Sunday, May 24, 2015

Divided united and sent

A sermon preach on Pentecost Sunday - Blarney Church of Ireland - Sunday 24th May 2015 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer amen 

Today is one of the  3 main feast days of the Christian Church … on par with Christmas and Easter but to the outside world there isn't the festivities associated with today. BUT we are celebrating.

When we think of the Holy Spirit -I wonder what do we think of? a dove, fire, a guide or our own particular experience the Holy Spirit … perhaps it was it a church experience, was it alpha away day. 

For me it was seeing the Holy Spirit at a Christian event - Summer Madness - where people started falling down and also others speaking in strange language - bizarre … I remember asking a friend about it … and he said … that’s God showing up! 

Luke’s account of Pentecost shows us two great signs of the Spirit: first, the divided are united, and secondly, order and purpose are imparted so that the united are driven into a world  where they change world views, communities and eventually the empire and the world . 

And both are so needed today in our world at large and in community .

The divided are united 

On that first Pentecost - Jews from all over the Roman empire  and beyond came together for a purpose … doing their duty …  but something happened God spoke to them through this group of disciples in their own language. 

There is a deep longing to be together - the call of the belonging place. The place where they could be together in one place always has been an important part of humanity when events are happening. We see it here in Blarney…with our own community - sunday by sunday, we saw it in dublin yesterday the coming together of people to celebrate. When something momentous happens people want to be together. 

In the passage in acts we see the effect of the Holy Spirit … Throughout Scripture & history - once sworn enemies becoming friends … the lion will lie down with the lamb, the apostle paul, 

We see it here in front of our eyes … In this community where churches which used to be seen to be opponents are working alongside each other for the sake of the gospel - not diluting who they are but working together on the things which unite and being honest about the things which they cannot agree. 

In our world today something is stirring - the old dividing walls are coming down and that can only be a good thing. Right throughout scripture there is a call for barriers to be broken down … in the psalms - where brothers dwell together in unity there God commands a blessing. 

We see in the face of opposition there are no divisions  - did the ISIS murders say to the egyptian christians which branch of the church do you belong to … no they did not. One Lord, One faith, One Baptism. 

On a local scale … we’re called a body … different people, with different gifts - different generations but the call is to a unity and when there is unity then there is blessing and we need to find that unity, work towards that unity and defend that unity. 

This is not a natural unity - but a hard fought and won unity - a unity that takes will, that takes sacrifice and that only finds itself complete in Christ as the head and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

We are a people divided by all sorts of things - In the church we see that we could divide again and again over our disagreements. We could divide over liturgical preferences, music styles, how somebody does something, interpretations of certain passages of scripture, different pastoral issues, theological opinions, clothing worn, historical differneces - but being a part of being a church is that we choose to be together - and these issues when allowed to be discussed and understood have the potential given the right soil provide a richness and a God given creativity which could possibly point others to the beauty that is the kingdom of God.  

We are called to set a pattern for the world by disagreeing in love, and settling our disputes in the unity of the Spirit.  Sometimes we get this right and when we do it is a beautiful thing - sometimes we do get it wrong and it becomes ugly

In Pentecost we see people from all the provinces of the empire hearing the same message in their language … hearing the words of Peter despite their differences and responding in faith 
Justin Welby - Archbishop of Canterbury said this of Pentecost - “God’s  work is unity, and the clearest sign of the presence of the Spirit is the integrating chaos of His power, bringing vision, dreams and calling that enabled scattered people to have diversity without enmity.”

Somehow … whether we like it or not … God is working in our divisions and in our frustrations and somehow we can say - as unlikely as it seems we look at Christ our head and with him in that position we can hold together diverse and seemingly opposing views in a creative way - without diluting truth. 

With the Referenedum result yesterday there may well be in some quarters of the church confusion, there may well be anger, be frustration …  there also will be in other quarters delight of the church and a sense of delight, relief and joy over the issues of the referendum yesterday - 

but folks … we’ve got to remember God is still God - he’s still in control - he’s still working his purposes out. His Holy Spirit is still at work and still moving throughout this land - that does not change because of a vote in a ballot box.

