Thursday, October 18, 2018

a wise heart - Sermon Sunday




Readings

Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90: 12-17
Hebrews 4: 12–16


Mark 10: 17–31

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

The Psalmist wites

So teach us to count our days
   that we may gain a wise heart.

The New Living Version translates it as
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

This captures the meaning of the original Hebrew, though not its poetically


Today I would love us to do a bit of thinking … maybe a bit deeper thinking than I would usually do in a sermon - perhaps its life stage I’m at at the moment and thinking of the future - I’m wondering quite a bit about wisdom and people I see as wise - people who are living as I would like to live.  People who are running the race a bit further ahead than I am … people who are an example of faith and life … I want to know how they have become wise and have kept running in the life of faith … despite all their difficulties, despite illness, grief - They haven’t let go of God’s promises.

 I wonder who that is for you?

I have been very impacted recently by the emphasis upon wisdom in Scripture … as defined as

The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement;

What makes people wise ?
 - Experience Good and Bad
knowledge … they know stuff

but beyond that … they have good judgement … they are able to make good decisions

As I look around … in politics national and international, in media, … there are lots of people with experience and knowledge but sometimes I question whether or not the good judgement is there.

As a member of the clergy I go to many funerals of family members and friends, of people I know well and those not so but each funeral … somewhere in the service speaks of the persons relationships, their achievements and their personality.

Each of these experiences I’m reminded very much of these verses … the brevity of life … but also the gift of the days we’ve been given and how we’re called to live each day with wisdom … growing in experience, knowledge and good judgement.
Of course this is practical stuff …

right from we were kids we’ve been growing in this wisdom stuff
   
Those of you who are parents … saw how your kids grew up … with wisdom

Those of you who think back 10, 15, 20 years can see things that you used to do that you’ve now left behind … as you have grown in wisdom.

This growth might have been caused by someone challenging you on something, it may have been you realising the consequences of your actions, or it may have been a moment of revelation that you knew you had to change.

In all of this I just wonder about certain things to help our growth in wisdom

Who do we have to speak wise words into our hearts? - to challenge us
Where do we have time in our schedules to allow the ancient words of scripture into our routine ?
How do we respond when wise words are indeed spoken ?

In the Gospel reading today we hear sharp words from Jesus, challenging words

The rich young man … heard God’s word directly from him and went away sad … for he had great wealth

The disciples heard the same words and they were encouraged.

We’re reminded that we were created to love one another, but also to Love God

In doing this there is a question of priorities … and on the whole we’re not too keen on having our priorities re-ordered but sometimes  we just need to be stopped in our tracks say actually what is the most important thing.

The only thing that does last is our relationship with God … and other things come in under that

Our finances
Our Families
Our work commitments
Our friendships
Our values
Our political views 

This is not a popular thing to say - but it is the one thing that will last

As we count our days … as we are reminded in today's readings … thats the challenge of Scripture

How do we respond to this … we can walk away sad and think of all of the things we might loose or we could see how amazing an adventure, freeing and wise this decision could be.

Sometimes we need to be prompted to do the things we might know we need to do - to have the loving conversation.

Yesterday, I just watched the latest movie to hit the cinema screens, First Man, the back story to the moon landings, where the story followed the Family of Neil Armstrong. In the scene the night before  blast of Apollo 11 … Neil is busily filling his time packing his bags and his brief case and his wife challenges him that he needs to sit down with his kids and talk - he might not be coming back … there is risk, incredible risk to his own life … he needs to be there for them … he doesn’t know how to do it, but we know from previous scenes in the film that he is a loving dad & husband but he’s dealing a lot with grief from the death of a previous child.

As I reflected upon this scene last night … there was an important thing that combined with the theme of this sermon today …

I don’t think any of us today are going to be going to  moon or to Mars today, going to be doing anything overly risky - but we do know that there might be things we are putting off either because we know they are difficult but they are right and we know we need to

say sorry,
say how much we love,
say that we forgive,
say that we set the person free
write the note
Give grace to the person who doesn’t deserve it.

May we have the wisdom to do that life giving action … why … because we recognise that we have to count our days



I want to pick up these questions again


Where do we welcome wise words spoken? … from whom? … have we spent time with that person?
What priorities do we need to change in our lives?  … have we taken time to think about those priorities in the past while?
How do we respond to when words are indeed spoken ? … whats our attitude

May we enjoy life … kingdom centred life.

Amen.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Tuesday Thought ... Thinking about Margins

 This is the ponderings which have come together from a number of sources but which seem to have come semi coherently as I ponder role as leader and also a member of various groups and teams... 

 

On somedays your head is wrecked by thoughts which have the Potential to change how you think about the world … surprising thoughts … that might be just chains of randomness but then again they might just have the potency to change how things are done eternally.

Power in Church (universal), in organisations, in churches (churches), in the community, in the nation is  usually held at the top, in the centre, in the corridors, at the ballot box … sometimes we find ourselves there in the centre, in the room - the people there to make the decisions, to set the vision, to vote. Empowered, heard and responded to.

