Monday, June 13, 2016

Questions 'r' us - how about some answers ???

On Saturday a large number of people gathered in the Rochestown Park Hotel to discuss the affairs of the Diocese - as the annual synod was brought together - with Bishop Paul Colton as the chair.

Each year as Bishop of the diocese he challenges us, encourages and provokes discussion.

His full address can be found here ... Full text

He posed 5 challenges

  1. Rural decline in Ireland.
  2. Responding to the needs of a developing Cork Metropolitan Area.
  3. Churches with a small ‘c’ – diversifying the use of our church buildings.
  4. Exploring and responding to the needs of the age group known as ‘millennials’.
  5. The new Cork, Cloyne and Ross project in partnership with Bishop’s Appeal and Christian Aid to improve maize production in Burundi.
So we have lots of questions based upon these 5 areas

1. What are the needs of rural Ireland and how can we be a part of meeting those needs?  

And, in particular, how can we utilise, diversify the use and expand the use of church buildings to be a part of the meeting of those needs?

2. What part can we play in the Cork of today as it develops and how can we respond in diverse, or extra-territorial forms of parish and ministry?

3. Do our churches look closed or do they look open for business?
  • What use is a church that is only open for one hour a week, and for occasional special events?
  • Can we find additional and alternative uses for some of our churches?
  • Are churches open, and what are they open for?
  • Working in partnership with local communities could our parishes and our church buildings serve areas in some way?
  • As part of our being and looking open are our churches easy to find and well sign-posted?
  • Is it obvious what times Services are at?
4. are we up for engagement with the millennial age group?

The questions linked to the 5th area I'll leave for another day ... as I'm currently caught up in all things Zambia at the moment!

Robert's Simple Reflections 

Its all very well asking lots of questions ... I suppose we need to ask -  how can we find answers? - this is crucial that we do find answers to these questions - Its in these questions and many like them that leadership happens, where creative solutions can be found. 

I wonder what you think of in these questions? 

In Blarney, in Inniscarra, in St. Peters - what other uses can our building be used for ... how can we be of service to the community? 

The Millennial Age group - what needs done ? 

We have asked so many questions I do think we now need to consentrate on the answers to these and various other questions. 

Lets together find the answers so that those with questions can find the answers with us! 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Words ... and their power

A Sermon preached on Sunday 12th June - Blarney Church - 2 days after Judith Monks Funeral

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.

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

If I was to pick a reading NOT to read today - for me it would be this reading - but such is our Lectionary at the minute it always poses challenges - It means that we preachers cannot choose their pet reading - and we’ve got be let the text challenge us and boy does this reading challenge us today - when we’ve had a raw week - a week which has seen us weeping, when we’ve been asking why, when we’ve been mourning the loss of Judith.

But I want to ask a question and speak a little bit about words - Some may have read my initial thoughts on my Blog over the past 48 hours

The question - How do we use our words?

I was reflecting upon many, many peoples conversations with me on the walk both up and down the hill here in the church yard as well as in the parish centre following Judith’s funeral - The conversations went something like this - “ O I wish I had said such and such to Judith about how much she had meant to me - and I never got the chance to”

Its been a similar thing which is said at lots of funerals - and here is the link with the reading I am very sure the same conversations were happening back in 1st Century Nain - We see Jesus in this reading giving the Widow a second chance - to have the conversations she wished she could have.

Jesus’ words of life provided a 2nd Chance “get up”- for those conversations to happen - Words provided the opportunity of life.

So if Jesus’ words then were words of life - I wonder what words might Jesus be speaking to us now- today - clearly they are not the same words -  as we grieve as a community - I hope you’ll let me ponder for a few moments

I have been struck about Judith’s life and ministry amongst us has been about words - words of jesus - many many words of encouragement, many words of teaching, many words of hope in the midst of despair, word of peace in the midst of the storms of our lives and words of care when we needed to be comforted.

Looking around the church on Friday I was struck by the number of people who were touched by Judith’s words and her actions. Yes she’s not around any more and we’re going to have to adjust to that new reality as difficult as that maybe for us but we have a choice going forward - and its a stark choice - we can blame God - And I must admit that over the course of the week -theres been times I’ve been angry with him - why now?, whats it all about?, what are you doing? all that potential!

