Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lazarus & Rich Man


So what are we to say about this parable … In my study over the past week I’ve been struck by two strands of this story … As I’m a visual learner … I’m going to use the image of something that i suspect we all have in our pockets / wallets / purses - 1 or 2 Euro Coin 

when you look at those coins they are made up of 2 metals - both are need if they are separated the coin becomes useless! They are inextricably linked 

The outside strand i’m using as reflecting our actions

The internal one being our relationship with God 

So lets take our actions first … because that’s where Jesus begins the story - day after day the rich man is swanning about with his fine clothes and his good food. We’re not told but does he simply choose to ignore Lazarus?, does he just not see him sitting at the gate?  is there just too many poor people around about him that he has grown immune to suffering … which can happen. 

Does he not know how to help? If he feeds lazarus … will other comes and where will it end? 

Lukes Gospel in particular has a concern for the poor, the vulnerable and the outsider this parable reinforces this. those who as we have said were overlooked by the elite, the religious of the society of the day. 

I must admit this week I’ve been hugely challenged by this  this week - because of a few things 

On a local scale - the guys to come down to the bottom of the gate of the church - what should our response be as a church? 

On a national scale - the homeless crisis is being talked about both in abstract but also in reality - facts and figures have the potential to blind us to the individuals 

and the International Migrant & Refugee crisis - and I’m going to be a bit provocative for the moment - because I don't know what the answer is but I do know something needs to be done and  as Christians we do need to wrestle with it.  I don’t normally get this passionate but we are being called to do something 

I have been struck that we have a lot to learn from the leadership and challenge of our global partners. The diocese that we visited in Zambia are doing a huge amount in the area of helping those in poverty - at a local level individuals are responding to God’s call in small but effective ways. 

On an International level - Archbishop Chama - who invited us out to his diocese this week sent an letter on behalf of the 85 Million Members of the anglican communion to Banki Moon 

The global tragedy of the forced displacement of millions of people is now a crisis that calls us to work together in new and creative ways in response to such suffering and disruption. The trauma experienced by the world’s 60 million refugees speaks to our common humanity, and pleads with us to take action as we reach out to respond to their suffering.  However, people are not only fleeing conflict and violence, but also moving around the world to escape from poverty or the effects of climate change. People search to find places where they can work and feed their families, to find better opportunities or freedom to live in peace and safety, whoever they are.  All this demands a much more intentional and robust collective response in which the churches and other faith communities are more than ready to take their place.
In addition, as our church communities reach out in loving service to those who have lost everything and who often arrive profoundly traumatized, bearing both physical and psychological scars from their experiences, we know that these people, whom the world labels as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants are, like all the people of the earth, treasured human beings made in the image of God. They deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people on the move, but we know that each of them is not only another number in a huge statistic but also an individual who brings a unique story of displacement, a unique potential to flourish and a unique ability to contribute to the common good.

In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.


This parable deals with the reality of the world, Action is important but we also need to remember how the author deals with the world … its through relationship … the heart of the coin - the core of our beliefs - what God has already revealed. 

When the rich man finds the reality that he’s not where he expected to be … he wanted to send a warning back but is prevented from doing so … the world has all the information it needs to make a decisions on how to live and what they should be doing 

Repent, doesn’t mean “to be sorry.” It means “to change, to alter course, to do a complete turn around and go the other way.” The rich man was in hell, not because he was rich, but because he had ignored Moses and the prophets. 

He should’ve repented on earth and obeyed Moses and the Prophets, but he didn’t. The Law and the Prophets had commanded the Jews to care for the poor and take care of the weak. There are many examples of this but just a couple will demonstrate the case.

 From the Law: Deut 15:11“Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” From the Prophets: Isaiah 58:10“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Not long after Jesus told this story, a man called Lazarus would rise from the dead, in John 11. Did the Pharisees believe then? No, they sought to kill Jesus and Lazarus.

I love the old story of A Christmas Carol with Ebenezer Scrooge - the rich man who was changed by the appearance of the ghost of Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. 

But signs aren’t enough to make anyone believe. 

All who read & hear God’s word - have a responsibility to respond - as he calls. 

Yesterday I was up in Northern Ireland for a mission conference - and heard great stories from around the world where God’s word was being preached but also where faith was being put into action.

I loved the attitude of what they are trying to do. 
  • See a need 
  • Try our best to Meet that need 
  • And trust God that he will supply what is needed 


The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius - in the mid 60’s wrote in his devotions and is also spoken the film Gladiator - “What we do in life echoes in Eternity” and very much Jesus was saying this through the parable. What we do in our three score years and 10 or however many years we live matters.


 In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Much more than just a letter from a friend - A call for Justice, Peace, Reconciliation and hospitality in our world today

Ok,

Blog, Church, whosover reads this.

This is personal, it's global, it's rambling, it's my intial thoughts  - cutting right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian in our world today. To have it written by someone who I've been privileged to shake hands with and to be invited into their home on various occasions - I know his heart - and this letter is back up by his own actions in his home diocese as well as his work for the wider communion, africa and also the world.