At other times, well its different, isn’t it? - the decision was made without us, we were silenced, neglected, dis-empowered, marginalised, criticised, misunderstood, overlooked …

In any process … (and it seems to be there are indeed many, countless processes working at the same time) there is a need for those at the top, in the know, in those corridors to PAUSE and THINK … before the decisions are made to hear and include, to empower and understand the ones on the margins of the decisions

The ones on the margins might actually have some answers, insights, possibilities of creative solutions to the problems faced.

It might take time and effort to get these things done but maybe, just maybe there is possibilities for new creative solutions to the intransigence of the past, understanding of the present and then perhaps a new future opens up as a vista before us.

Can those of us in power (no matter how much or little that may be )… and lets be real here … this ain’t easy - let a bit of it go - to include, to reach out, to go beyond the superficial, to hear the stories, to chose not to put ourselves first, to not have our way

When we win, are we prepared to find whats good with the losers
When we are in power, are we prepared to go to the disempowered and discover what life is like for them?

and then again its not about them and us … there is a common humanity that needs love, that needs to be empowered together.

in any process, in any group the stories from the margins needs to be heard

In our world, in my world, where are the margins I need to listen to ?

In my world, where am I on the margins? where could my voice need to be heard?

I used the words ‘potential to change’ … because potential it is … It won’t happen if we wont take the risk.

We need to call out to those whose voice ain’t heard, ain’t represented, ain’t given the opportunity to make a difference.

I suppose there is a bit of radicalness within this that has the potential to change the systems, to set the vision but there might just be a bit of gospel for those on the margins in it … who knows ?? 



There's issues here of conflict resolution, Reconciliation, Wisdom ...


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Words and Wisdom

A sermon preached in St. Peter's Church Carrigrohane on Sunday 14th September 2018 


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be now and always acceptable in thy sight O lord our strength and our redeemer.

Our world is full of words … many many words … I was doing a bit of thinking about this sermon on the way up to a meeting in Dublin in the Train … I was literally surrounded by words

people chittering behind and in front of me … the tannoy system… the light display telling me where we were heading to … I had papers to read and emails to send … lots and lots of words

You might have lots and lots of words around you to … letters, advertisements, TV, Radio

Many words simply as a mother might say … ‘go in one ear and out another’ … we ignore them and their meaning

but other words stick … either for good or Ill and its these words I want to talk about this morning, these remaining words ... the ones that have power

The ones that have have stuck in our minds

Perhaps with the power that they were said, perhaps the heart behind them (again for good or ill)

  • The school bully whose words have lasted years and decades longer than the milliseconds that the vibrations took to fly from their mouth to our ear
  • The critical friend who said something we were willing to hear which had a hint of truth which enabled change
  • The preacher who spoke a word in the right season which prompted us to think differnently
  • The encouragement of a friend at the right time allowed us to assess our situation differently and built us up.
  • The comfortable words from loved ones in difficult days.

This morning I would love to use my words to help you think about your words … James tells us that they have the power to change generations. I wonder if you have thought of your words like this?

As I speak about words today …
I wonder what words have inspired you?
what words have built you up?
What words spoken by someone have given you reassurance
What words from music or poetry, from public speech have you heard that you hold on to?

It is worth every so often pondering upon our personal vocabulary, our thoughts about individuals and about situations and thinking about how we can use our words differently.

Words are important

The prayer at the end of the psalm today is really important to me … Its the prayer that appears at the top of all my sermon scripts

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be now and always acceptable in thy sight O lord our strength and our redeemer.

I would love you to join with me as we ponder for a few moments …

As I ponder this poetic prayer from the psalms I wonder what words are acceptable in the Lords Sight? … and what words aren’t ?

what meditations of my heart are acceptable in the Lords sight? … and what meditations aren’t?

In other words

What needs to change in our thought patterns, what situations do we just need to hand over to God to deal with …
There are no easy ways to do this … we know this through life and work … through anyone we have a relationship …whether it be family, friendship, work or community there are a whole host of  issues which pop up from time to time.

We are not responsible for other people’s actions or thought patterns … but we are responsible for our own

We are not responsible for other peoples words … but we are responsible for our own … we are responsible to ourselves yes … but also we are responsible for our stewardship of our words.

In the kingdom of God … we are called to be encouragers, to build each other up, to look out for the best in one another.


In our Gospel reading today … we are reminded of a few things ... that words spoken as questions can be used to challenge, to teach and to promote understanding


And that within the Kingdom of God words, Jesus’ words are important … particularly for life.


So what are we going to do about these words? 

In a world where there are millions of words spoken, typed, written … we need to be discerning what words we are listening to and also what words we are going to use

We also need to not only look at the words we produce but the thought patterns behind those words.

If words can stay with a person for life we need to be very wary of those words we say, those words that we let utter from our mouth.