At Pentecost Those who were divided by race and language - heard the gospel in their language - as Christians we believe that all will hear the Gospel preached in their language - and God still does that today. He’s doing it and we’re called to join him where he is at. As unlikely as it seems - Peter spoke up and the spirit worked - it was God’s doing - the divided and the different heard good news in their language, responded to it and saw the possibility of unity despite of their differences

When issues divide - the Spirit is able to unite - history tell us this - Northern Ireland, South Africa, salvery, womens rights  issues down through the years  - I believe this to be so - We’ve seen it down through the years … we can have diversity without enmity … but it does take courage, peace makers, restraint and also boldness and prophetic words. 

He Unites but he also sends out 

Pentecost wasn't simply a nice display of force for the people gathered that day … it was an empowering for those sent … it was the beginning of a world wide mission … to the ends of the earth. And we are a part of that movement. A movement which began on that Pentecost and which continues to the very end of time. 

You and I are called to use our gifts and skills, our passions and our energy living out the message we proclaim where God has placed us. 

Within the Gospels Jesus uses various images for this - we’re to be salt, we are to be light, we are to be seed, we are to be yeast … all of which are small but have big impact. 

Bishop Henderson at our Clergy quiet day on Thursday used an example of the seed … it’s comfortable being seed in a packet with other seed … but seed need to be planted out there - exposed to the birds, exposed to the rain, wind … in the world. 

as one contemporary song states “A boat that’s in the harbour is safe from harm … but it wasn’t built to be there it was made for wind and storm”

Salt is no good in the seller, yeast that’s in the packet … not much use! 

and the gospel was proclaimed 

The life changing news was proclaimed throughout the land … news that changed the lives of those who heard … a radical and life changing message. 

The opportunity to reach out speak up for God is there for each and every one of us … are we prepared to get on and do it. 

Yes it might be frightening, we might feel we’re not good enough, not young enough, not old enough, not equipped enough but folks …we have the Holy Spirit … get on and do … let your yes be yes and get on and do it!  

The challenge that faced the first Christians gathered in Jerusalem at the birth of the church still faces the church today. That challenge involves remaining faithful to the substance of the Gospel, while translating and applying it in all the languages and cultures of the world. For that we too need the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And so on this Pentecost we must say, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

two great signs of the Spirit: first, the divided are united, and secondly, order and purpose are imparted so that the united are driven into a world  where they change world views, communities and eventually the empire and the world .

Confirm O Lord each one of us that we are sent by you to love and to work to your power and glory. Amen 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Christ's Passion - is nothing less than the transformation of everything for ever!

Sermon preached in Inniscarra Church on Sunday 22nd March 2015

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen 

On this sunday in years gone by … the 5th Sunday of Lent was known as Passion Sunday … a day when we were able to focus our attention on Christ’s Death … The why of it, the what did it achieve. 

As the years went on … these 2 weeks are known as Passiontide

 What I’d love to do this morning is look at the wider context of our readings and see the vision of the new covenant which was inaugurated that day … How everything changed and how we understand it today. But we are preparing for Holy week … It’s a good time to pause and to think about the symbol of our faith … the Cross. 

The Big vision as traced through our readings today … is nothing less than the transformation of everything for ever!  … thats a big bold claim but lets look at it. 

Its the opening up of the covenant, the agreement between God and People 
Its the relationship being sorted out 
Its the fulfilment of the Law … Punishment being satisfied and the Debt paid 

We see in the passage from Jeremiah who was looking forward to the new covenant  … the declaration of the Lord to the people of Israel … a time in the future when things will change .. which will be different from the past - The law wont be written on stone but in their hearts, all will know him and there will  be forgiveness and relationship will be restored. 

We see the writer to the Hebrews written after the events of easter looking back to Christ… and seeing Jesus appointed by His father as the priest who was able to be the sacrifice, to be the one who was able to inaugurate the new covenant, he became to source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. 

And then we get to Jesus himself understanding who he was, why he had come and what had changed. We see in this passage in Johns Gospel lots of things …  

If you are looking for a summary of the Christian message … John 3:16 probably would be it … but as we look at the context around it … we have huge themes of light & darkness, good and evil - trial and condemnation. 

In this passage we see God’s heart for his creation … to save, not to condemn, to provide light, to reward truth, to see plainly 

So many in our world today … well actually everyone needs to hear this message of hope, good, brightness and no condemnation. 

This all sounds great but … What does this mean for us?  

