wonder how he got back to Capernaum); when they find Jesus they ask what they must do to perform the works of God. Jesus’ answer is simply “Believe in him who he has sent. They ask for a sign that they “might see it and believe … our ancestors ate manna in the desert – as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat’ ” Jesus replies “It’s my Father who gives the true bread from heaven”

“Sir, give us this bread always!” (They seems to recognise the importance of the true bread – they want to have it, but not, it transpires, in the form in which it is offered to them – in Jesus) – and that’s where today’s gospel starts – Jesus says: I AM the bread life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

And in verse 51 – “I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – [in each case, his ‘”I AM” echoing the words of God to Moses, “I am who I am” (Ex 3.14)] In John 6 v 41 they complain because Jesus said “I am the bread that came down from heaven” … “This is just Jesus – we know his mum and dad…” forgetting that God’s gifts frequently come in the form of the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane, the familiar – that’s why we overlook them so often. And God’s greatest gift coming in the form of a human being who they knew, was too much for the crowds and they ended up arguing like children (“how can he give us his flesh to eat?”) (v52)

Speaking of familiarity, we’re all familiar with what bread is like – everyday stuff, an unremarkable food item to most people – but at the Eucharist we take bread, we ask God to bless it, we break it and we share it out. We do this specifically to bring to mind, to remembrance, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

SO BREAD IS: TAKEN BLESSED BROKEN GIVEN

For Jesus these weren’t just words – this is what his whole earthly life was about. He himself was taken, as it were, and made flesh;

He was blessed – obviously he was blessed! Think of the Holy Spirit descending on him at his baptism and the words from heaven “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased- listen to him”

He was broken, certainly at his crucifixion; but so often through the gospels we read of his being in need of solitude and prayer…

And he was given – in the manger, on the mount, by the lake, in the temple, in the garden, at Pentecost, at the Eucharist, at every moment of every day, his very flesh, [his everything, in other words], for the life of the world… given. Shared out, generously.

I was very moved by the generous nature of some the Olympic gold medal winners – especially Jessica Ennis who after the race she won, got all the other runners together and they all joined hands and bowed together to the crowds – a lovely display of selflessness and generosity in victory…

When we Christians speak of giving and generosity, the benchmark, the standard by which we need to measure ourselves is what we are exhorted to do in today’s New Testament reading from Ephesians 5.1, – if, that is, we have the willingness, the commitment – the bottle – to dare to become imitators of God: living in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us… allowing ourselves to become like Christ: to actually be nourishment, goodness, welcome news, life-giving grace, unconditional compassion and love – a community of self-giving love, living in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us; allowing ourselves to be taken, blessed, broken and given.

Of course in a world that’s all about competition and getting what you want, or at least what you think you need before anyone else gets it, it’s very hard not to be drawn into a selfish, competitive mentality. But for the Christian that is at odds with the mentality and the gift of God.

I was reading recently about examples in the natural world, where we all have been brought up to believe everything hinges on competition and the survival of the fittest and strongest …

1. Plants behave in a way that is not competitive but is cooperative, Mycorrhizas, – associations between fungus in soil and the roots of plants – most plants form these associations, and most plants grow poorly without them!

2. The bird’s nest orchid is found in beech woodlands and has no chlorophyll, and in fact its leaves are reduced to colourless scales. Its roots are associated with mycorrhizal fungi that themselves feed on decaying vegetation and pass some of the nutrients to the orchid. In return, the orchid synthesizes certain complex organic chemicals for its fungal partner.

3. Even trees help each other. The roots of neighbouring trees, especially trees of the same species, often
naturally graft together beneath the soil, in such a way that xylem can flow from one tree to another and carry water and mineral nutrients with it. It has been shown that nutrients tend to flow from the stronger trees to the weaker ones!.

4. We need to learn some of the lessons nature has to teach us – how in giving, we receive – and vice-versa – in receiving it is possible to be giving… Flying Squirrels’ in the forest need to eat – and what they eat is truffles and in doing so they spread the truffles’ spores. Truffles, being fungi, play an important part in supporting the plants of the forest in all sorts of ways, including the nutrient take-up and general health of plants, in particular the trees that form the forest that form the home for the squirrels. The act of eating, for the squirrels, has benefits on the whole forest that the squirrels know nothing about…

And we, at the Eucharist … we take, bless, break and give bread – but the most important thing we do with it is… Eat it – in order to be nourished by bread it needs to be eaten! – that’s precisely why Jesus was using bread to describe himself – we take bread into ourselves, chew it up and swallow it and digest it and it becomes part of us, giving us strength and health; so that’s what we need to do with Jesus – meaning ‘eating’, [taking into ourselves] the things of Jesus, his teachings, his values, his characteristics; his way of approaching the world, his way of thinking and feeling; his way of responding to one another and to the issues problems and challenges that affect us all – his way…. not ours. Our eating the bread of the Eucharist symbolises this and so doing, like flying squirrels, we may be benefiting the world in ways we may never know anything about…

A final thought about bread from the story of the feeding of the five thousand… At the end of the episode, when everyone had eaten, Jesus got them to gather up the fragments… the left-overs. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and I keep thinking of people who are considered the left-overs in life; the forgotten ones – the ones considered unimportant in our communities; and those of us who tend to see ourselves as just ‘left-overs’ – for whatever reason.