But I’ve also been challenged by - “the time” passage in Ecclesiastes- “A time for everything”

“A time to be born and a time to die” - “A time to laugh and a time cry” - “A time to mourn and a time to dance”

At this season I wonder as we allow ourselves time to mourn and cry … can we can take the seeds  from God which Judith planted in our lives (as gifts) and nourish them, those healing words she spoke into our lives and discover what potential they have to bloom.

A confession - I don’t know how to do this but I want to do a lot of listening over the next weeks and months  - but I want this to be the foundation of our Missional Community - where genuine love for one another is spoken of.  Let us look forward, let us be there one for another, let us do whatever we can do deepen the links that already do exist. And let it begin here and now. And let us accept the honour which others do and say thank you … as difficult as it may be for us to hear it. 

What we do have in this community is all the necessary elements which when put together have the potential to to reach out and build up - Its difficult to hear encouragement but actually its very necessary. I wonder what encouragement you need to give to those sitting here this morning. Or if you’re not from this church - your community - your work places - word which might just bring life and healing to that place.

<<< personal encouragements for everyone in the congregation >>>

I do believe God is moulding us into what he would have us become. As I have reflected on my blog … time is short - lets support and help one another as we go about our mission to share God’s love with one another in the community around about us.

All of us need to chat more - we have a great community but I wonder could be get to know those we don't know better - are there other things we could do? - I’m open for suggestions :-)

Somehow we need to speak words of life to each other - encourage one another to play their part in the life and witness of this community.

If you look at this passage the scene was turned around both by Jesus’ Words  and his action

are we prepared to listen to his words and be impacted by his action today.

as a church we are here for each other - we need each other and we will be here for each other.

My prayer for us all is that we may know that peace which passes all understanding

And may the links between us grow and be strengthened as well as us looking outward to the village more and more to see how the light may shine and more words of life may be spoken to those who mourn


postscript ... to top of a crazy morning - when there was no wine, no bread (but we got them in time :-) ) and a fire alarm set off by birthday candles during the final song! - I've just found out that I had put the wrong reading onto the sheets & therefore preached on last weeks reading :-) - but thankfully God is a forgiving God and he knows what he's doing  and he is on his throne! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Living honour out everyday - A challenge!

This blog comes from a place of loss ... a place of tears ... a place of the un-said things ... it comes at the end of a week of shock, mourning and grief within our little community.

Lots today could be said about Judith Monk ... and maybe a blog will be written later to honour her as a friend, confidant and leader.

But there's something more ... something I've had many conversations right across the board about today and something which I do think we need to deal with.

This thing is honouring one another, speaking well of one another, saying thank you to one another, calling out the good things we've seen, encouraging one another and having the deep conversations one with another.

If these last 6 weeks has taught us anything - one thing surely is life is short! all too short and we do need to let people know how much they mean to us - before its too late - how much a difference they mean to us in our every day lives. Surely we've got to build one another up.

But there's another part to this - is that we've got to take the encouragement from others as well! We Irish don't really like doing that. and I'm one of those who finds this difficult - We don't like to take being honoured - "oh it wasn't anything", "others are much better", "sure it was nothing", "somebody else would have done the same thing", "it was only a wee thing" we might say.

Actually - why not try and say a simple - thank you!

I'd love to create in church, in the village, in the wider community an environment where we honour one another, speak well of one another and where we encourage one another. Its really not that difficult - and who knows what might spring from it.

So often we see the opposite where people are either taken for granted, where things are left unsaid or people don't know how much they are appreciated. Let's encourage one another and accept the encouagement from each other.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pondering - Millennials and the church

Ok, this blog follows hot on the heels of a clergy day, and also a young adults evening looking at what does church look like for young adults held in the diocese.

What follows wasn't what was discussed  but what  has  been sparked in my own thoughts following the event. It's on my blog simply to hopefully provoke some more discussion and what could and should be within the church.

So, what's with the title?

