This Week 13th – 19th January 2020

Mon 13 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 14 Jan@7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Wed 15 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 16 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 17 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 17 Jan @11:30am Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Sun 19 Jan@10.30am Sunday morning worship

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sunday 12th January 2020

This Sunday the Rev Dr Angela Birkin, Assistant Curate at St Michael’s in Headingley will be leading our 10:30am service and sharing her thoughts on the baptism of Jesus.

Sermon by Rev Hayley Matthews 5th January 2020 – Epiphany

Notes from the sermon by the Rev. Hayley Matthews 5th January 2020 – Epiphany

Readings:

I was introduced to what3words this week. It’s a little app where the entire world has been marked by a metre square grid that has been given three unique and unrelated words. For example, sat up in my bedroom writing this the three words for my precise location on the bed were disturbing.readjusts.tension* – apt, perhaps, for sermon writing – whereas where I enjoy my morning lemon and ginger tea in the kitchen the three words are insects.performer.taps*. The aim is to help the emergency services locate you so that rather than say, ‘I’m at Bolton Abbey not far from the Strid,’ you can say starting.binds.tutorial and they will be able to locate you and your broken leg much more accurately.

But there’s one Word that covers every square metre of this earth, the universe beyond, and one star that leads us all there, past, present and future, and that word is the Living Word; Jesus born to us as one of us, and yet surpassing us all. But, like all the best things, He is secretly hidden to be found only by the true seeker – and yet hidden in plain sight so that anyone might find the hidden treasure when they least expect to.

Gerard Manley Hopkins captures this perfectly in his poem God’s Grandeur:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

It is a poem that speaks so clearly of the passage in John’s gospel; just as John the Baptist was not the true Light that was to come into the world; just as the good deeds that we do should not point people to ourselves but lift peoples’ attention to a greater Love; just as the glory of the universe scattering the awesome wonder of the Northern lights across our skies is not the Light that brought everything into being; so even the darkness and dirt of life’s journey nor our suffering and sorrows can snuff out the True Light from our darkness, however dark that may be.

Three years ago I was very sick indeed and my recovery was not a given. The treatment was called ‘radical’ and they weren’t joking. Just after my first dose of chemotherapy I was pacing around my garden after midnight in desperate need of fresh air and relief from both pain and sickness. Living alone seemed harder than ever when I felt in such need. Yet it was a beautiful night; the sky was clear and dark, the stars showing off their constellations like diamonds against black velvet. I can still hear the breeze whispering through the many trees that surrounded the vicarage garden. Suddenly I became aware that although I knew it was beautiful, I could no longer feel it; no longer experience it. I realised that somewhere along the road of life the many small darknesses – and some of the bigger ones – had completely dulled my sight.

I could no longer experience or feel the beauty of an exquisite night that surrounded me with all that would once have delighted me. I could no longer see the dearest freshness deep down things – I could no longer experience God. That revelation hit me harder than my diagnosis for it seemed to be saying to me, ‘you may as well be dead, because you are dead to life already; you’re even dead to God’.  It was such a shock after so many years of devoting my life to God’s service – how could I have lost God along the way? He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him; yet the world did not recognise him.

Fast forward so many weeks of the most arduous treatment. Again, alone on my bed one summer’s afternoon, unable to move my head because the chemo-radiotherapy made me so dizzyingly nauseated I dare not move a millimetre, I said again the only prayer I could manage; ‘Jesus, heal me, protect me, save me’.

These seven words were my mantra for many months and that afternoon they were no different to any other. Yet, at that moment that sun shone in through my bedroom window in one of those piercing shafts of light where the dust dances like a thousand tiny fireflies, glittering in the light. I watched it, absolutely mesmerised by the beauty of those tiny dust particles in the sunshine – and I thanked God; the God who made even the dust able to take my breath away and fill me with wonder – even there, unable to move on my sickbed.

Better still, I knew at that moment that I was healed – not necessarily that I would recover from either the treatment or the sickness, which, praise God, I have – but that I had had my sight restored. Once again I was able to see the light that had always been around me, that will always surround me; we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only Son, full of grace and truthand from His fullness we have received grace upon grace.

