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This Week 21st – 27th January

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Mon 21 Jan @11-3
Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 22 Jan @7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 23 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 24 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thu 24 Jan @ 7pm We love Hyde Park! hosting Leeds Uni Union and Hyde Park Neighbourhood Forum – AGM and Community Impact Evening
Fri 25 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 27 Jan @10.30am Sunday morning Epiphany worship – Myrrh
Sun 27 Jan @ 2pm Civic Holocaust Memorial Service at Leeds Town Hall
See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sermon by Jon Dorsett 20 January 2019

Notes from the sermon by Jon Dorsett 20th January 2019  Frankincense

Isaiah 62:1-51 Corinthians 12:1-11, Matthew 2:1-12

Past. Present. Future.

This morning I want to reflect on how we engage with the Past. Present. And Future.

As part of a season of Epiphany Worship services I was given the topic from the Gifts of the Magi of Frankincense as the theme for this sermon, but I have to admit, my mind wondered somewhat in thinking about this, so we’re going to go on a bit of a journey through neuroscience, earthquakes, hymns, climate change, global inequality, power, purpose and calling. I do promise to bring it back to the Gifts of the Magi at some point before I finish. But first I have a question for you

What is your earliest memory? 

Just take a moment to reach your mind back (some might have to reach further back than others). 

What is the earliest memory you can recall? 

And what is it that accesses that memory for you? Is it a specific feeling? A specific object? A person? A sound? A movement?

For me it is a smell. The smell of Johnsons baby lotion and a memory of Terrys nappies and a nappy changing mat in front of a Calor gas heater in my parents’ house. I guess I must have been a toddler, and the memories are very much linked to feelings and textures, but even now the smell of Johnsons baby lotion brings that memory flooding vividly back. And it’s the same with other smells. Cut-grass takes me straight back to infant school and constructing floorplans of houses on the freshly cut playing field. Ozone, an old electric train set I used to play with. Moth balls, the vestry of the freezingunheated village church where I was an altar boy. 

Smells are possibly the most powerful sense we have to unlock forgotten or early memories. Neuroscientists attribute this to a number of factors. 

Firstly smell is the oldest of the senses we have. Before the ability to detect light, before the ability to feel pressure, before the ability to recognise sound, living organisms developed the ability to detect chemicals in their surroundings and be able to respond to them. Simple bacteria today can detect and respond to multiple chemicals in their surroundings. 

Our sight relies on 4 different types of receptor cells to convert light into electrochemical signals to our brains. Our touch likewise relies on a least 4 different types of receptors for heat, cold, pressure and pain. Our sense of smell however is linked to over 1000 different receptor types.

Information from our eyes, ears and tactile senses are sent to a relay station in our brain called the Thalamus before being sent to other parts of the brain for processing. With smells however, information is processed directly by the olfactory bulb which starts in the nose and runs along the base of the brain. The olfactory bulb is directly adjacent and connected to two parts of the brain that are associated with emotion and memory, the amygdala (a mig da la) and the hippocampus. It is perhaps because of this direct connection that the sense of smell is so successful at evoking memories and emotions.

It is also perhaps because of this direct link between smell and deep memories and feelings that incense has been used for millennia in religious ritual and practice. By creating the association between distinct and strong smells and stories and practices that have sustained communities and individuals, there becomes an easy access route to evoking the place in which we find belonging, meaning and purpose.

Conscious memory can be fickle. How often have you recalled the same events very differently to your partner, or close friends? Deep memories however work within us at a different level. I have a friend who works with people living with dementia, and she describes the joy of seeing people come alive and joining in when they hear a hymn from their childhood. They may struggle to remember much else, but those memories from childhood come alive when their subconscious is sparked. 

Being able to access the stories that sustain us, can also be life-saving in difficult times. I remember hearing about a woman stuck under rubble for over a week following the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran, who said the only reason she survived was because she had memorised the Quran and was able to recite it in full to herself while trapped.