I dislike labels immensely - I really, really do as it put things into boxes and I don't like boxes, life doesn't fit into boxes - but I'm going to run with the the label anyway - because it's handy to do so According to people :

The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982-2000. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s. 

So, Let's suppose we can label a generation - what 5 features define a generation, or let me be personal - what 5 features define MY generation

According to Forbes (

1. Millennials expect technology to simply work–so you’d better make sure that it does.

2. Millennials are a social generation—and they socialize while consuming (and deciding to consume) your products and services.

3. They collaborate and cooperate–with each other and, when possible, with brands

4. They’re looking for adventure (and whatever comes their way).

5. They’re passionate about values–including the values of companies they do business with

Do these ring true as I sit here on a Monday morning - yeah they do - but what of church ?

At our clergy day we were presented with some startling findings from Barna research in the States

Taylor Snodgrass of Church of the 20somethings offers some firsthand insights: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life, and even now on social media,” he says. “Consequently, when a company isn’t being authentic with their story we can easily see through this. If the church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated and they’re trying to put on an act on stage, people in their 20s will see through this. This causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying to us.”

Having been pointed to as a place of research I discovered an interesting piece 

Why Millennials stay connected to the church 


Millennials are craving depth—a need the Church is uniquely poised to meet.

1.    Make room for meaningful relationships.
2.    Teach cultural discernment.
3.    Make reverse mentoring a priority.
4.    Embrace the potency of vocational discipleship.
5.    Facilitate connection with Jesus.

This again is true ... 

Isn't it?

So ... what can be done?

Within the church, Ok Church is as big a term as Millennials ... so let me be personal ... within The Church of Ireland, again a big term but it'll do for now!

We have the opportunity to begin to re-think what church is for, and begin to ask the questions of what needs to be done as the way its being done in many places ain't working - or at the very least is not working the best it could be.

Do I have the answers? nope! do I have lots of questions? - you bet I do! So let's start with those and see where this journey goes to!

1. Where is the church interacting well with the Millennial Generation? 

We as church leaders need to get past labels ... we're very good at labels - we like them immensely - Evangelical, conservative, liberal, inclusive, Charismatic - labels are useful for identification but actually we're called to be Body together. Can we find ways to share what's working well together? without the non-sense of thinking 
a. "I don't want to stick my head above the parapet" 
b. "who do they think they are"  
 c. its only a really small thing I'm doing in Ballycorner parish - it really doesn't matter. 

I really do believe that there are some great examples of simple things happening - we need to find ways of sharing best practice between parishes and churches - not as a way of copying each other but sparking creative ideas and showing that this stuff is not rocket science!

2. Please ... don't set up another committee/department/council to look at this problem! - so how?

We in the church like our committees and our departments.  There is a problem - the figures show that there are only 6-7% of our  20-30's in church on a Sunday. Could this be the impetus we need to make changes that are long overdue - because if we get this right for this generation then possibly, just possibly the church might turn a corner and grow? 

What this isn't is a call to contemporary music, throw out the pews, and ditch the robes call. NO!, NO!  NO!

This cuts across all of our styles, preferences, urban - rural, churchmanship, theological and whatever divides we can name.

For me, its a fundamental shift in our thinking at local church level that's needed - The local church ... not at diocesan, or central church but at LOCAL CHURCH - Where members of this generation turn up to on a sunday morning - our front doors!

The Millenials are seeking authenticity and as I talk to those older than me  - so are they! . Paradigm shifts have occurred in our society over the past 20 years and we as the church need to figuring out what those shifts mean and how do we speak gospel into our market places, into our places of influence. 

A good place to start this conversation I believe is to look Look at the 5 things listed above (and now here) at what research has shown this Millennial generation who have stuck with church sees as reasons why they have done so. The great thing is that these 5 surely aren't so far removed from what any generation of the church has been longing for - are they? but perhaps other generations need to be challenged? 

1.    Make room for meaningful relationships.
2.    Teach cultural discernment.
3.    Make reverse mentoring a priority.
4.    Embrace the potency of vocational discipleship.
5.    Facilitate connection with Jesus.