No wonder the writer of Ephesians goes into such a paean of praise! He just can’t help himself as he lists all the benefits we enjoy as blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing

We discover that we are chosen – so important when so many of us are in fact rejected from our own families for one reason or another; that we are adopted into the family of God, sons and daughters of a divine Mother and father who cannot but adore us; I’m not sure I fully realised just what that meant – for me to have been adopted by God – until I adopted my own two children. For God is the One who wills the very best for us and weeps with us over our faults and failings – pouring out God’s very Self on the cross in order to put that right… the forgiveness of our trespasses secured through Christ’s own blood. God’s beloved given that we might be beloved – have you thought about that?

God’s beloved given that we might be the beloved.

Then upon each and every one of us the seal of God’s spirit – that dearest freshness deep down becoming up front and centre-stage; leading and healing us into our futures as beloved sons and daughters of God.

We also discover that we are already part of a plan so much greater than any hope or dream we have had dashed along the way; a plan that in the fullness of time we shall all be caught up in the joy of a redeemed world; a world where all who have sought refuge will find it; where all who have been rejected are welcomed and belong; where all who have been abused or oppressed are freed from the perpetrators that would use and discard them as if they were of such little value when each and every one of us is of such enormous value that Jesus offers Himself that we might be freed –  our inheritance is that of the full goodness of God, why Jeremiah writes that even the priests will be given their fill of fatness writing ‘my people shall be satisfied with my bounty’.

And although at times such scriptures have been used to suggest that there is a religious elite, a chosen few, they have been given for all. These gifts are not just for the precious few; for the good and the great and the Godly, although they too shall receive their share; they are also for the poor, the lost and the broken; for the priest who knows only inner darkness and the mother who fears she may have to leave the children she has only just brought to the light; for the woman who has been so badly damaged she fears her life has been ruined and she might never know love and for the man who fears he may never know the security of a living wage; they are for the child who cares for the adults and for the child who does not know care at all; they are for the prostitute using heroin to get through her next trick and for the man hiding a gun in his Mam’s cellar while the police raid the estate; they are for Her Majesty the Queen, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and they are for the cleaners of Church House, most of whom barely speak a word of English, and who are delighted when we leave our meeting buffet trays for them because we are all too fat to eat any more.

The promise is of comfort for mourning, dancing where there was sorrow, wine, grain and feasting where there have been foodbanks and fasting; that we shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord.

I don’t know about your darknesses, whether you have passed through them, whether the world seems bleak for you right now, or whether you’ve ever seen the light at all.

But this I know, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I promise you, it’s true.

I’m living proof.


[* Just in case you have tried Hayley’s what3words and found that she seems to sleep in the ocean or drink tea in the Australian bush fires we have changed the words to protect her privacy though the replacement words hopefully convey a similar meaning! If you try using what3words please remember that if you share the words connected to where you live you are sharing your home address.]

This Week 6th – 12th January 2020

Mon 6 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 7 Jan@7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Wed 8 Jan @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 9 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 10 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 10 Jan @11am-1pm Knit and Natter at Rainbow Junktion
Fri 10 Jan @11:30am Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Sun 12 Jan@10.30am Sunday morning worship

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sunday 5th January 2020

On Sunday at our 10:30am meeting we will be celebrating the “Feast of Epiphany” which is actually on the 6th January. Epiphany means manifestation or appearance and we will be celebrating the appearance of Jesus as “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Rev. Hayley Matthews will be sharing her thoughts with us about Epiphany and our readings will be:

This Week 30th December – 5th January 2020

Mon 30 Dec Rainbow Junktion Cafe – CLOSED
Thu 2 Jan Rainbow Junktion Cafe – CLOSED
Fri 3 Jan @11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe re-opens for 2020
Sun 5 Jan @10.30am Sunday morning worship – Epiphany

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Christmas Day “Sermon” by Rev Heston Groenewald

It came upon the midnight clear 
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to all,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Peace on the earth goodwill to all, from heaven’s all-gracious king – yes please! Because peace and goodwill are things we humans can’t seem to do without help. This feels especially true in these divided weeks after the general election. One day I suspect (I hope) we’ll look back at this point in (Anglo-American) history, and we’ll shake our heads in amazement. We’ll wonder how we got ourselves into such a mess; how we let our society get so ‘broken’; how we allowed our greed and pride and self-interest to go so totally haywire. 