Singer Lionel Ritchie was once interviewed on television by Jeremy Vine, and he was saying that he came from a very poor background but he started to make money out of his singing. And one time it was his father’s birthday, and he gave his father this huge present, and his father was really excited about it. But as he took off the wrapping paper, he found there was more wrapping paper inside. And then he took off another layer; there was more wrapping paper, and more wrapping paper. And this present just got smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, and he could see his father’s face falling.

And eventually he got to the heart of it, which was just a little tiny piece of paper. And on the piece of paper it just said this: `All debts paid.’ And his father said, `Well, you’ve paid my credit card debt?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off all your credit cards.’ He said, `Well, what about the car?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off the car.’ His father said, `Well, what about the mortgage?’ He said, `Yeah, I’ve paid off your mortgage.’ 

As we journey towards Easter this year I want to share with you some question our young people have been asking at Lighthouse Messy Church  just last month … questions which I’m sure many of us have 

Why did God send his son to earth?
Why did Jesus die?

These are questions which I’m sure we’ve wrestled with at one time or another … if we havent perhaps they are questions to take home and meditate on… 

No matter what age we are, as our focus at this time of year begins to turn to the events in Jerusalem all those years ago … events that have eternal significance for us … as we say /sing in our creed … I believe in Jesus crucified under Pontus Pilate died and rose again. 

What does that mean? 

It is nothing less than the transformation of everything for ever! 

All debt has been paid, all consequences of sin settled … and new life is possible. Through the relationship with God … Christ is the mediator … the great high priest and we are called to point others to Him. 

The Cross - a place of  tremendous pain and suffering became a place love and mercy - despair became hope where the great exchange took place 

sin is replaced by forgiveness 
hatred is replaced by love 
death is replaced by life 
pain is replaced by healing 
darkness is replaced by light 
condemnation is replaced by righteousness 
Defeat is replaced by Triumph 

and the great thing is that this not simply theory but it is seen in practice … After Friday … Sunday Came! 

Let's Pray ... 

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying for me on the cross. I’m sorry for the things in my life that have been wrong. I now turn away from everything that I know is wrong. And I now receive your gift of forgiveness.

I put my trust in what you did on the cross for me. And I ask you, please, to come and fill me with your Holy Spirit, to give me the strength to lead the kind of life that deep down I’m longing to lead. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blue Christmas - Thought

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen. 

On This the Shortest day of the year … the time when our world is at its darkest we remember that we worship the one who is light, who is able to transform any darkness with his marvellous light.
We know in our houses when we come in these evenings the first thing we do is flick a switch … and instantly the darkness is transformed  by looking at the the light.  

It is my hope that in this service as we are reminded of the Light of the world stepped down and dwelt amongst us … and that whatever we are going through, he understands … he has compassion for and that he sees the bigger picture. There are many promises contained within Scripture which we could look at today - many characters we could point to who went through the most difficult of circumstances but who were also able to come through in his power, in his timing and with his strength. I Simply want to remind us of 2 truths … which we all know but which have huge implications for us if we allow them to penetrate our head but also our heart. 

Jesus - Fully Human 

When we look at the life of Jesus through the gospels - we see him facing all sorts of things - from wedding feasts, to betrayal, from friends letting him down to the loss of close friends - but we also see him rooted in Family, Friends, prayerful retreats, regular routines - all sorts of different things which maintained regality within his life. - How much more do we need these things? 

Life, at different times, for each of us has a way of confusing and hurting us. Pain comes in all sorts of forms - whether that be the loss or separation of loved ones, loneliness, addictions, health issues, abuse, work issues, lack of purpose … whatever the confusion and hurt may be - we’ve got choices on how we choose to react to the situation. 

We need to know Jesus knew what it was like to be human ... and he can help us! 

Jesus - fully divine 

We see as Jesus came amongst his people he not only provided an example … but his divine power allowed him to make a difference to the whole of life. He was able to transform lives … through healing, through heart transformations - some listened and some didn’t … some believed and some chose not to! - He is the one who is the water of life, the bread of heaven - Only he can satisfy our deepest longing. He is the resurrection and the life. 

But his power did more than that … his divine power allows us 2,000 years later to dare to believe that life has purpose, that grave has been conquered, that our short time on his globe can count for something. That our daily living, breathing, working and whatever we are doing can have eternal impact. 