Meaningful relationship - In our Un-scientific, round the table discussions on Saturday evening this was spoken about time after time - and this blogger wouldn't be where he is now if it weren't for the relationships of mature Christians at home and away from home. 

Church at its very best is where relationships are worked on, that go beyond the trivial and where deep things of God, life in all its mess are discussed and where you know you belong.  I have lots of questions around this ... including 

  • where do we cultivate relationships? do our relationships go beyond hello? relationship building takes time, where do we have the time? how do we foster in our congregations meaningful relationships? 
Teaching Cultural Discernment - 

For a generation that already laments the complexity of modern life, the Church can offer valuable clarity. Millennials need help learning how to apply their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities. In many ways, pop culture has become the driver of religion for Millennials, so helping them think and respond rightly to culture should be a priority. 
Although, such development must also take care to avoid the overprotective impulses that are driven by fear of culture. Rather, Millennials need guidance on engaging culture meaningfully, and from a distinctly Christian perspective. This idea of finding a way to bring their faith in Jesus to the problems they encounter in the world seems to be one of the most powerful motivations of today’s practicing Christian Millennials. They don’t want their faith to be relegated to Sunday worship, and this desire for holistic faith is something the Church can speak to in a meaningful way

This is huge ... in terms of the world around about us today - the time spent unpacking some of the big themes of our culture needs to happen. Also giving us the tools to link faith and life together. 

So questions I have in this area include - how does the 10-15minute  sermon on a sunday do this? ... where can questions be asked? are we as preachers listening to culture as we apply scripture? where else does teaching happen? how can we be more culturally aware of those we have responsibility for? is the church at large discerning the big questions of our culture? 

Reverse Mentoring 
This one I say AMEN, AMEN and AMEN to ... 

is that young people want to be taken seriously today—not for some distant future leadership position. In their eyes, institutional church life is too hierarchical. And they’re not interested in earning their way to the top so much as they’re want to put their gifts and skills to work for the local church in the present—not future—tense.
The term “reverse mentoring” has come to describe this kind of give and take between young and established leaders.
We as the church need to take this one very seriously - we need to empower our young adults and dare I say my generation - Not simply so that we get new titles nor are on the right committees - but that we engage gifts and skills in the local church

Where does change need to happen?, where are our under 35's on vestries, synods, wardens. So many of our 18-30's are leaders in their work places, in schools and when they come to church are we telling them they have to wait? how do we as leaders empower our young adults ... not only in leadership - as if leadership is the only thing that is to be desired but in using their gifts, skills and abilities for the building up of God's Kingdom and the church? do we spend time learning from them and inviting them to teach us as leaders, mentoring us in new ways to lead and new insights into the culture around about us?

Vocational Discipleship - At the minute around the church Discipleship seems to be the buzz word - intentional, missional, vocational discipleship. Great but what does it mean? for me its quite simple - It means having our 'L' plates firmly up - I've talked about this many times and have preached many sermons on the topic.

The question is am I, are we doing it?, are we living out what we're preaching?, are we modelling discipleship and good discipleship? I'm not convinced - "speak for yourself" you might say and I say - I do - very much so!

To me life as a disciple is a call to learning, its a call to reaching out with the gospel, its a call to journey with God. It's not a call to build an institution (although institutions are important), Its a call to live lightly, to be on the move.

“vocational discipleship - a way to help Millennials connect to the rich history of Christianity with their own unique work God has called them to."
How do we help this, my, generation connect the treasures of the gospels / The whole of scripture with their unique work where God has them today?  In the parish we're calling this "This Time Tomorrow" - based upon work which the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity has been thinking about.
What good practices are there in helping our young adults connect with God, Scripture and discipleship? what help do they/we need to do this more effective?

   Facilitate connection with Jesus - ultimately this is what the church is trying to do ...
Of course, many church leaders are already trying to connect biblical authority to a personal relationship with Jesus for their young people. So what is happening to thwart these efforts?
Kinnaman explains, “In part, it is a failure of not connecting Jesus and the Bible to the other outcomes identified in this research—relational, missional, vocational and cultural discernment. In other words, the version of ‘Jesus in a vacuum’ that is often packaged for young people doesn’t last long compared to faith in Christ that is not compartmentalized but wholly integrated into all areas of life.”