So… ever feel not so much like a nourishing farmhouse loaf or an appetising-looking baguette or a wholesome soda-bread or one of those shiny plaited loaves? If you, like many of us, sometimes feel more like a stale half-eaten sandwich or a pile of crumbs, if you feel you belong with the left-overs, then take heart! In the story of the feeding of the five thousand it’s not recorded what happened to the left-overs, but one thing is clear – they were carefully gathered up on the express orders of Jesus himself because to Jesus, the left-overs are a vital part of the story… they speak of the overwhelming generosity of God that is involved in taking, blessing, breaking and sharing – a ludicrous, wasteful generosity it may appear but it is a generosity that means everyone gets enough to eat – and even more than we need.

Such is the grace of God. The thing about grace is that all you need to do, like eating bread and trusting it to do you good, is just to accept it and trust it to get on and do what it does….

Sermon for LGBT Liberation Sunday 5/8/12

From the New Testament reading (Romans 5.1-10) for this LGBT Liberation Sunday – “suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope – and hope doesn’t disappoint because of the Love of God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Many if not most of us have had some experience of suffering because of our sexual orientation… and although there have been some gains in recent years in terms of freedoms and rights for LGBT people (I’ve even found myself applauding some of the things a tory prime minister has been saying and doing – what’s the world coming to?!) – although we’ve seen some gains, there is still a lot of opposition in the world – and a large part of it comes from parts of the church itself. So I thought it might be useful to have a look at these things and how we might respond.

The Church of course still seems intent on shooting itself in the foot over gay marriage (and a whole load of other stuff too) with an attitude ranging from paternalism through arrogance to offensiveness, nastiness and sadly even violence. And many of us have our own stories of being on the receiving end of these things.

Those of us involved in the debate about issues around sexuality want and expect to be engaged with by our opponents … and we need to genuinely and pro-actively engage with them, otherwise we’re brought down to the same level as those we complain are persecuting us.

At this point I have to confess I’ve sometimes thought, “I wish they’d all just get lost (or words to that effect); if they don’t like LGBT people in the church, – let them just go and found their own bigoted church somewhere else … But imagine for instance, that somewhere today there’s a kind of parallel service to ours going on to celebrate Bigots’ Liberation Sunday! /Homophobes Liberation Day! or whatever…

Some of the thoughts expressed at such a service might well be just like those that have run through my mind in the past:

“Sometimes I wish the gays and lesbians and their friends would all just get lost! Let them go and found their own LGBT church somewhere else… because if LGBT people just went away, we wouldn’t have to engage with them ever again! There’d be no more arguments about sexuality and so forth… we’d be the only members of a purer, leaner, totally heterosexual church and God would be very pleased with us!…

We mustn’t get drawn in to wanting a narrower church of England that would be better if only certain people weren’t in it – because those certain people could be us!

Getting rid of our opponents would mean a narrower CofE and that would be a great shame because Broadchurch means an inclusive church and if we get it right it means enjoying our unity in the spirit because of, not despite, our diversity. By definition, though, broad church also means the potential for being messy and most uncomfortable! So we need to be open and sensitive – and strong enough to be accepting and including of bigots and the narrow-minded, engaging with them – in love.

Wanting God’s punishment on our enemies is something the disciples James & John were well into – when the village refused to receive Jesus, “Shall we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” – BUT he turned and rebuked them…(we’re not called to be crusaders) then they went to another village..(Luke 9.51-56)

· That bit about ‘going to another village’ says something to us about not remaining in hostility, dwelling on rejection, dwelling on persecution and our wounds, fuelling our own resentments and the hostility of both sides. James & John wanted retribution, punishment to fall on their perceived opponents – rather, we have the spirit of Christ who exhorts his followers to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, meekness and patience. To bear with one another and forgive one another – just as he has forgiven and always forgives us… to clothe ourselves with love and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. (Col 3.12-15)

As followers of Jesus we’re called and commanded to

Love God and our neighbour

Love one another as he loved us

Do what is just, love mercy and walk humbly with our God…’

And if all this talk of humility and meekness and love in the cut and thrust of today’s sometimes vicious world seems foolish or weak, St Paul writes about God’s foolishness, so to speak, being wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness being stronger than human strength. God’s so-called weakness of course was supremely demonstrated in Jesus on the cross – apparent weakness actually being the means of reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, new life, ultimateliberation.