We need a bit of hope to break into this craziness. And that is exactly what Christmas is all about. And that is exactly what this carol (It came upon the midnight clear) is all about. But I’m grateful that the hopefulness of our Christmas carols isn’t just blind optimism. I’m really grateful that many carols are written in a minor key – rather than whitewashing everything with jolly happy jingle bells. And their hopefulness faces up honestly to life’s difficulties and complications. In today’s ‘weary world and sad and lowly plains’ (austerity society? insane working hours/culture?) I’m grateful for the sobering side of Christmas. 

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

 At this point in history, I really need to hear the angels’ song- and I wonder if you do too?? I’m grateful to hear them sing that Jesus, who I love and serve and try to follow, was born in a barn, not a palace. 

I’m grateful that the first people to hear this good news were shepherds – outcasts – not the rich and powerful.

I’m grateful that strangers from the East – from a different religion and world view – were some of the first to perceive this good news, and to honour Jesus with their presence and presents. 

I’m grateful that the angels sang a song of peace to ALL people – but really it was only the sheep and the shepherds that witnessed it. 

I’m grateful for the sobering side of Christmas – the rough broken hurting realistic side.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise of mortal strife,
And hear the angels sing.

I’m grateful that God came to be *with us* – Immanuel – in human form, vulnerable as a baby, to share our humanity and all the mess and pain of life. 

I’m grateful to remember that for Jesus during his lifetime, there was neither fame nor power, wealth nor glory. That Jesus’ family was forced to flee to Egypt as refugees. That Jesus would grow up without a penny to his name. That Jesus would die as an enemy of the state, scorned by the crowds, and betrayed and abandoned by his friends and followers.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

I’m so grateful to hear the angels sing about Immanuel – God with us in the reality of human life. He humbled himself to live and walk with us, to share our humanity – and to show us that human life can be a sharing in his divinity. If we are ready to let our self-seeking lives be turned upside down by the endless self-giving love of God. 

This is why God was born in our midst – to invite us back to the path of love which is the blueprint for our truest humanity – love for God, love for our neighbours, love for our enemies, and even love for ourselves. 

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

In these crazy times we live in, I think the whole world needs to hear a Christmas song of peace and goodwill. So this coming year, let’s go share it with them! Let’s be angels (messengers from God) and LIVE this song in love generosity justice and joy. And for this morning, let’s be angels and SING this song of the hope we share: 

It came upon the midnight clear 
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to all,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

The Return of the Refugee Family

Sounds almost like a film title!

The Knitivity Refugee Family have found their way back to All Hallows just in time for the Christmas Day service followed by Christmas dinner provided by Rainbow Junktion.

All of us at All Hallows and Rainbow Junktion would like to wish you a happy Christmas and we pray that the life of Christ “be born in you today”, tomorrow and throuhout the coming year.

This Week 23rd – 29th December

Mon 23 Dec 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Mon 23 Dec 7pm Nativity movie and dinner RSVP: vicar@allhallowsleeds.org
Tue 24 Dec @11:30 Midnight Mass at St Chad’s and St Michael’s, Headingley
Wed 25 Dec @10:30am Christmas Day worship: “Good God, Born into the World
Wed 25 Dec @12:30-3pm Rainbow Junktion Christmas lunch
Sun 29 Dec @10.30am Sunday morning worship – “Good God, Born into our lives”

Rainbow Junktion Cafe re-opens on Friday 3rd January

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sermon by Adriaan van Klinken 22nd December 2019 – “Good God, Meaningless World?”