Frankincense, I want to argue, as a gift of the Magi, is a gift and reminder of the importance of memory; access to the collective memories embodied in liturgy and ritual and evoked by our sense of smell. Memories that are conscious, perhaps of scripture, and unconscious feelings associated with the sense of belonging and meaning that comes from ritual and liturgy too. While this may not be the case for us today,either as none High Church (bells and smells) Christians, or in the wider world where ritual and shared liturgy no longer persist, perhaps smells still help us tap into our collective unconscious – that part of consciousness that is inherited and shared not only among humans but among all living things. A part of our brain that knows on a deep level that we are all connected, that we are part of a living system and not divorced from and above the rest of creation.

Still I digress slightly. Frankincense, in my schema, is memory, is the past, is a reminder to hold onto our values and stories of who we are, stories that remind us of our relationship with our self, with each other, with creation, and with God.

Gold I want to argue, is the gift of now. The gift of the present. Gold is near universally an item of worth, a valuable commodity used to trade for other goods and services. Gold equates to agency, to power, to the ability to make happen. Gold is representative of the ability to act in the here and now, to have agency in the present. What we choose to do with that agency is a decision we each have to make. We can use it to our own personal gain, or we can use it in community to support one another, and to act for the common good. As Mary Oliver, who died this week, said ‘What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Gold as a gift of the Magi then, is a reminder of Agency, of the ability to act in the present.

And so Myrrh. In my schema, Myrrh is symbolic of the future. Myrrh was among other things used as an anointing oil, it is listed as an ingredient in the holy anointing oil for the anointing of the tabernacle, of high priests and kings. To anoint is to set apart, to signify specific purpose. It is to send out on a calling. It is to collectively recognise a gift, a vocation, a path and a purpose. Myrrh then as a gift of the Magi, is a sending out into the future, a recognition of calling or purpose.

I am well aware that this might be stretching the traditional understandings of the gifts from the wise men of the east. More often they are presented as regal gifts, given to kings across the middle east to recognise their right to rule. Or they are seen as symbols of deity (the frankincense), earthly kingship (the gold), and death (Myrrh). I however, want to attempt to reach for something deeper and further in their meaning and relevance to each and every one of us.

Jesus’s kingship is not presented as a kingship analogous to the kings of nations and of empires, instead where the word king is used within scripture in relation to Jesus, it is used to subvert our understanding of kingship. This is not about a hierarchical rule, passed down through a patriarchal line, implemented by force, and held in place by fear. This is the cosmic Christ  that aspect of God which pervades all of creation, the Christ who according the letter to the Ephesians “fills the universe in all its parts” (1:23).  Matthews story of the Magi honouring Jesus, was marking the recognition of a paradigm shift in human consciousness, a departure from the imperial mindset that had pervaded much of humankind since the fall and the development of consciousness, and instead towards a spirit filled awareness of the connectedness of all things, and our human place within that. Jesus as the Christchild is the marker of this, but it is a consciousness we all have access to, and in which we all play a part. It is the coming kingdom that is at hand, it is the kingdom within you. It is the yet and yet not yet.

The gifts of the magi, if we take them as reminders and pointers to past, present and future, are gifts/ reminders to all of human-kind. Frankincense to access the past, the memory of who we really are. Gold to be in the present, aware and engaged with the frightening amount of agency that we have. And Myrrh to be mindful of the future, and find our purpose and calling.

We are here and now. We look to the future. And we draw on the wisdom of our past.

The wisdom of our past is contained not only in our own individual learning, not only in our cloud of witnesses and radical forebears, not only in the great wisdom of our scriptures, but also in the deep knowledge of being part of a living system, part of the cosmic Christ, a knowledge buried deep in our collective consciousness.

The here and now we are part of is a time of unprecedented challenges. And we look to a future of massive uncertainty.