  • In our life … in this our community… in our work
  • How do we love our neighbour as ourself …
  • This is our discipleship … in our ordinary everyday lives
  • What words do you need to retract
  • What words do you need to speak to build up to encourage
  • What forest fires of words do you need to extinguish

what do you need to return to to say sorry for … to God, to others where you know your words have been unwise, foolish, hurtful

Lets be mindful of how our words have the potential to build up and also to tear down.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Wisdom

A sermon preached at Holy Communion in Blarney Church on Sunday 9th September 2018 

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

This morning I want to talk about something that is more precious than rubies, better than gold, better than weapons of war and - is the principal thing

What is it? Wisdom


Wisdom … this morning I would like to talk about something that is so important that King Solomon said  (Proverbs 4:7), "Wisdom is the principal thing." That means it is the number one priority.

He also  said (Ecclesiastes 9:Z8), "Wisdom is better than weapons of war.”

(Ecclesiastes 9:16), "Wisdom is better than strength." Proverbs 16:16 ... "Wisdom is better than gold.”

Job said (28:28), "The price of wisdom is above rubies." (Solomon said the same thing.)

James begins his letter  by dealing with wisdom  raising this question, Do you lack wisdom … then ask

He then goes on to explain how to use this wisdom
v 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James at the end of the letter v3:13  says, "Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

I wonder how your growth in wisdom is going … have you become wiser this year than you were this time last year?





Dictionary Definition : wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement;

Within the Bible there is the wisdom literature that can be found in Proverbs like we read this morning

but running through scripture is the wisdom of God - we see it in James and we see it in Jesus’ words in the gospel today - carefully chosen words and action together - taking information and knowledge about people and events but choosing the response most productive.

The Interaction in the gospel today is one of those that we dont know the intonation with which Jesus made it or the tongue in cheek the banter was happening but there is wise words from both the woman and Jesus.

It has been remarkable in my own journey of faith of the women and men who have had most impact upon me personally and pastorally have been people who looking back have had the wisdom to listen both to what I was saying and not saying as well as to God and then more than that of speaking out few words but the words that they did say had greater impact.

The wise and the unwise is a theme that runs throughout scripture and comes down to the decisions we make - it can be easily illustrated by this game all of which as adults we could do with our eyes closed…

Situation List
1. Your friend dares you to jump out of the loft of a barn. You refuse to do it.
2. Your parents told you not to cross the busy highway at the end of your neighborhood. When your friends call  you a baby for not coming across with
them, you turn your bike around and go home.
3. You are jumping on your trampoline. You see lightning. You keep jumping
thinking that God will protect you.
4. Your friend asks to copy your homework.  You let him since he is your best  friend and you should help friends in need.
5. You love chocolate chip cookies. You eat 10 cookies since you love them so
much.
6. You are at a friend’s house. The friend shows you his father’s gun. You
immediately find his parents and tell them.
7. You see your two-year-old brother  playing with a knife. You don’t say  anything, he’ll learn if he gets cut.
8. Your Mom tells you to wear a jacket to the bus stop because it is cold. You
ignore her since you know that it will get warm later in the day.
9. You are in the store and nobody is looking. You really want a pack of gum
but don’t have enough money. Your friend tells you to take it. You walk
away.
10. You spill red juice on the new carpet in your sister’s room. When your Dad
finds it, your sister gets in trouble. You stay quiet.

You get the idea - its quite easy to be wise in these circumstances  but what about in dealing with close family or work colleagues in ethical dilemmas, in life circumstances where there is risk, where our decisions might need a good dose of wisdom.

This framework for decision making, for our ethical compass is here in the pages of scripture - people may argue over some of the finer points of it but which it comes to wisdom or foolishness we know that we sometime waver between the two - when we do make foolish decisions we know that there is time to come back, to make amends and to approach the situation again with renewed wisdom

During the Summer - I had the opportunity to go to a Planetarium in Schull … it was an ‘interesting experience’ with both of my nieces Penny and Lilly … I dont know if you’ve ever been to a place that is sooo dark you can’t see anything at all.

When Lilly played up I couldn’t see her at all but I knew where the door was and knew we had to take her out. I knew the way out.

I remembered the direction I needed to travel and knew it wasn’t far .

I think there is something in this  - that wisdom knows the direction of travel - It is the one exit in the dark room, its the north star when there are many directions,

Solomon says ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom’ this is important  - without an ethical framework - everyone will do what is right in their own eyes - and that’s not good.

Within the Christian Gospel is much diversity and much work to do to apply the principles of ethics to the situations we find in our day but we do have the direction of travel.

Lets look at the situations we find in our readings today topics such as
  • Rich and Poor
  • Good and Bad
  • Attitudes of our heart
  • Actions of the church
  • Attitudes towards those on the outside
  • Treatment of the poor and the vulnerable

In 5,000 years these issues haven’t gone away!