Notes from the sermon by Adriaan van Klinken 22nd December 2019 – “Good God, Meaningless World?” (Advent 4)

Readings:

The question of the existence of God is one of all ages.
In the scriptures of the world’s major religions, in traditions of myth and folktale from global cultures, in lengthy philosophical treatises, in libraries full of books – human beings for many centuries have been thinking about god – or a higher power, a supreme being, or however you want to call it.
The belief in god, or in this power or being, has taken many different forms and expressions.
Does this phenomenon we now call “god” exist in plurality – are there multiple gods and divinities out there – or is there only one?
Is “god” a person-like figure, or more of an abstract source of being and power?
What is the relationship of this god, or these gods, to the world, to us humans?

The historian of religion, Karen Armstrong, in her book The History of God, documents how the modern western idea of “god” is the result of an evolution of human thinking that has its ancient roots in the Middle East.
Scholars of ancient Middle Eastern cultures show that in the text of the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, we see this evolution taking place.
Traces of polytheism – the belief in multiple gods – are visible in a text that, by and large, reflects a newly emerging monotheism – the belief in only one god.
In fact, the Hebrew word for God, elohim, is a plural, indicating its polytheistic origins.
Psalm 82 suggests that the God of Israel is the presider over an assembly of gods.
The gods of neighbouring people are presented here, not as false idols, but as lower ranked in a divine hierarchy.
Only later in Judaism, and particularly with the emergence of Christianity, the idea comes up that the God of Israel is, in fact, the God of all people.

Although for many centuries human beings have been thinking about “god”, one thing was almost commonly agreed: that something like god or gods exist.
Thus, the existence of “god” itself was out of question – the debate, instead, was about the nature of “god”.
As Psalm 14 boldly declares in its opening, only the fool says in his heart, “There is no god”.
At that time, you were seen as foolish if you did not belief in god.
And the few people who may have been such fools would only say so within the safety “of their heart”.
Making a public statement about it – publicly rejecting the belief in god – could have had serious repercussions.
Indeed, you would be seen and treated as a fool, if not worse.

How have things changed!
Today, the popular idea seems to be that the fool is the one who says, “There is a God”.
Our world is dominated by voices such as Richard Dawkins, whose book The God Delusion became a bestseller, translated in many languages and with millions of copies being sold across the world.
In this book, Dawkins, a biology professor at Oxford, argues that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist.
The belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, that is, a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.
Dawkins is only one voice among many.
Since the Enlightenment in the 18th century, Western culture has slowly but steadily adopted a worldview in which there is no, or only very little, room for god.

And yet here we are, as Christian believers gathered on a Sunday morning to worship God.
Are we fools?
Is our worship an illusion of the human mind?
Is our belief in God a delusion?

When David (the writer of Psalm 14), writes about the fool who says “there is no god”, he does not so much have in mind a person who rejects the existence of god for intellectual reasons.
Indeed, such a form of atheism may have been unknown to him.
The fool David refers to is a person who leads their life as if there is no God – vile, morally corrupt, not doing good but offending the laws of God with their actions and behaviour.
As the Psalm unfolds, it becomes clear that the fool is the one who “frustrates the plans of the poor”.
He doesn’t care about the poor and those who are suffering.
He is indifferent to God who sides with the poor and the suffering, a God committed to justice and compassion.

David appears to be in despair, as he writes:
“The LORD looks down from heaven on all humankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
But all have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
A recognisable feeling, perhaps, for those of us who are feeling desperate after last week’s election results.
Personally I do not want to be as gloomy as David – there are many people of good will left in this country, although they may have voted in a different way than I might wish.
But yes, our society, our world, can seem to be dominated by fools in the sense that David has in mind:
morally corrupt, influenced by the powers of Big Money, brainwashed by an ideology of neoliberal capitalism, buying into a consumerist culture that threatens our earth.
Fools are those who frustrate the plans of the poor, who oppose God’s vision of a just and compassionate society.

David’s cry that “there is no one who does good, not even one” also calls for introspection on our side.
We should not just be blaming other people, and call them fools (because of how they vote, how they lead their lives, the choices they make).
We should, first and foremost, think about our own complicity in this immoral world, the corruption of our own heart and mind.
That’s the beginning of a process of repentance, conversion, transformation, and healing.