· Jesus talked about the poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, those whose greatest desire is to do what God wills… being blessed. But we’re also called to be a blessing to others. He called his followers the salt of the earth – meaning those who give life flavour, make it worth savouring, enjoying! If we become like the crusaders, hard-hearted, fervent in our demands for judgement and justice, or secretly wishing for the downfall of our opponents, we become devoid of our essential deliciousness – (For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.) (Eph 6.12) … and if the salt loses its savour, it becomes good for nothing and is thrown out and trampled underfoot… (Matt5.13)

So we must watch out for those unseen sins that can creep in and affect our behaviour if we let them – things that we have a blind spot about or we pretend aren’t really there… in our liturgy we often use at the confession, the prayer “We have used our power to dominate and our weakness to manipulate” – both are equally corrosive.

And a final thought about our opponents – our enemies.. or are they? Remember the Canaanite woman – to whom Jesus initially thought to refuse the grace of God – then realised that she was as much in need of God’s grace as the special ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’. Our opponents are actually equally loved by God and are as much in need of God’s grace as we are – and that’s the thing to remember – we are all in need of God’s grace!

There’s a world of difference between arguing a point with someone you see as an enemy and view with fear and hatred, and arguing a point with someone you might not agree with, or like, but whom you know is loved by God and in whom you are seeking the reflection of Christ himself…

Some thoughts about Liberation:

When you think of liberation I wonder what you think about – liberation from what?

Fear, hatred, hurt, oppression, misunderstanding persecution, yes!

But it also seems to me that we need to ‘move on to another village’ – to have in focus not only those things we want to move away from, but also to be looking at what we are working to be liberated TO and FOR –

Firstly, we certainly want to be working towards equality with those who have the freedoms we don’t yet have and, like them, to enjoy those freedoms unconditionally. Secondly, not just being equal to others, but being actively engaged withothers in building up and transforming our communities into places where inclusivity, healing, hope and liberation are the norms.

And thirdly and in my view most importantly, we need to be looking for kind of freedoms that can’t be offered by either victory in debate or by legislation; I’m talking about the freedom of the Kingdom of God, the kind of freedom that is not external but internal, psychological, spiritual… (Jesus said, didn’t he, ‘”The kingdom of God is within you.” We need to be seeking the kind of liberation that isn’t ‘worn’ like a garment or a badge but is like the salt in your food, that not only has a flavour of its own but the whole point of which is to bring out the best flavour of the food that it accompanies. That’s what we’re called to be doing, bringing out the best in the people, the communities, the institutions that we accompany or are part of. ‘Enemies’ included, seeing they too are loved by God. This kind of liberation, although it’s unseen, flows from the heart and affects everything around it positively, powerfully and lovingly, and on Liberation Sunday and the day of Leeds PRIDE, this kind of liberation is worth everything and is something you can be really proud of.

Sermon 29th July 2012

Sermon preached by Alison Terrell on the 29th July 2012 – Fish and Bread

Resting and relating

Sermon preached on 22nd July 2012 by Jan Betts

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Ephesians 2:11-end; Mark 6:30-34 and 53-end

The question I’ve been faced with as I looked at the readings for today is what does it mean to rest

Maybe I’m drawn to that question because I’m rubbish at resting. I really enjoy dashing around and doing things and making myself exhausted and having that great feeling that I’ve ticked things off on a list which never gets any shorter. I put easy things on my list so that I can do them quickly and get the same satisfaction as a difficult one. I think there is quite a lot of pathology in this which it’s probably FAR too late in my life to sort out. I am instead trying to head for damage limitation through simply being conscious of my tendency to escape into activity  and to think about what Jesus says about it. How did he teach his disciples to rest?

Before  we get to the readings we can note that Jesus himself often seemed to relate rest and prayer. He would go away to pray, finding hidden spaces. This is such contract to the way in which I often find it hard to pray, to rest in the presence of God that I think it must mean somehow that I am not really tuned into that great business of knowing I am loved and not valued for my doing but for my being: that God is love and this is what we need to soak ourselves in, including that God loves us. Rest is surely partly about peace?  What gives us peace? All the way through the bible, old and new testament, God says that our rest lies in our relationship with God.  Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee, said Augustine, and both mystics and more active evangelicals have found that the most crucial part of their lives is resting in the presence of God. Physical rest for our bodies comes after the rest for our souls, but is also intimately connected with it and todays readings say something about this.

So today we have:

Firstly the teaching that Jesus gives his disciples about resting.

Then  the teaching from Ephesians  about how we rest in the saving grace of Jesus

And lastly in the related passages from the old testament there is a different tack on resting, in times of real strain and depression, which I’m only going to refer to briefly.