This is hugely challenging to a church which needs a huge dose of wisdom to deal with contemporary Ireland.  how do we deal with Rich and Poor, how do we deal with those who either self identify with the labels of good or bad, or who we class as good or bad, what about our own lives, our attitudes, how we treat people within and without. And then after the summer services when we’ve been thinking about breaking dividing walls what are our attitudes towards those who would not set foot inside our churches due to identity issues of all kinds and the barriers that have been erected for generations.

How we treat the poor and the vulnerable is going to take a huge dose of wisdom - whatever label we give people how do we tear off that label and see them as a beloved child of God - loved and accepted by him and welcome.

This wisdom need to flow from the love of God - without it - it has the potential of simply going round in circles but with it - it points, as an exit sign of the dark room, its the Northern Star from where direction can be sourced.

This coming term is going to see our community engaging more and more with this church - It is my prayer that this would be a place where deep wisdom is shared, where people encounter the source of all wisdom there will be great fruit of the kingdom produced

My hope for us as individuals is that we would grow in all wisdom, that our discipleship would be deepened and that there would be a renewal of both our strength and our mind.

As I conclude I would like to remind us of the words of Dietrich Bonnhoffer - ‘ Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which seems seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.

That which is seemingly worthless in our era is wisdom … we’ve got lots of knowledge … heck we’re living in the centre of the knowledge economy, information at our fingertips but wisdom - that’s more elusive lets search for that! … lets provide godly wisdom to our friends and our family, in tune with the Holy Spirit … not for the sake of simple answers and quips here and there but to help people live life to the full

‘ Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which seems seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.’


Our task as disciples is then to discern the difference.

Here is a bit of wisdom posted on Mother Theresa's wall  :







Amen.
Sermon preached at the Insitution of Revd Victor Fitzpatrick, Mountrath


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 

I want to say thank you to Victor and the Bishop for their invitation to preach at this institution service. An important milestone in the life and witness of the parish and of the new Rector. 

It is a service of comings and goings - of transition and looking forward to the years to come with optimism and hope. My role here is to remind us tonight of what God’s word is saying to us - as the congregation gathered here. I would like to look at the Gospel, the good news which has been appointed to have been read on this the Feast of St. Bartholomew. 

Tradition has it that Bartholmew is identifed with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. 

The only mention of Bartholomew is in the lists of disciples in the Gospels which for me is interesting in itself in terms of names - people who have experienced much and contributed much in their lifetimes … they may be remembered - in lists, on plaques maybe …  but they are to do what they can and what God has called them to do. 
But what are we called to? let's take a moment to think. about the gospel reading today which is a reminder of Christian Leadership, a reminder of the inside out, back to front radical nature of discipleship which Christ exemplified and which we are called to make ours for today. 

Two of the major images that surround us whether we’re on the road or at home are these 

The first is That of the pause button - on our DVD’s , music apps, live TV 

I would love tonight to press the pause button and to think about what is happening in this service 

A community, a church that has a long history in this community has come to this point, a community of disciples who have needs, desires, questions, hopes, a community of all different ages and stages. A community which has been shaped by wider society, by events from within and without. The Church, as with any parish anywhere, in this community is a unique body, a unique set of people with all the quirks, personalities, gifts and skills which make you you. 

As we pause here, this evening we are reminded that each member of the church is an essential part of the identity of this body.

This service yes is about Victor Fitzpatrick coming to you as a pastor, priest and leader but its also an opportunity to re-group and remind ourselves what life together as a parish family is about. 

We’ll have the symbols of 
Baptism, Word, Holy Communion, Place, Prayer presented by parishioners to Victor … but each one of us needs to take our responsibility to be part of the community of mission and outreach into our community, to take responsibility for our growth, to get involved in the furthering of Christ’s Kingdom here in this place

Which Brings me to the Gospel today … We see in the disciples there is conflict which Jesus uses as a teaching moment. A moment where instead of Lording it over the twelve … Jesus reminds them that even though all authority has been given to him … he’s there as one who serves. 

I wonder in what areas of our lives, in the homes we come from, in the forums we move and in the churches we worship in … are there areas where it could be that we need more of a servant attitude rather than an authoritarian mindset. Where can you and I serve or have a servant attitude

Victor, I know comes among you as one who serves, who loves and who is concerned in his pastoral and his caring attitudes … do take time to get to know him, chat to him, he has got a great sense of humour. 

As Clergy, none of us are the same as those who have gone before, each of us have our own personalities and gifts - we serve in different ways but we’re called to serve the Lord in our own way whilst fulfilling our vows to God. 

Victor is someone who is wise, caring, pastorally sensitive, serving as he has in various ways in various places. As he fulfils his calling in this place It’s my prayer for him that he will take time to get to know the individual stories of this place and be able to speak God’s peace, his love and his freedom into the places he finds himself. 

Priest and parish together is the model of ministry we’ve inherited and its one in which we work across this island. 