Man-made climate change; unparalleled global inequality and the economic systems that give rise to it; the rise of violent extremism, polarisation and the inability to engage with the other; the destructive power of our military-industrial complex and the global conflicts that ensue; the ecological impact of our consumeristic culture and increasing materialism. These are to name just a few.

To even to begin to approach these issues, we need to access a new mindset. Even our shared stories, our scriptures, have been tinged by imperial colonial readings, imbued with a mechanistic mindset and reduction to dualistic thinking.

We need to rediscover the roots of our collective memories. We need to follow our noses to the sources of our collective wisdom. For those of us with a scriptural tradition, we need to re-read those memories through the light of the memories of our collective unconscious. The shared memories that we are all part of a living system, an eco-system of life, death and rebirth.

We then need to rediscover, re-Cognise and rebuild our sense of agency. We need to gift each other with gold. To build our ability to act together, in common and in complexity. The answers we need to the challenges of now will not come from ‘them’ (from a ruling elite or a hierarchical system of command and obey). The issues are too complex for oneperson, one organisation, one political party, or one nation to solve. We have to use our agency together to create the changes our planet and societies need.

And we need to discover and recognise the callings we each have, the purpose we are made for. Our purpose is not in a meaningless 9-5 office job we hate, sitting home watching Netflix every evening, going shopping every weekend, being slave and consumer, (though I am quite partial to an evening on Netflix).

Our purpose is in loving each other, caring for creation, discovering ourselves, connecting to the transcendent, and being in community. Our callings, our anointings are in those veins too, to bring each other and ourselves back into relationship with our deep self, with the other, with creation,and with God.

So, the gifts of the Magi are for each and every one of us…

The smell of Frankincense to unlock our memories and remind us of who we are.

The value of Gold to give us agency to transform things in the here and now.

The anointing of Myrrh, to help us look to the future with purpose and calling.

The Epiphany of the Magi was the realisation and recognition of the infant Jesus as incarnation of the transcendent, and marker of a shift in human consciousness. As we journey through this season of Epiphany worship services, perhaps we will find deeper revelations of the cosmic Christ as we delve into our shared memories of scripture, and perhaps those revelations can spur us on in our callings and purpose to be agents of transformation for the kingdom of God in the here and now.

Thank God for the NHS

This morning, before our church service started, one of our fellowship was taken ill. Within five minutes of phoning, an ambulance had arrived and our sick friend was being cared for.

Our undervalued paramedics, doctors, nurses and all who manage to make the NHS work so well despite being used as a political and financial football deserve our thanks and support. So, thank you, all of you! Thank you for caring.

Sunday 20th January 2019

This Sunday is the second Sunday after Epiphany and one of our readings tells how Jesus helped to celebrate the wedding at Cana by turning water into wine. It didn’t seem as though Jesus could do the right thing according to some people as he was accused of enjoying parties too much!

Our readings this Sunday are Isaiah 62:1-51 Corinthians 12:1-11 and John 2:1-11 and Jon Dorsett will be sharing with us his thoughts.

This Week 14th – 20th January

Mon 14 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 15 Jan @7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 16 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 17 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 18 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 20 Jan @10.30am Sunday morning Epiphany worship – Frankincense
See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sermon by Adriaan van Klinken 13th January 2019 – Epiphany 1

Notes from the sermon by Adriaan van Klinken 13th January 2019 – Epiphany 1

“Baptised in the River of Jordan”

Readings: Isaiah 43:1-7 and Luke 3:15-17, 21,22

After 2000 years of Christian history, it can be difficult for us to think afresh about Jesus – who he was, what the meaning of his life and death is, how he was related to God. We are part of a long tradition of thinking about Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of God, indeed, as the face of God revealed to us. But sometimes this tradition can hinder us from seeing the Jesus of the Gospel, the Jesus of the early Christians, and to be surprised and excited about him.