In the Mark reading, the disciples have returned from their first venture out in pairs, proclaiming repentance and casting out demons and anointing sick people  with oil. Jesus hadn’t let them take provisions or a spare tunic. It may have been very hard psychologically for these men to beg, effectively, to have the status of people who were holy but lowly!  The whole combination of a new life, Jesus not being there to support them, uncertainty about where to stay or eat, would they be up to the job of using the authority over unclean spirits which Jesus had given them?   It had probably been utterly knackering and also very wonderful.  We know Jesus was aware when power went out of him in healing. We know that listening carefully to people and hearing about their troubles and engaging with them is very tiring- and we need to support each other in this, especially our Steve, David and Alison.

The disciples came back to Jesus very tired indeed. They wanted time with him. They wanted to rest and listen to him and ask him questions about the puzzling or difficult things which had happened.  The gang was back together and they just wanted to relax. Jesus was part of this – he must have missed his friends when they were away and been anxious about them too.

So they went to try and find a lonely place. It doesn’t seem to have been all that lonely somehow – their intentions were spotted very quickly. So instead of a break and a chat and time to sleep and joke together, Jesus sees in front of him a crowd like sheep without a shepherd.

What do sheep without a shepherd look like? In the UK they are usually quite peaceful, grazing the hills without too much to care about. But it’s different where there is little green stuff to feed on and someone needs to know where it is and guide you to where you might find nourishment and stay alive,  and where there are predators who might swoop or jump on you at any time.  This is an image of people who don’t know how to feed themselves and don’t know how to protect themselves, who were running in all sorts of different directions. No wonder Jesus had compassion on them. What’s the equivalent now? Do we know where we’re going? Do we have any sense of being aware of what is nourishing to us, and what we need protecting from?

The disciples need rest, they hadn’t eaten and what does Jesus do? He settles down to teach them AT SOME LENGTH. Was the gospel writer remembering how tired they all were. ‘it was great teaching, thinks Mark as he’s writing but  it did go on!!’  Jesus sees the crowd  at their point of need and makes a judgment call about whose needs come first. What the lost sheep needed was teaching, about ways to be less lost and ways to resist the threats.  I have thought about what Jesus was teaching his disciples here. Was it that rest is important but we rest when we can, and not when there are those around us who are lost and under threat? That they had to be as he was, serving even when tired? I notice that they didn’t have to teach – maybe they went off and slept and woke up even hungrier. The Gospel doesn’t say that they protested, they didn’t say  ‘it’s our turn not theirs. We want you to ourselves for a while. We’re your friends, not these people. We’ve worked so hard, give us a break’. They accepted that teaching was a form of feeding, the most important form, and that’s what Jesus was there for. We rest in God to be made able to rest in our bodies. BUT maybe when the disciples said the crowd was hungry they were hungry too!

This makes me ask when do we have a right to rest? Is this about the same principle as in sharing money? That there should be enough for all. I think it’s that we let some rest while some work and vice versa?  There are needs to be met  – but we as the body of Christ, are careful not to burn each other out, physically or spiritually. How do we uphold each other? Do we pray for each other, really? Do we offer each other the gift or resting?

How does rest link to the Ephesians passage? Well it may be straining this a bit but doesn’t a lot of our anxiety which makes us unhappy and tired come from a sense that we are excluded, that we are not part of things, that we don’t know who we are? Don’t we fret and worry because we don’t feel included? And what is being said here is that we are included. Jesus in his death has made us part of the one inclusive kingdom of citizens of heaven. We don’t need to worry about doing all the ‘works’ which the Jewish Law commands, including circumcision. We are part of the kingdom by means of the faith and grace and obedience and death and resurrection of Jesus and we don’t need to feel excluded or restless. We belong to the most  glorious company of all. And so does the rest of the world!! We have rest for our hearts which gives us the resting confidence for our lives.

Finally I want to say something  about the OT readings. I looked at these and I ducked out of including them  because it was too hard but I commend them to you. In the reading from 2 Samuel  7.  David  wants to build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant, which rests under a simple awning while David lives in a palace. He wants to stay busy. Nathan however brings him a message from God which is one of the most loving and warm and relational passages about God which could be written.  David feels totally secure. BUT in Psalm 89 we find him saying ‘I shall sing the faithful love of Yahweh for ever…I know you are faithful  BUT..I feel you have left me to my enemies, and Lord what of those pledges of your faithful love? I am totally lost. He cries a really awful cry – ‘For what pointless end did you create all the children of Adam?’

How does he do it? How does he stay hanging on to God? Somehow he manages to rest in the final stanza saying Blessed be Yahweh forever. There is something about finally resting in the incomprehensible love of God, as Jesus did on the cross,  which is our true end.