I’ve pressed pause as we’ve focused upon Jesus’ example 

But Now I would love to press play and see what we’ve got to learn from our acts reading … That is getting outside the doors and proclaiming in word and deed the good news of Jesus 


All of the symbols in our service today could be seen as internal 

Baptism, the font is in the church 
The Bible is on the lectern 
Bread and wine are consumed at the rails 
The keys open the doors of the church 
Prayer is said in the pews 

But this is not so … when we go through any of our liturgies in church there is a compulsion outwards, to take what we learn and experience in our buildings out to the communities that we live and work. 

My second image is that of an L Plate … When I am driving around, i’m very wary of people with these beacause they are a risk, they might not know what they are doing, nor do they always know all of the rules, they might stop suddenly, they might do something silly, they break suddenly, they might need a wee bit of help to know what to do. 

In the acts of the apostles reading today we meet some of the disciples out on the street and they are doing some amazing things - they are learning about the power that is amongst them. 

Any leader … any baptised follower of Jesus … no matter how much experience we have is called to a life of a life long learner … no matter our age, no matter what degrees, life experience we’re called his disciples which means life long L Plates up… its an attitude of learning. 

I wonder what you were doing 20 years ago … or 5 years ago if you are slightly younger than me. 

Are you the same as you were 20 years ago … no … well I wonder how your spiritual life has changed? what have you learned?

Now I wonder how you can put yourself in a place where you are learning more, developing into a mature Christian. Your community needs learners, needs people who are ready to help and assist with developing an outward looking community of faith. The church of Ireland, across this island needs people who are willing to put themselves in places that might be scary, might be putting their heads above the parapet. But the people of this community need to know that there is hope, there is a place of unconditional love available 

We need to be known as people to are learning together, and living out our learning - we’re not called to simply help the church survive in this generation but we’re called to be a living body pointing to what Jesus described as life in all its fullness. 

No person can do this by themselves - but what does this look like in our schools, in isolated farms, in small villages, in towns, with young mums, with teenagers, with our seniors, with those in debt, with those in hospitals and nursing homes, in shops, with those suffering from mental illness … This is a huge task but with our L plates up … every single one of us. 

We know that God has called Victor to be here as Parish Priest but what about you … every single one of us … what areas of ministry might God be placing on your heart?

In conclusion 

The church is the body and my prayer is that you may Pause and reflect on who God is and who he has created you to be 

And remember that you are his disciples … life long L plates up ready to learn, to take risks and to learn both from successes and failures… Remembering that you are chosen, sons and daughters of the King of Kings and he has plans for you. 




Luke 22: 24-30

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

28 ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Trinity Sunday Sermon - The Call of God - for all believers.


Sermon Preached in St. Senan's Inniscarra  on Sunday 27th May 2018


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

The Call of God ... The niggle that he might be asking us to do something ... the uncertainty that things are not how they should be and we need to do something

However you define it, however you explain it is something that doesnt get talked about that much within churches ... but this morning I’d love to open it up and do a little bit of pondering about this.

This mornings message is challenging but I hope helpful

This pondering is based upon a few things in our readings

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

In John’s Gospel there is the call to re-birth ... to be living in the knowledge of our relationship with the Triune God

Simply this morning I would make 3 points ... one from each of these readings
- Knowing that the future is secure
- we can be led by the spirit
- To Go

Point 1 - Knowing that the future is secure – From John 3

Within my 9 years of ordained ministry and about 10 years before that , I’ve had the opportunity to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and discover what God can and does with people who place themselves in situations where they need to depend upon him in many and varied ways. - Whether that be on Mission Teams to Zambia, Uganda – whether that be new work positions, a move to another place, or just into the uncertainty of decisions that need to be made.

My understanding of call is dependent upon at a foundational level of the love of God ... John 3:16

God loves the world so much that he gave us his son, that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life – For those who are in Christ... The future is secure - knowing that we have a future is fundamental to the decisions we make, the relationships we build and the investments we are willing to go all out for.

The love of God is for all people – and who so ever believes and trusts in Him will have eternal life – therefore if we believe this deep down then the other decisions we make will take on even greater significance – the decisions we take about life, relationships, work, friendship, leisure, health, day to day living...

This day to day living, and big picture thinking are incredibly important – when we think that we have a limit in which to live in time and space here in our earthly life – leads to the question what is important? - This is when the call of God challenges us.

It challenges our priorities
It challenges our decisions
It challenges our direction

But also rather than limiting us – as the world sees it – it actually

empowers our purpose
empowers our identity
empowers our values

When we grapple with the call of God we begin to realise that fully living with his Holy Spirit, in relationship with his Son and being identified as a son or daughter of the father is incredible – its a privilege and also a responsibility.

This future being secure is the foundation but then is being built upon by our response to the Holy Spirit – This is challenging

Especially if we have not grappled with this question before – We may have heard hundreds of sermons on the topic – but have they moved from head to heart

This day to day living, and big picture thinking are incredibly important – when we think that we have a limit in which to live in time and space here in our earthly life – leads to the question what is important? - This is when the call of God challenges us.