Simply this afternoon … as we sit here, as we bring our thoughts over the past year or years - to use an art analogy we need to let the story of our past - the situations which have brought us here - whatever colour those are … mix with the truths of immanuel - God with us and allow a new colour to be formed. 

Something practical to consider - something on my heart as I prepared for this service - One of the best things I’ve been doing this year has been a leadership course, the Arrow Course which amongst other things has seen meeting up with a Mentor … somebody who is trusted by and within the Church … somebody I’m able to trust completely, who has been given my permission to ask me the difficult questions and who I’m able to share the deepest stuff with and who is able to provide sensible perspectives in the midst of issues. Whatever we call them - a mentor, spiritual director or soul friend …. somebody who we can be real with, somebody we can have faith conversations with … somebody who is accountable to somebody else and who we can be accountable to. 

I mention this because we aren’t called to do life alone, we aren’t meant to try to do it alone. We do need input and perspectives from trusted others. 

We are created to be together in community. I wonder do we have people who we can be with - who help us to go Deeper with God

Perhaps we need to discover either for the first time, or rediscover  - who this Jesus is  - iN his humanity and his divinity 

in what possibly is this new season of your life. 

Let’s pray. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lighthouse Keepers

I read this, this morning and really spoke to me

What about 
the return of the lighthouse keepers? 
Keeping lighthouses 
not just warning light but 
at the cold ocean's edge 
with intuition 
being there.

Ian Adams 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Messy Church - Dreaming a little ... Serious Mess!!!

Ok, this blog post comes very much under the random ideas category of this blog.

More information on Messy Church check out or

Over the course of the past 24 hours I've heard lots, been part of discussions which have been fantastic with a group of people who are extremely good at what they do, extremely creative and extremely passionate about God, the church and connecting culture today with the world around them - in parishes, diocese and across the denominational spectrum ... What are the passionate about ... the good news of God in its fullest sense and how it is expressed through gathering at  Messy Church communities across the world

Whilst reading up on various experiences of Messy Church in blogs and articles across the Church of Ireland there seems to be many people who have had the full spectrum of experiences of Messy Church

Whilst I do acknowledge - There are those who have had negative experiences of Messy Church - those who came expecting one thing and got another - perhaps it was in parishes where the label was messy church but where the structures of messy church weren't followed, where the values hadn't be inculcated into the parish. To be fair this can happen with all forms of church - when things are not well prepared - so there is no excuse there.

There are those who have had extremely positive experiences where actually families who don't come to any church see within their local messy church something attractive, something different and something which could be life changing. I'm really excited that there is a growing awaress that messy church does work in lots of areas ... I've found c25 churches already running across Republic of Ireland in all 4 provinces.

I am beginning to sense a real conversation needing to happen between Church structures and Messy Church practitioners, a dialogue which is biblically based, theologically grounded, liturgically creative and missionally focused.

I have come away from the Regional Co-ordinators meeting with my head buzzing with many question here are just a few questions which raised their heads for me as the Irish Regional Co-ordinator ...

1. Could the Messy Church model be something that could be rolled out in any community?
2. What permission needs to be given to parishes by central church - diocese to "try out" the Messy Model in their context?
3. Could Messy Church be given the same status in Ireland as it is in England and come under some/any future "Fresh Expressions/pioneer" legislation at synod for Church of Ireland?
4. What reluctance do clergy have to give their support to Messy Church?

And some further deeper questions ...
1. How does messy church relate to Sunday Morning worship?
2. How does Messy Church relate to being a missional community in the sense of encouraging a whole life spirituality in those who call it church
3. How do we integrate Messy Church into the daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms of work and life today?
4. What can messy church learn from traditional forms of church but also what could traditional forms of church learn from Messy Church?
5. In what forum could a discussion happen within the formal Church of Ireland structures in order to see what could be possible in helping parishes realise the full potential of the Messy Church model?

By raising these questions here - i'd very much like to discuss and thrash out a framework where our conversation needs to go. There is something which needs to be done about Messy Church in our particular Irish context and if you have any ideas I'd very much like to hear from anyone with any ideas.