Zambia META 2016 Team meeting Archbishop Albert Chama at his home in Kitwe 

The church - in our parish, in Ireland, in Europe needs to hear this and also needs to look at the implications for Justice, Peace and the integrity of creation you can read the letter in full without my thoughts on it on the Archbishop of Canterbury's blog.

http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5769/archbishop-of-central-africa-writes-to-ban-ki-moon-on-refugees 

Red & Emphasis mine 
Your Excellency,
I am writing at the request of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, as you prepare for the important Global Summit Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which will be held next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The fact that the church is doing what the church should be doing at this time - ie showing leadership, showing that we have something to say in the public square is fantastic. The fact that the Anglican church is having its voice heard at this important meeting is great - we do have something to say! 
The global tragedy of the forced displacement of millions of people is now a crisis that calls us to work together in new and creative ways in response to such suffering and disruption. The trauma experienced by the world’s 60 million refugees speaks to our common humanity, and pleads with us to take action as we reach out to respond to their suffering.  However, people are not only fleeing conflict and violence, but also moving around the world to escape from poverty or the effects of climate change. People search to find places where they can work and feed their families, to find better opportunities or freedom to live in peace and safety, whoever they are.  All this demands a much more intentional and robust collective response in which the churches and other faith communities are more than ready to take their place.
This is a huge claim and I wonder if we in Ireland are?, if we in this parish are? if the church of Ireland is? - maybe we are, but I wonder are we? how do we get ready? is there things that we need to clear out of the way of our readiness? how can we support those who are on the front lines of those migrants and refugees? 
In the United Kingdom, in my own country Zambia, and in many of the 164 countries around the world in which the Anglican Communion is present, the churches, together with other local religious communities, are working with their United Nations and civil society partners and with governments to provide sanctuary and protection to those fleeing conflict and poverty.
There a huge pile of attitudes which need challenged - how can we properly work together with governments to help? - is the church called at this time to step up, to speak out for the marginalised and the vulnerable in this society? what does that look like? - do we not have enough stuff to worry about in our own parishes with our own people? do we not have homeless in our own cities to worry about? what does it mean to belong to a world wide family? 
In addition, as our church communities reach out in loving service to those who have lost everything and who often arrive profoundly traumatized, bearing both physical and psychological scars from their experiences, we know that these people, whom the world labels as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants are, like all the people of the earth, treasured human beings made in the image of God. They deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people on the move, but we know that each of them is not only another number in a huge statistic but also an individual who brings a unique story of displacement, a unique potential to flourish and a unique ability to contribute to the common good.
Ouch! - this has huge implications - what about those people on our doorsteps - in our direct provision centres?, those who have made it to the front doors of our borders. Can we agree with Archbishop Albert Chama in this paragraph and if we do - what are the implications for our service, for our witness, for us in our priorities of ministry. 
Whilst responding to this massive movement of people is a humanitarian challenge for us all, we know that there are still governments around the world that are reluctant to accord such people any national legal protection or to recognise their status.  This only serves to exacerbate their situation, placing them at the mercy of human traffickers, smugglers and others who would exploit their predicament for profit.  The churches of the Anglican Communion are working to assist the dialogue with such governments and to advocate for stronger legal protection for these most vulnerable people.  We aim to contribute where possible to a durable solution that is based on appreciation of the dignity of the individual and respect for human rights.
It has been a real encouragement to see that in effect the church of Ireland is doing things - which is great - https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6094/the-refugee-crisis-our-response but I wonder has this filtered down to parish level - to ask in our parishes how and what can we do to help petition governments to do more, to find out what practical solutions need done. This surely is the big social and political issue of our day and we cannot be found wanting. 
As I reflect on the reality around the world that the Anglican Communion is consistently at the forefront of humanitarian response, conflict prevention, above all currently in the Great Lakes of Africa and in South Sudan, and in rebuilding communities and lives, I recall the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the beginning of 2016:
"Standing by a mass grave that I had just consecrated for the bodies of clergy and lay leaders of Bor Cathedral, last January, and then hearing the Archbishop of the Sudan, whose home town it was, call for reconciliation, and to know that he is working with us on that now, was one of the most powerful moments of my life."
In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.
I just love this - Amen, Amen, Amen - but we need to been those who display this - It is all too easy to look at the news headlines and say woe is the day we live in - we need to choose - hospitality, reconciliation and love. 
So, as you and your staff prepare for these very important meetings, we express our warmest appreciation of our colleagues at the UNHCR and other UN partners. We commend to you our Anglican Communion representatives, The Right Reverend David Hamid and Canon Andrew Khoo – who will bring to the Summit the experience and the witness of the churches responding to the crisis in Europe and in South East Asia.
We also assure you that you are daily in our prayers in this work that we share,
The Most Revd Archbishop Albert Chama
                  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Zambia META - how do we begin to tell our our stories?

9 hours since the bus pulled in to Patrick's Quay in Cork - and we disembarked to hugs & how was it?