In the Film Gladiator there is a quote which is a strapline for the posters – ‘What you do on earth echoes in Eternity’. For us as Christians what we do in our day, what we believe about Jesus is directly affecting eternity, for us and for others. We have the daily opportunity to impact eternity positively or negatively – this is a huge responsibility.

There’s a prayer in our prayer books
Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the grace
to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth.
Lead us to repent of our sins,
the evil we have done and the good we have not done;
and strengthen us to follow the steps of your Son,
in the way that leads to the fulness of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

We have tremendous opportunities in light of knowing God, and our future hope.


Which leads me to my second point - When we are confident that the future is secure we can know that it’s OK to rely on the spirit in the everyday

- Knowing that the future is secure
- we can be led by the spirit

This I’m very clear upon, especially in the church of the 21st Century in Ireland today.

Yesterday I woke up and switched on Sky News as exit polls on the referendum were being discussed ... I was greeted by the Sky News Ireland Senior Reporter who was claiming that that the Republic Ireland was a different place than it was 20 years ago – to us that might seem obvious but he was saying that ‘in light of the different referenda that have occurred over the past years it is very clear that times have changed ... the Catholic Church has lost the power it once had over the ethical issues of the day.’

Some might say that’s good, others might be mourning that loss. But it is a fundamental shift and it challenges us as church. It challenges churches but we can either say all is lost or we can say ... actually it gives the churches of all denominations an opportunity – no longer are churches seen as establishment or connected fundamentally with government – this is a move that provides opportunities that were not open to it in Europe since 4th Century.

In Ireland today the church has the opportunity to proclaim the love of God boldly and without fear – we have a freedom to be salt and light in our communities – we dont need to fear, we don't need to be timid, we do need to be very sensitive to the culture but we have the opportunity to be creative in our witness, true to the identity of our small community and simply bearing witness to what God has revealed to us as individuals and resting assured God’s love.We need to be present in our communities.

Yes we do have the baggage of history, but every church on this island does as well. There are so many people who are searching, wondering, pondering about what it means to be human, how to make the right decisions, what life is about. In light of this how are we to shine brightly.

Tomorrow Bishop Paul has invited members of our vestry to meet with him and a few of our local parishes to look at the report – Charting a Future with Confidence – I’m excited about this ... because I do believe we do need to have a renewed confidence as a church – in light of the changes and the shifting sands of culture about us. We need to have a confidence in the Gospel and in God.

This is an exciting time to be a Christian in Ireland, it might be a perplexing time but when in world history was it not?

The Final bit ... from the Old Testament – is from Isaiah’s call – to Go


  Isaiah tells us that it happened “in the year that King Uzziah died.”  That date can’t be established absolutely, but it probably was 739 BC.  The significance of the death of Uzziah for Isaiah is not hard to discern.  Uzziah had been an extremely solid ruler.  He was a good administrator and military leader.  Judah thrived during Uzziah’s reign (2 Chron. 26:1-15); and the people naturally focused their hopes on him.  Then Uzziah died at a time when Assyria was gaining fresh strength and was once again looming on the horizon as a serious threat to Judah.  That made the time of Isaiah’s experience a fearful time, and Isaiah connected his call and commission to prophetic ministry with the national crisis of the death of Uzziah. 

For the Kingdom to be advanced ... we need to know that God wants to use us ... every one of us ... are we willing to be used by him? Not for nationalistic or political ideals but for the Kingdom of God? As we chart a future together ... as we change priorities in our lives, in this nation.

It is also unsettling as we think these things as old boundaries begin to come down and we look for kingdom of God priorities to be established. There will be healing needing done.

This task is great

God wants to use every one of us. We all have this higher calling of the Lord. The Bible says we are the ambassadors of Christ.  In 1 Peter 2:9, we read that “we are the royal priesthood”.  If our ears are tuned properly, even today we can hear the voice of the Lord “Who will go for us?


To Go, Led by the Spirit knowing that our future is secure

I want to make this personal and practical -

This is of vital importance as we go forward

This is challenging – it will involve change, it will involve problems but I do believe God’s spirit will be before us and guiding the way.

Where will you Go this week ... how will God’s Kingdom be advanced in your life, in your work,

what words of encouragement will you speak?

Where is God calling you to speak up? , where is he calling you out of your comfort zone?


Knowing that our future is secure
we are led by the spirit
To Go



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Service

The following was preached at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, on Tuesday 24th January 2017 on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 



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 

I firstly would like to thank Fr Michael for his invitation to preach at this service. It is wonderful to be part of a community which works in many many ways together - a community which looks out for each other and cares about one another. 