Messy church is much more than Children's work, its much more than Family ministry ... there is something here for the whole church to grapple with. If you fancy a coffee and a chat please do let me know.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Short Reflection - Flower Festival Service

May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

As we look around the church this afternoon we see flowers gathered from all over the globe … local and international … we see all the colours of the rainbow … we see the talents of individual members the Blarney and District Garden & Flower Club coming together to produce a collective work of immense beauty and artistic flair.

One has to ask - from where do these things come … flowers, colour, beauty, art and talent. They are things which point beyond themselves.

Let’s take the flowers which surround us today  …

We come closest to the plants we behold them in their self-chosen environment, — the cacti, sprawling in cylinders in deserts  or fuchsia on the hedgerows in west cork, daisies and the buttercups swaying on the billows of the meadow grass.

It was over a self-sown countryside that our Lord gazed when He said " Consider the lilies."

It has been remarked that " this word of Jesus is almost the only tender word about flowers in all the Bible." Which is the more surprising because the flora of Palestine is abundant and attractive. But it is here that Jesus has chosen to make his point.

We all know that every single flower has arrived at this church by a process which began as a seed … watered by hand, machine or by the clouds bursting, the right nutrients in the soil producing roots, stems and flowers, sunshine and shade … the right balance of everything necessary for growth and picked at the right time when it is at the height of its beauty.

Jesus in this Gospel reading … uses the flowers as an icon … that is - it points to something beyond itself … The flowers … they remind us of how God is provider … providing what we need just when we need it. He then goes on further and reminds his hearers and us that flowers don’t worry about where they are, what they are up to, who’ll provide.

Our world today is a complicated place … we do a lot of worrying and stressing … in a recent survey carried out in the UK some of the common stresses and worries include ...

Rush Hour Travel - 45%
Work - 34%
Managing the balance between work and home - 31%
Children's future - 31%
Financial planning - 29%
Paying household bills - 26%
Shopping - 26%
New technology - 20%
Domestic relationships - 19%
Housework - 16%
Holiday trips - 14%

In the last verse … we’re reminded that there is indeed things we have to deal with … there will be troubles today … but we’re reminded like the Israelites in the desert that God will give us the strength to face whatever we need to face today … His grace, his love, his provision is sufficient for today.

As we look around we see flowers … we’re reminded that the flowers point beyond themselves to their creator who of course is our creator too ... but could we allow those flowers to point us to the reminder that not only is he our creator … but our redeemer and our friend.

Many times over this weekend I have had the opportunity to chat to people reminding them that God is on his throne … he’s concerned about our worries, he’s concerned about our those things which keep us up at night and he loves us unconditionally no matter what we’ve done … no matter how far we’ve wandered …. no matter what’s been done to us.

Sometimes we complicate things which are simple … flowers can remind us that God can provide our needs, flowers remind us that we’re ultimately dependant upon God for all we need. Sometimes we are tempted to look elsewhere but we’re reminded today by the creator that he supplies what we need for today.

How much more valuable are you than flowers or sparrows.

May you know how valuable you are to God. And be able to respond to that value.

Let’s Pray

Friday, September 12, 2014

worship .... Holy Communion

An excerpt from the book 'You can Change' by Tim Chester ... reminding us about worship. 

When we worship God we are reminding ourselves that God is bigger than anything sin offers. Worship isn't just an affirmation that God is good. It's an affirmation that God is better. In worship we don't just call one another away from worship of other gods. We remind our hearts of God's goodness, majesty, love, grace, holiness and power. This isn't just an intellectual recall. God has given us music to touch our emotions. We sing the truth so that it moves, inspires, stirs, encourages and so transforms us.  
Have you ever got the tune of a mindless song stuck in your head? You find yourself humming a song you don't even like. The world around us sings a song and that song often gets stuck in our heads. We find ourselves joining in. What the world thinks and desires becomes what we think and desire. To worship God is to retune our hearts.  
One special means of grace is Holy Communion. The bread and wine remind us that Christ gave his life to make us holy, to break the power of sin, to give us a new identity and to make us family. They reminds that we belong to God because we were bought with the price of Christ's blood. The Book of Common Prayer summons us to 'feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving'. 
The Lord's supper is a fresh invitation to 'taste and see that the Lord is good'. We discover again the promise of Jesus 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty' We renew communion with Jesus by faith. we're reminded of the truth that the bread and wine represent, and that truth feeds our hearts.