This is possibly where the failure occurs - where does this happen? - the integration into the whole of life. Everything points either to Jesus or away from him. Thankfully God is a forgiving God and he knows that we are human, he knows our failures, our faults, our limitations BUT and its a big BUT, he also calls us to repentance, turning and moving on. If connection with Jesus is not happening, if fruit is not being produced we might need to look at the processes that we're using and see if there are certain variables we need to change.

When we look at the culture in Ireland today - it is changed hugely from what it was 10, 15, 20, 50 years ago. As has been pointed out we're living in a network society where we might not know our neighbours but we do know what our school friend who now lives on the other side of the world had for breakfast and where they went for a run this morning. In this rapidly changing world the church needs to do things differently. What those things are - I don't know - I don't have an agenda about this but my heart is that people would have a connection with Jesus - It's the only thing that will last!

The church has this ultimate riches that is Christ Jesus ... how do we share this with the generations that are alive today that we have responsibility for? Its a conversation we need to have ... and quickly!

On the other hand ...

Do we need to have this conversation at all? are we OK? will it just work itself out and they/we'll all comeback to church if we keep going the way we've always done things?

Very Happy for comments and dialogue on this - either on comments via Facebook or on Blog ... or even better over a cuppa somewhere, sometime :-)

Lord of the church, we pray for our renewing:
 Christ over all, our undivided aim.
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduing,
 wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
 the will that lacks the courage to be free,
the weary labours, all but unavailing,
 to bring us nearer what a church should be.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Messy Church / Traditional Church - Dialogue- Post 1

This time a week ago I had just arrived at the High Leigh Conference Centre in England to help out as team at the Messy Church International Conference. 

Over 200 People arrived from across the world with Delegates from New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, various European Countries and the British Isles. It was a fantastic few days. Lots of comments can be found on the twitter hashtag #MCIC2016.

This blog I want to focus on the formal-ish conversations I was asked to lead on the dialogue that is / needs to be happening between Messy Church and Traditional Church across the world and across the denominations. I'm aware that I come to this from a very particular perspective - that of an Anglican Priest - used to traditional church and love the formality of the book of Common Prayer and the structures within the Anglican way of "doing Church".

I came to the conversation with 3 questions:

Firstly - What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?
Secondly - What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?
Thirdly - What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

So having over 40 people in my two conversations lots of questions were identified - from actual experience

What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?

  • How can we learn from messy Church ?
  • How can we have time for messy Church when we are busy doing Sunday/Traditional Church?
  • When are you going to be doing the Eucharist and are you “real” church if you don't do it liturgically”?
  • How many Un-churched are coming?
  • Do Messy Church have an Organisational Structure?
  • How will Messy Church grow themselves without a traditional church to support it? 
  • When are the Messy Church people going to come to ‘real’ church? 
  • Is it really All age? 
  • How do we respect Lay Leaders? 
  • What is this the future of TC if there are now newcomers - who is going to take up the baton? 
  • Is MC draining energy from the church? 
  • How can TC adopt the concepts of MC ? 
  • Is MC just for Children?  
  • When is MC going to pay towards the parish? 
  • Where are the sacraments in MC? 
  • TC feels vulnerable because of MC. How is that helpful for the future? 
  • Are we being too closed minded? 
  • Should we be more open-minded? 
  • Who is MC for? What is family? 
  • When will they come to real church? 
  • Is there a conflict between TC & MC? 
  • Where are the future role holders going to come from? 
  • What is the teaching of MC? 
  • Does TC still matter? 
  • Is MC the only way to get children involved? 
  • What does parish/church council think of MC? 
  • Is it OK to go to both / one/ either? 
  • Do people have to make a choice between TC & MC? 

What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?

  • How can we get recognition of time requirements of Sunday Church and need to get get permission to stop Sunday Jobs ?
  • How can we get permission to make changes to the structures and organisational rules that are preventing us from doing what we believe God has called us to do  ?
  • How can we be together ?
  • How can we pray for you ?
  • How can we get recognition as ‘church’ not a stepping stone to church? 
  •  What are the treasures that we need to have that you have? 
  • What would make you feel welcome / want to come to visit us? 
  • Are we going to be taken seriously? 
  • What makes you think its just a kids club with no value? 
  • What do you want to know about Messy Church? 
  • If we dont do this where do you see yourself in 20-50 years?