As I think back over the past 12 months - it has been a time of lots of ups and lots of downs, lots of tears of sadness and tears of joy as well.  I want to thank Fr. Michael  & Fr Anthony publicly for their prayers - which I greatly appreciated following my father’s death - It was quite amazing to come back and walk around a village which expressed sympathy to me on the street as Brothers and Sisters in Christ from both the Church of Ireland and the Catholic Community. It really meant so much to me. 

It was also good to be able to stand with you following the graffiti on your church building. It is also good to be invited to many public events during the year.  For me this working together where we can is a priority as for too long in Ireland churches have been divided fearing one another or being suspicious  of one another motives but in the end we are Brothers and Sisters in Christ. 

As someone who values practical ecumenism - I do like the rolling up of our sleeves and sharing gifts which our traditions have to offer. There will always be things we disagree on but  I take heart from the many ventures both coming from leadership at the higher escelons of the church. To see what our communions are doing in Rome - What the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope are displaying in terms of practical ecumenism is to be welcomed I believe 

Also what is happening on the ground in parishes the length and breadth of this island where lay members of both churches are doing in terms of common mission. 

And at leadership level here in Blarney - It is simply wonderful to be able to meet up with Fr Michael and Fr Anthony and work in partnership with you at Christmas, at this service and in the many events that happen throughout the year such as the School Prizegiving and the community events in the square . 

Not only are our churches praying as we must for Christian Unity with Christ at the centre but also working in many ways for unity amidst our diversity. 

Tonight’s service also points beyond ourselves here in Blarney - Our readings and liturgy has been selected by the Christian churches in the Carribean  to highlight the world wide issue of Slavery.  An issue which we here in Blarney probably have not come in contact with and which we could bury our heads in the sand and think nothing about. 

However listen to these figures 

Modern slavery in numbers
40.3 million people are in modern slavery across the world
10 million children are in slavery across the world
30.4 million people are in slavery in the Asia-Pacific region, mostly in bonded labour
9.1 million people are in slavery in Africa
2.1 million people are in slavery in The Americas
1.5 million people are in slavery in developed economies
16 million slavery victims are exploited in economic activities
4.8 million people are in forced into sexual exploitation
99% of people trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls
4.1 million people in slavery are exploited by governments
US$ 150 billion – illegal profits forced labour in the private economy generates per year
*All estimates by ILO

When we talk in the millions we can become immune to huge numbers … but each one of these are an individual - and surely something needs to be done. I’m sure we agree with that but what does that look like. There are so many social problems, so many issues which affect us to a greater or lesser extent. However this surely is something which unites us as communions, its something which could stir us to action if we let it. if the millions and billions of Christians raised our voices - Like we did in the end of the slave trade in the 19th Century policy changed

I just wonder are there things that we really care about and want to get sorted. 

Am I a radical? … I dont think so … but unless we actually do something - unless we get up, speak up about these things I’m worried about the future of our world - if we dont challenge injustice and speak out about inequality as Christians I’m not sure what we do. 

Yes there are many tasks for the Church - we’re dealing with issues of eternity, 

But I love the phrase made famous by Christian Aid some years ago - we believe in life before death. 

It’s not OK that people are enslaved  - It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Whilst we might not encounter forced labour or people in Chains in our everyday … there are people in our village, in our housing developments who are enslaved. 

In our readings this evening we heard of the the God who freed the children of Israel by the response of Moses to God’s Call, in our epistle we remember that God did not give us a spirit of slavery but rather a spirit of adoption to be his Children where we can cry Abba Father, and in our Gospel Reading we read how Jesus was moved to respond to Human Suffering of Jarius’ Daughter, and the women with the hemorage. God cares for the individual, the oppressed Group. 

The other big issues today in our communities is that of enslavement to 

  • Pornography
  • To debt 
  • To alcohol 
  • To drugs 

Now you dont have to go too far from this church to meet those affected by this type of slavery - I just wonder are there things we could do about these issues in our community. 

When we read the passages we see big issues being looked at and God being intimately working in and though individuals … it has always been the case.  

In our world there are Lots of issues I’ve highlighted a few - is this stuff OK? … No its not - and the churches need to do something about these things.  

What are our options, for those enslaved to anything? - it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Surely the vast resources of the churches - right across the denominations could be utilised to tackle some of these issues. Lots of those in this land are suffering - is it possible to do something? - Of course it is 

We’re doing lots of praying about these issues  but could we do some practical things so that we could be known for our love and our action to change communities.  

Its a huge problem but I do believe that our words sometime will need to be turned into action.  

As the familiar phrase says … ‘talk is cheap’ but we do need to do something. This generation is depending upon change and we as Christians are the ones who actually could make a difference. Somehow, somewhere. but are we willing to take a lead, to step up, to shout out and do it. 

What is God saying to you about it? if he’s stirring something  … maybe you might be the person to take this on. God does raise up leaders - individuals … its how he has always worked! 