The current period of the Christian calendar offers us a time to go back to the basics. In this period of Epiphany we try and move back to the early beginnings, when the truth about Jesus Christ had not yet been crystallised in doctrines and creeds, but when the first generations of followers of Jesus were trying to figure out who Jesus actually was.

Our Gospel reading today brings us back to that period. In the reading we encounter John the Baptist. He is presented to us as a religious figure, travelling through the region preaching a message of repentance for the remission of sins. In a highly volatile political situation (nothing new today), with Israel being occupied by the Romans, John reminds the Jews of the covenant of God, and he calls upon them to follow God’s commandments, to repent from sinful ways and dedicate their lives to God, because otherwise the wrath of God will come upon them.

John’s message is a radical one. It signals the understanding that the status quo has been found wanting. It constitutes a prophetic appeal for people to turn their backs on previous commitments, and align themselves fundamentally with God’s purpose. That message is accompanied by a ritual: baptism. A ritual that asks of people that they come away from normal existence, signify their renewed commitment to God’s purpose, then return to their normal lives but leading that life in a transformed way. John’s baptism is an assault on the status quo – to participate in it is to embrace behaviour rooted in a radical realignment with God’s purpose.

Apparently John is a highly charismatic figure, because multitudes of people are coming to listen to his message and be baptised by him. The people get excited and start wondering whether he is the long-expected Messiah, the saviour promised by God. But John calms down their expectations, stating: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
A baptism of water versus a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. That is how John captures the difference between his own ministry, and that of the Messiah. His role is only preparatory, preparing the way for a successor more significant than him.

Indeed, in the Gospel of Luke, John is literally removed from the scene before Jesus appears. Before writing about the baptism of Jesus, Luke tells us that John had been shut up in prison by king Herod (exactly because he threatened the status quo). The people who compiled the church’s lectionary decided that these verses could be left out (did anyone miss them?), but obviously Luke had a reason to include them. Different from Matthew, who writes in great detail about John’s ministry and about John’s baptism of Jesus, Luke gives a very minimalistic account, and removes John from the centre stage even before Jesus enters.

Only after we’ve been told us that John is shut up in prison, Luke goes on and writes, as in a flash back, that Jesus was among the multitudes that had been baptised by John. Maybe this narrative contains an important lesson: for Jesus to appear, to be revealed to us, we need to shut up. Like John at that time, the church today – with its politics and structures, its quest for self-preservation – can sometimes hinder the appearance of the Messiah. Because the Messiah may well appear in a way very different than we expect.

That is certainly the case for John. He promises the people that the Messiah comes to enact God’s judgement. He announces a Messiah with a winnowing-fork in the hand, clearing the threshing-floor gathering the wheat into his granary but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Later in the Gospel of Luke, we read that John, who had anticipated messianic judgment and not a ministry of compassion, is not sure at all whether Jesus is actually the Messiah.

John had to adjust and correct his image of the Messiah – and so we often have, too.

Luke only indirectly tells us that Jesus was, indeed, baptised by John. We may wonder why Jesus needed to be baptised in the first place. If Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, indeed part of God-self and as such is without sin, as the church teaches in its creeds, then why did he need to undergo a baptism of repentance of sins? But let’s remind ourselves: Luke and his readers did not have doctrines and creeds. They were part of the early Jesus movement trying to figure out who Jesus was. And Jesus himself, when growing up, had to figure out what his calling was. In that sense, the baptism of Jesus shows that he was fully human. That he went through the process of configuring his own identity and mission, just like each of us does in our own lives, and we together as a community. In that process, Jesus encounters the message of John the Baptist, of repentance and conversion, of committing oneself to God’s purpose, and it speaks to his heart, to his emerging sense of calling.

Jesus is baptised as one of a multitude of people, as one of us. Luke writes about it in passing: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” These words resemble our reading from Isaiah, in which God declares his decisive love to the people of Israel:

I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.