What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

  • Knowing that we don't have all the answers 
  • Mutual Respect - both recognising the needs of others 
  • Sharing of prayer 
  • sacred Memories 
  • Sharing the physical space 
  • We have the same motivation and the same Gospel - The foundations are the same 
  • The needing to unpick the meaning of Church 
  • Sacraments and Weddings are Celebrated 
  • Communication on a personal level 
  • Sharing of ideas 
  • Prayer for each other - Commitment & Needs (Actual and people) 
  • Breaking down barriers 
  • Respecting the validity of TC and MC 
  • Recognition energy limitations of people 
  • Listening to each other 
  • Shared resources 
  • Open access to equipment and storage 
  • Food 
  • Mothers' Union / Other organisations with shared values
We could and probably should be exploring each one of these points in detail as each one of them could lead to an understanding of Ecclesiology- our understanding of the church whether this be traditional or Messy.  

To some reading this some of these questions may seem to be radical, problematic, and maybe even judgemental - they really aren't meant to be that way - but questions asked demand answers - and some answers may be No, some answers may take a lifetime to answer and some might lead to a whole life of discernment. 

For me there are a couple of fundamental questions which I'm playing around with - for me the three/four are

  • Is Messy Church Really All-Age? 
  • What Treasures does Traditional Church have that Messy Church needs? 
  • How can Messy Church work with organisations with Shared Values? /
  • Messy Church & Sacraments

I wonder if you were to pick one question / issue out of each section to wrestle with - what would they be?  feel free to comment below / facebook / blog. 

We concluded each session with reading from 1 Corinthians reminding us that we are part of the body and one part cant say to another part we dont need you 

The Importance of Mutual sharing - And learning from One another

Could Messy Church wake traditional Church (which is very word and cerebral) to the understanding of learnings styles and help it rediscover some which it may have lost on the whole

How can we make the points of dialogue places of creative engagement and what forums do we have for those?

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Worship and Service - Daniel 3

Worship and Service
Daniel 3

This is the first sermon I've got around to blogging in a long time ... maybe its time to restart again! - This sermon was preached at our Sunday AM Holy Communion Service in Carrigrohane

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

We in the Church talk about Worship Service as something to go along to  … but this morning I would like to separate these two words to mean something different apart from each other As we listen to the reading I’d love you to listen to how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the king and the accusers talk about both worship and service – They are highlighted on your sheets.

Let’s listen to the reading – follow along on the sheets you have.
The first thing to notice is that both Worship and Service are effective – they are verbs they are about doing things.  They are actions that have consequences.

Who they worship, who they serve is important
The context here is in an empire which has conquered Daniel and his friends  and the king is trying to unite his people in worship with him being the subject of that worship – however he doesn’t seem to have counted on the fact that people would have much problem with this as – Babylon was a place of many gods. 

This Statue which was setup was huge – 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide

What is also interesting is the people who daubed the 3 in to the king … These were the Chaldean whose lives Daniel and his friends saved just before this event (2:24) probably they were jealous of his instant rise to fame but how quickly they forgot that they had him to thank for sparing their lives!
So back to the text – This event shows the competing options of worship Gold statue v’s living God

This of course has been the challenge for the Israelites down through the years

Whether it be in the wilderness - the golden cow or the Ashera poles of the other religions on the Israel’s borders – the temptation has always been to veer off and do something which God himself commanded them not to do in the fundamental doctrine of the Law – in the 10 Commandments     

They are looking back at – refusing to serve your gods, refusing to worship your statue

The 3 are charged with refusing to complete the kings command – but the king doesn’t realise who he’s dealing with – he doesn’t realise the limits to his power I love the question he asks at the end of verse 15 - And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

What god can rescue you? … What god has power? … What god deserves the worship and service?