How do we/I begin to even explain what the last couple of weeks meant to us, how do we process what we have witnessed over the course of the team's life together.

We have laughed together, cried together, eaten together, walked together - got to know new friends, saw the height of God's creation and also the exploitation of that creation. We've discussed the importance of community development and self-sustainability. We've met with amazing Brothers and Sisters in Christ and we've also learnt stuff about ourselves and what is possible.

Once again I've come back from Zambia - my fourth time to the same city with a renewed heart of the church there, for the people and the projects we've encountered. I've loads to tell, lots of photos but a heart thats burning for the links between Northern Diocese and Ireland to be strengthened and encouraged.

But until then for any of my team - Take time to relax, talk about your stories, but also give people who are listening grace - they havent encountered everything that we have! Nor might they have the time to fully understand it all - but do talk :-)

And for anyone listening to us - it will take us time to process what we have seen - there are loads of things to tell - it wont all come out on the first telling! - and be warned you may be there for a while but what each member of the team needs now are people who are prepared to listen actively and help us process the intensity of the past few weeks - who knows you might even hear something from God for you as we chat together.

Photos are a great way to talk about what we have seen and done for me I'll be posting photos to my facebook profile ...

Some helpful hints here https://team.org/blog/six-steps-for-thriving-after-your-short-term-mission-trip/ 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Official Blog 1 from Zambia.

Muli Shani! After 42 hours of travel we have arrived at Kitwe. It only took 2 planes, 4 airports, 5 buses and a night with cockroaches in Ethiopia, but we got here in one piece!



There are still a few things that will take a bit of getting used to, such as water rationing and “Dooming the Room” (spraying the room with “Doom” insecticide to kill any midnight friends).
Saturday 9th
After an abrupt wake up call by the neighbour’s cockerel at 6am, we were brought to the Cathedral of Kitwe by our driver, Jonas.  We were met by the local youth group, who showed us around the Kitwe markets. There we experienced a constant bombardment of the senses. As merchants tried to call our attention with their appealing vegetables and aromatic perfumes, our guides kept us close.
We finished off the day with the Jonas Bus Tour of Kitwe and the local mines. It soon became clear that there was a huge contrast in housing; stone walls and huge fences next to wooden shacks with no protection. There were people on the street selling raw meat and vegetables, surrounded by large amounts of refuse. Jonas said it was because the mining company no longer provides a collection service since they became privatised.  This led to the miners being evicted from homes that were state owned. The houses were then put on sale, leaving many of the poorer workers on the streets and rubbish to accumulate. As the tour drew to an end, we noticed a contrast between the stereotypical African Savannah sunset and the industrialised reality.
Sunday 10th
You know the way in Ireland how we are always complaining about how long winded Robert can be or having to stand for more than two songs? Well, try having to put up with that for 5 hours in one day and the priest apologising to the congregation for shortening the service because we were there! Although it was almost never ending, it was the best service we have ever been to! The room was full of energy as we sung and danced together. The congregation were very friendly. As a traditional welcome they rubbed their hands together before clapping 3 times. Then, as we were leaving we shook everyone’s hands. Jonas our driver then brought us to the church treasurer’s house, where we had lunch with the vicar general and enjoyed getting to know the people and the Zambian culture a bit more.
Monday 11th
Today we went to Chambishi, where we visited the parish priest at the local preschool before driving to Chambishi Secondary School. There we met the Deputy Head of the school, who showed us around the school and led us to the classes. We amused the students by speaking (or attempting to speak) Bemba. Some of the classes had up to 90 students. She talked to us about the fact that many of the students came from vulnerable families, financially. Thankfully, the school was happy to let the parents pay the school fees in small amounts. We were really impressed by the variety of subjects and the dedication of both teachers and students.


Tuesday 12th

Today we went to the Kitwe primary and secondary school building site. This project was started up by the diocese in 2012 and the community was excited about the project. Unfortunately it has not been completed due to lack of funding. However, the workers estimate that the primary school section should be ready for the children in 2017.  Afterwards, we moved on to another building site where they are constructing a conference centre. It will be rented out to businesses and the income from the conference centre will pay for the completion of the school. We quickly got to work and helped make bricks. The workers enjoyed the extra help and it provided an opportunity to get to know them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Unofficial Zambia Team Blog! - a quick wee blog from us

We've had all sorts of difficulties trying to get a blog written, from locked rooms, to busy schedules, finding passwords and then no internet. So I've managed to find 5 minutes of internet time.

The Zambia META Team are very well - since setting foot on Zambian soil we've been welcomed and blessed with tremendous hospitality, stupendous greetings and deep thinking about the culture we find ourselves in.

We've been laughing together, crying together, eating and singing, praying and reading scripture together. In the programme we've been to the markets, touring the city of Kitwe, Seminary visiting, Mothers' Union, Pre-school ministry, Church visiting ... and so much more

The team are all very well.

We're really looking forward to the next few days in Kitwe

Before leaving next tuesday morning on our trip south.

An official blog from our bloggers will appear on CMSI shortly with all the details & photos :-)

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

Blessings

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! :-)