The beautiful phrase “I have called you by your name” sounds like an adoption formula. In the prophecy of Isaiah it means that Israel now is fully identified with, belongs to, and is cherished by, God. This intimate relationship is a present help in every danger – the danger of exile, of war, of hardship.
In the Gospel of Luke, the words “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”, signal a similar process of adoption. Jesus is now fully identified with, belongs to, and is cherished by God. Jesus’ evolving sense of calling is approved; his vocation is confirmed by God. Perhaps we can say: Jesus received a gold rating. In each of the paintings of Jesus’ baptism (see screen), the artists use an abundance of yellow-gold paint, symbolising the divine light with which Jesus is surrounded in this moment, and from now on.

The story about Jesus’ baptism, then, is Luke’s second story about the birth of Jesus. In the first story, baby Jesus is born in the manger. The magi come to bring their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child. This second story marks the birth of Jesus’ mission and calling, and it is God-self who approves of it with gold.

Jesus the Messiah is born out of the waters of the river Jordan. The river Jordan in biblical imagery is a highly symbolic place. In the first part of the Bible, as the Israelites journeyed from slavery in Egypt to the land that God had promised them, the river acted as both an obstacle and pathway. It was an obstacle for them to enter the promised land. Their leader, Moses, was not even allowed to cross the Jordan, as a punishment for his disobedience. Only after Moses had died, the people of Israel miraculously were able to cross the river, as the water stopped flowing and made a way.

These biblical themes are elaborated on in African American negro-spirituals, the songs of the black slaves in America. In many of them, the river Jordan features prominently. As a symbol of the borderland between this world and the next, in which slaves would be liberated from the harsh realities of life. Also as a symbol of the border between slavery and living in freedom, between the injustice of captivity and the relentless hope for justice on earth to come.
These negro-spirituals, like John’s baptism in the Jordan, fuel the resistance against the status quo of bondage, oppression, and injustice. Jesus’ passing through the river Jordan, and his affirmation by God, underline that God in Jesus rejects the status quo. That God in Jesus leads us into the promised land of freedom and justice on earth. That God in Jesus promises us abundance of life. This is what our Christian faith is about – what our belief in Jesus is about! And we are called to follow. Because Jesus is the first, but in him each of us is adopted as child of God, is welcomed into the promised land, is awarded a gold rating. With one of the classic negro-spirituals, we sing with all the slaves, with all the refugees stuck at borders, all the oppressed of the earth, with all God’s people:

I’m going down to the river of Jordan
O yes,
I’m going down to the river of Jordan
Some of these days, Hallelujah…
I’m going to sit at the welcome table of the Lord;
I’m going to feast off milk and honey…
O yes!

This Week 7th – 13th January

Mon 7 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 8 Jan @7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 9 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 10 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thu 10 Jan @7pm PCC Meeting
Fri 11 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 13 Jan @10.30am Sunday morning Epiphany worship – Gold
See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sunday 6th January 2019

This Sunday is the first Sunday of 2019 and also, this year, coincides with Epiphany which falls on 6th January and traditionally is the day when we celebrate the visit of the Wise Men to see Jesus (and we usually take down our Christmas decorations!)

We will be having a quieter, more reflective service this Sunday based around Taize music. After the service, as it is the first Sunday of the month, we will be having a bring and share lunch together – do join us!

This Week 31st December – 6th January

Mon 31 Dec @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe – CLOSED
Tue 1 Jan @10:30  Happy New Year!
Wed 2 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 3 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 4 Jan @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 4 Jan @7pm Interfaith WYDAN dinner at Baab-Ul-Ilm Mosque
Sun 6 Jan @10.30am Sunday morning worship
See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

This Week 24th – 30th December

Mon 24 Dec @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe – CLOSED
Tue 25 Dec @10:30  All Age Christmas service
Tue 25 Dec @12:00  All Hallows’ Rainbow Junktion Christmas Lunch! Please book
Thu 27 Dec @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 28 Dec @11-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 30 Dec @10.30am Sunday morning worship
See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’