The Testimony of the 3 is the testimony of persecuted down through the years
O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

It’s the same testimony the Christians made – across the years – in periods of persecution – in periods of rule of dictators.

In our vocabulary we still talk about serving God and Worshipping him
Thankfully we’re not in a land where we’re persecuted, we’re not in a land where we’ll get thrown into a firey furnace for not bowing down to a demi-god  but in our application of this passage

Away from home – Let’s remember that there are people alive today who are in very similar positions to Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego with a 11 -hour flight North Korea, 7 Hours – Eiritrea

"My mother spoke with me in a calm voice, but her eyes were red and swollen: 'Four agents from the National Security Agency raided our house. They confiscated one of the Bibles and arrested Father.'"Hee Young's* family was broken apart in the mid-nineties when the North Korean authorities raided a secret worship meeting in her house. Her father disappeared and she never saw him again. Many other Christians were arrested at the same time.Christians are viewed as hostile to the regime.Choosing to follow Jesus is one of the most dangerous decisions a person can make in North Korea. If discovered, they face arrest, torture, imprisonment, and perhaps even public execution. In the case of Hee Young's family, they were banished to a remote area. But thousands of Christians are incarcerated in prison camps in North Korea, and most will stay there until they die.And yet, many have decided that knowing Jesus is worth it. Their only Bible may be in their mind. They may never meet with more than one other believer. They may never say the name of Jesus aloud. But the church in North Korea is not only surviving, but growing - and they have great hope for the future.
 EIRITREA  - Or When Senet* was arrested for refusing to put the state before her faith in Jesus, she was put in a small cell with 55 other women."We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep. We were forced to work long hours without rest. My
immediate commander was especially cruel."But in a dream one night I saw myself fighting with and defeating a very strong man. In the dream I was surprised by my strength and wondered how I had managed to defeat him."The so-called 'People's Front for Democracy and Justice' exerts absolute control over its citizens, including their religious life. All religious groups must be registered. Christians are considered a threat to the state; their houses have been attacked, and they have been tortured, beaten and imprisoned in horrific conditions. Some are detained in metal shipping containers in scorching temperatures.

In our world today the extremes of people who are standing up for worshipping the living God is huge – trying to understand this in Ireland in near impossible – but we’re linked to our brothers and sisters in diverse parts of the world. How do we do that … I believe the first part is simply finding out information about them – is a good start!

What about at Home when we look at worship & Service
Is it singing songs?, is it about liturgy? – passages like this remind us that worship is costly. We’ve got to remember that what we do is counter cultural.

Wise is the church that seeks to be “in” but not “of” the world (John 15:19), resisting aspects of the culture that compromise the integrity of the gospel, and eagerly engaging its culture with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who comes to each culture, but is not bound by any culture.

How we do this is such a vital question – what are the things in our culture are we prepared to stand up to the prevailing culture and say a definitive No! to – even if it means we’ll be looked down upon or even be persecuted for.

This may mean regular everyday things with groups of friends saying no to drugs, no to underage drinking. For others it may be decisions in the work place, not going with the prevailing shoal – swimming against the tide.

Daniels friends would not compromise – they knew the boundaries and weren't prepared to go beyond them. What’s our boundaries and are we prepared to stand our ground?

Service – is simply doing the things – serving the living God is the stuff we’ve just looked at in previous weeks Fruitfulness on our front lines – getting on and producing the fruit – living out how God has called us to live.

Let’s Pray

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Salt and Light to the community - Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Homily

Homily Preached at The Church of The Immaculate Conception - Blarney on Tuesday 19th January

Texts 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NRSV)
Matthew 5:1-16 (NRSV)

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. 