As we sit here this evening - in this church I believe there is a challenge - yes of course there is a challenge to Unity - Pope Francis in 2014 said … 'It is beautiful to recognize the grace with which God blesses us and, still more, to find in other Christians something we need, something that we could receive like a gift from our brothers and our sisters…. This requires something more. It requires much prayer, it requires humility, it requires reflection and continual conversion. Let us go forward on this path, praying for the unity of Christians, that this scandal [of disunity] lessens and that it may cease among us.

This unity could possibly be brought about by tackling some of the big issues of our time together. For many critics of the Church they see our disunity and say that they dont want anything to do with a churhc divided. Surely here we have the opportunity to do something. 

I would like to conclude by reading slowly a reflection for this week from the resources in this service  - which rings very true for me  and has challenged me deeply- as I think about Global issues, National picture and even at local and personal level as well  - as we think of things past, things current and things which might become. 

I’m going to read it twice - Do take time to listen and reflect on what it means for our world, our nation, our community, and your relationships

Past hurts rooted in slavery and dominance
 have left a legacy of deep divisions among God’s children.
The lack of repentance for history and memories make us cling to hurts; 
we let ourselves be defined by them.
And our embarrassment in having caused them
and the pride which will not let us admit it
ensure that hurts and divisions are perpetuated.
The Body of Christ remains broken;
we are pulled ever further from the reconciler of our faith
and the unity that is possible through His love.
The Spirit speaks
but are we listening?
Can we not hear?
Enough! Enough!

We can say sorry, seek forgiveness, forgive,
let go.

What should be rendered to God? Are we willing to surrender to God the hostility, jealousy, bitterness and guilt that separates us from God’s reconciling grace and mercy? Lord reveal to us our failings, that becoming aware of them and seeking your grace and forgiveness, we may be united in a relationship of love where institutional divisions fall away. 
Then together we will move towards a spiritual reconciliation which unites in the dance of the Triune God.

Surely this is what God is up to in our day in our community - This is vitally important. 

Prayer. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nehemiah 1 - Intro and Chapter 1 & Spiritual Disciplines

Below are some of the resources we used for Growth Group in Blarney tonight ... as we set about looking at the book of Nehemiah.





 Where Nehemiah sits in scripture



Intro to Ezra - Nehemiah ...

The Passage :

Nehemiah’s Prayer

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.

------------

In our group we got off the questions for a while and picked up the idea of Spiritual Disciplines ... I refererred to The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook which lists a whole pile of Spiritual Disciplines Here's the contents  ... If you want to borrow the book let me know ... there's loads of the disciplines ... I wonder what God might be pointing your way for this season. If you want to chat about any of them that might be interested in finding out more about let me know and I can give the the pages. 

Robert.

Introduction: Discovering Your Desire
Part 1:
  • Worship 
  • Celebration 
  • Gratitude 
  • Holy Communion 
  • Rule for Life 
  • Sabbath 
  • Worship 

Part 2:
  • Open Myself to God 
  • Contemplation 
  • Examen 
  • Journaling 
  • Practicing the Presence 
  • Rest 
  • Retreat 
  • Self-Care 
  • Simplicity 
  • Slowing 
  • Teachability 
  • Unplugging 

Part 3:
  • Relinquish the False Self 
  • Confession and Self-Examination 
  • Detachment 
  • Discernment 
  • Secrecy 
  • Silence 
  • Solitude 
  • Spiritual Direction 
  • Submission 

Part 4: Share My Life with Others
  • Accountability Partner 
  • Chastity 
  • Community 
  • Covenant Group 
  • Discipling 
  • Hospitality 
  • Mentoring 
  • Service 
  • Small Group 
  • Spiritual Friendship 
  • Unity 
  • Witness 

Part 5: Hear God's Word
  • Bible Study 
  • Devotional Reading 
  • Meditation 
  • Memorization 

Part 6: Incarnate the Love of Christ
  • Care of the Earth 
  • Compassion 
  • Control of the Tongue 
  • Humility 
  • Justice 
  • Stewardship 
  • Truth Telling 

Part 7: Pray
  • Breath Prayer 
  • Centering Prayer 
  • Contemplative Prayer
  •  Conversational Prayer 
  • Fasting 
  • Fixed-Hour Prayer 
  • Inner-Healing Prayer 
  • Intercessory Prayer 
  • Labyrinth Prayer 
  •  Liturgical Prayer 
  • Prayer Partners 
  • Praying Scripture 
  • Prayer of Recollection 
  • Prayer Walking 

Appendix 1: Spiritual Growth Planner
Appendix 2: A Series on Spiritual Disciplines for the Congregation
Appendix 3: Suggestions for Spiritual Mentors
Appendix 4: Using the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook with Small Groups
Appendix 5: Names for Worshiping God
Appendix 6: One Anothers
Appendix 7: Postures for Prayer
Appendix 8: Spending Time with God
Appendix 9: Suggestions for Fasting Prayer for the Church
Appendix 10: Seasons, Stages and Ages of Transformation