Is there a link between the intellectual atheism of Dawkins and the likes, and the moral atheism that Psalm 14 writes about?
I’m not suggesting that atheists are immoral.
There are many great people who do not believe in God but are deeply compassionate, loving, justice-seeking.
And the other way around, there are many people claiming to believe in God, indeed worshipping God in church, but behaving as if they could not care less about what God, from a biblical perspective, stands for.
As Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

But intellectual atheism – the rational belief that there is no god – leaves us as humans with little ground to resist the moral corruption of our world.
There is no ultimate reality we are accountable to, there is no fundamental ground for our moral compass.
Our world becomes a place of the survival of the fittest and the strongest – and the poor and marginalised will be left on their own.

For David, the hope that we can overcome the moral corruption of our world, is rooted in his belief in God.
He concludes the psalm by saying “that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!”
David joins a long tradition of prophets and seers, in biblical times and long thereafter until today.
Prophets and seers such as the legendary Martin Luther King who are inspired by a vision of salvation to come, a dream of the world restored and transformed.
That vision does not make us sit down and wait for God to make all things new, but makes us stand up and resist the powers that be and work for a better world.

This vision is also reflected in the song of Mary that we read from the Gospel of Luke.
After Mary has been visited by an angel telling her that she will give birth to the Messiah, she bursts out in a song:
“My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour / for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
This song, often referred to in Latin as the Magnificat, has become one of the most famous ones in the Christian tradition.
It sings of God turning the world upside down – with rulers being taken from their thrones, while the humble are lifted up; the hungry being filled with food, while the rich are being sent away.
God wants our world transformed, the inequalities in our world levelled out, a vision of justice and compassion to be materialised.

The Magnificat is such a powerful song because it is not an abstract manifesto of social renewal, but is born out of Mary’s personal experience.
She was a young woman of insignificant descent, who became pregnant out of wedlock, with her fiancée ready to leave her.
Yet she was chosen to bear this precious child, the Son of God.
It is her personal experience that grounds her faith in God restoring the world and elevating the humble and poor.
Just as for Martin Luther King, his personal experience of being affirmed in his blackness grounded his faith in God giving freedom to all black people.

Personally, I’ve never been too bothered about the intellectual question of the existence of God.
One can have long philosophical and scientific discussions about all the arguments for, and against, the existence of God.
But in the end they don’t lead anywhere.
Because faith in God is not a science but a relationship born out of the encounter with the divine through which we are affirmed, elevated, and nourished.
Faith in God is not a science but is about imagination, the ability to imagine a different reality than what we see with our eyes, what we read in the newspapers, what we watch on TV.
This imagination is not just wishful thinking.
It is born out of our experience of God – not God as an abstract supreme being far away in heaven, but God as the heart of our reality.
God is not far from any of us, the apostle Paul preaches at the Areopagus, in Athens, Greece – the centre of philosophical debate at the time.
God is not far away from us, as the Greek philosophers tended to think, but God is the reality in which “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17, 28).

This would be the beginning of my response to Dawkins and the like, who argue that the supernatural God is a delusion.
I think of God, not so much as a supreme being out there who enters into our universe occasionally to solve things.
With Paul, I’d like to think about God as the ground of our being, as an encompassing Spirit – the one who is all around us and within us.
In the Christian tradition, we believe that this spirit is personal, in the sense that it is relational.
We can be, and we are (knowingly or unknowingly) in a relationship with this God, because the divine spirit breathes in us (to use that biblical metaphor of creation, where God breathes his breath in the first human being calling them to life).
In the Christian tradition, we also believe that this spirit, this divine breath, has been embodied to the fullest in Jesus.
Born in a manger and dying on a cross, he made God visible in the midst of this world, vulnerable but strong in his radical love and compassion.
If God is the heart of reality, Jesus is the heart of God, revealing the mystery of God.
He embodies the salvation coming out of Zion that David speaks about in Psalm 14.
In him God restores humankind, renews our spirit.

Are we fools to believe in this God?
The apostle Paul suggests that we might be:
the gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the world,
but to us who believe it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1, 18)

God of mercy, God of grace,
Give us eyes to see.
Eyes to see your smiling face,
Within the mystery.