I would like to thank Fr. Bill for his welcome and his invitation to give this Homily. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an important part of the Church calendar as it reminds us that we’re not alone in the mission which Christ himself gave his 12 Apostles. It reminds us and challenges us that the body of the church is broken in all sorts of ways but this service is a service which reminds us that unity in the midst of our diversity is possible. 
That the things which we hold in common are great. 
As somebody who works extremely closely in this community with both Fr Bill & Anthony and value greatly their friendship and ministry I am extremely thankful to God for the strong bonds of friends that exist across our community.  The weekly Bible Study,Toddlers,  Community Alpha Courses, Messy Church, Community Carols, Holiday Clubs, Family Fun Mornings which are run - are team work between members of both churches - this is, as far as I'm aware a unique place for this type of work and I’m so thankful to God for all that he his doing in this place. 
Pope Francis wrote the following in a letter last summer:

We know that the visible unity of the Church is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who will bring it about in His time. Meanwhile, any effort we make in favour of the unity of Christians is necessary and urgent. The world need to know Jesus. We must proclaim Him without any pause, together. The division among Christians is the fruit of our sin and it is a scandal and our greatest impediment for the mission for which the Lord has called us: announcing the Good News of the Gospel. 

Today, the blood of the many Christians slaughtered in diverse parts of the world cries to heaven. The one that persecutes does not make a mistake, he does;t ask if they are Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox… they are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, and that is enough. The blood challenges us: Do we have the right to make our divisions a priority while the blood of our brothers is shed for the testimony of Jesus Christ?  …
… We know very well what divides us , let us be strengthened more in what unites us: the common faith in Jesus Christ as the only Lord and saviour,  the Word of God and Baptism 

Our Gospel text takes us to the feet of Jesus, on a mountain side 2,000 years ago but the words are as contemporary as they are historic - they are as applicable for Blarney as they were for Bethany 
They are reminders as to what God values:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who search for righteousness, are merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted 
For those who the world looks down upon - God lifts up as examples 

and then Jesus goes on to state to the crowd gathered before him 
You are the salt of the Earth, you are the light of the world … it cant be hidden 
I wonder in what ways  can you and I be salt and be light in the places where we find ourselves? 

In our workplaces, in our homes, in the supermarket, in the pub - wherever we are … how do we bring light into the situations we find ourselves in. 
The challenge in our culture in our culture is plain to see - it is how do we adequately talk about faith, live out our faith day by day in a world that is increasingly questioning and doubting, in a world and a culture which is changing the old norms which generations past have taken for granted - surely we are told this in our readings today ... our identity is in Christ our Lord 
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Fundamental to who we are as Christians is the Love that Christ showed upon the cross and the love that we are to share with one another. 

Unfortunately, in our land and across the world when church is mentioned - the words love and mercy, grace and peace are far from so many peoples lips - no matter what the denomination, no matter what the conversation is about. 

But that is our challenge - our challenge is to spread the gospel to those who are outside, to those who are struggling with faith to those who are lacking hope, to those who are questioning. You and I are called to be light and salt to a hurting and confused world. 

Our challenge is to dig into his word - to find the hope in that word and to effectively speak and act that word in our lives. Humbling serving, ready to articulate our hope whenever and wherever we can. 

Last Tuesday … in Growth Group we’re looking at Fruitfulness on the front line and explore some big theme of How we can be salt and light on our frontlines… where we are day and daily …these themes are helpful to think about where we are… 

Modelling Godly Character
Making Good Work 
Minstering Grace and Love
Moulding Culture
Being a Mouthpiece for Truth and Justice
Messenger of the Gospel

All of these ideas are ways in which we can individually but we’re called to do these things whoever we are. 

This is not simply theory … this is what we’re to be about - salt is effective, light is effective … lets get on and do! The world is depending upon us. 
Our community is depending upon the church to speak out and show what life in all its fulness looks like - too many people are lacking hope and direction - its the job of each one of us to be that salt and light. 

Jesus didn’t say this secretly to the 12 disciples this was public, this was to every single person - EVERYONE 

YOU ARE SALT AND LIGHT in your everyday … 

as salt is effective, as light scatters the darkness 

Let’s through the power of the Holy Spirit - allow God to Change us and then go and change the world … beginning with where we are … right here … right now! 

And he might change the ends of the earth! :-) 

In a moment we’re going to give you a reminder to be salt … we have a sachet of salt and a tea light candle which we’ll light reminding us all that salt and light are effect … yes their small but effective! 

I notice that the salt is the brand GEM 

I wonder as we take these away ... could we remember that 

God Empowers Me to get on with mission 

Let's Pray ...