Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent - Bible Study

At Growth Group tonight we were looking at next Sunday's lectionary readings and thinking about what were we looking forward to.

In the readings there were various things but primarily we focused upon ... the Second Coming of Christ

I do love this diagram which reminds us of where we are in the timeline of everything.

As we got going at looking at this I was reminded as we STOP at advent and look back ... we're looking back at what has been ... the incarnation, the resurrection etc but we're also looking forward to the second advent with expectation and preparedness.

Hugely challenging, in that we're living in the tension between the now and the not yet of God's Kingdom.

some key passages ...
1 Thess 3:12  12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 

Luke 21: 34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation* and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ 
*dissipation = overindulgence

Some great discussion was had ...


Monday, November 12, 2018

Remembrance Day Sermon

Sermon Preached in Blarney Church on 11th November 2018 on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice.


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

Today I particularly welcome along those who have come to this church to especially remember members of their family / those connected with them in some way who died during WWI.

We’re commemorating a war that saw so many from this land and these islands march over to battlefields in foreign lands and encounter unimaginable suffering, scenes of the most horrific slaughter and witness the most incredible display of mans inhumanity to man.

The names we read out earlier are relatives of ours or linked to us in some way - people who for various reasons found themselves on  foreign battlefields. We remember them, we remember those who are not named as well because to forget them is to forget the sacrifice of life they made and also to forget the horrors of war they witnessed and to ensure that those lessons not be forgotten by any generation yet to come.

Messy is a word I’m using more and more about life, pastoral issues and certainly the politics of the world… and certainly the history of these islands are messy to say the least. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Blarney and District Historical Society for a lecture entitled Blarney 1918 which talked about this area 100 years ago - the competing political ideologies, the messy reasons for people to sign up and go off to war - whether it be for money, to feed themselves and their families, for adventure, to further the cause of irish nationalism, to support the British forces … to name but a few.

What we do know is without this war - History of this nation and europe would be different, and the world we know today would be unrecognisable.

These brave men who marched are remembered today - with gratitude for their service and their sacrifice

When we look around Ireland in 2018 we see these men some of whom are named on monuments and others who are not - we are realising that they do need to be remembered - there seems to be a general maturing of attitudes - this needs to be encouraged - we need to be careful about this remembering  … that we do not forget the lessons that history teaches us - the importance that no one should be ‘airbrushed out of the history books’.

In remembering we are not glorifying war - not at all! … in commemorating we are not celebrating - that cannot be done  and should never be done.

In our village we do remember … and we will remember those in previous generations who died.

When we turn as we must to scripture - The Gospel reading today ends with Jesus’ command

Love each other

In the Epistle reading … Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus

My appeal is simple today - actually probably the simplest message of all

The human heart … is at the heart of all decisions - personally, politically, nationally, internationally and when we scale decisions up into the corridors of power and down to individual conversations at home or at work - where is love?

This day 100 years ago peace was achieved … after around 17 million people (Military & Civilian) were killed

Peace at what cost? …

This cannot be allowed to happen again … of course we know it did happen again - I was struck that on Friday Night on BBC News they were mentioning that it was 80 since Jews were attacked in Germany …again violence and inhumanity to fellow humans

but what about in our day?

We do know that peace is a longing for us all … we do need to work for it. We do know that there are those from this land today who are trying to work for peace - to stand in the gap between foes

We have today peace keeping forces in various parts of the world serving with the UN

Currently the Defence Forces  of Ireland are involved in a number of missions throughout the world involving approximately one hundred Personnel from all branches.  This number will be increased to include the 440 personnel who will be involved with the new mission to Lebanon which was confirmed by Minister for Defence.

We pray for our leaders, for those in the corridors of power
but we also work for peace in our homes, our families, our workplaces, wherever we find ourselves

Where there are those who stand in the gap … to defend our peace we give thanks

Where there are those who negotiate peace … we pray for wisdom

Where there are those who try to bring reconciliation … we pray for courage.

This is a day for remembrance but it is also a day to re-commit ourselves to the pursuit for peace and justice in our world. Later in the service we will have an opportunity to do just that.

For each of us in our own lives we have opportunities day and daily to bring an end to hatred and division - to embark on a journey of reconciliation - its difficult but God does give us the resources to love one another as he loves us.

as we sit here this morning I wonder as we commemorate a war which none of us remember first hand - are there bits of our history - our family, the community to which we belong that need reconciled.

Let’s remember that although there are no World Wars there are still those who are protecting us from those who would do us harm.

And there are those who we might not take up a weapon against but whom we need to love as difficult as that may be.

Reconcilliation may not be possible but we might have to reach out an olive branch to by what we say or by our actions.

Let’s Pray.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Peace, Reconcilliation, Remembrance - Some thoughts before tomorrow

Lots have been written about the Armistice over the past few weeks and months. As I sit in a coffee shop thinking about tomorrow preparing stuff for tomorrow I'm struck about the immense privilege it is to lead in remembrance.

I'm struck about the sacrifice that was made by so many, the politics of this nation which made remembrance a very difficult topic for the past 100 years but also the need to to remember in order to learn lessons of history.

Having recently been to a lecture about Blarney in 1918 and the difficulties of history there is a need deep down not to plaster over what has happened but to understand - I'm so thankful for historians who can look at the sources and make some sense of how the past impacts the present.

With my pastoral heart going into tomorrow - the acknowledgement of what has been is important but also speaking into what needs to be going forward is important too.

I've been really encouraged by those who have taken up my invitation to remember at our 11am service those who are somehow connected with them who died during WW1 and will be remembering them at that service. All are welcome to join us at that service. We will be  beginning 5  minutes earlier in order to have a silence at 11am. 

Here is the introduction to  tomorrows service
Brothers and Sisters, 
as we commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War,
 we come together to offer to almighty God
 our worship and praise and thanksgiving 
to draw near to the throne of God
 in penitence and humility;
 to hear his proclamation of justice and righteousness; 
to remember those who participated
 in the war - those connected in some way to us;
 to acknowledge the relief and joy 
at the ending of this time of great hostility, 
and the anguish, sorrow and grief 
of those who never shared in that relief and joy; 
to remember a world and lives changed forever,
 yet with an uncertainty for the future and of lasting peace; 
to pray for all those who continue to serve
 in our armed/defense forces,
 and to pray that in the power of his spirit
 we may serve him in the pursuit of his heavenly realm.
We will remember them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Recluctant Eco - IT'S TOO HARD!!! ... ??


This Blog post is written as a bit of a confession ... we're told confession is good for the soul ... hopefully its also good for the environment.

Sometimes we dont know what we should do, but sometimes we also do know what we shouldnt do!

Recently there was a very scary report to come out about Climate Change ... and we do need to do something about it ... we really do! It's not OK not to do something.

It's going to change everything. It really is!

This post is a confession that I haven't done the things that I should have ... but also I'm happy with how things are ... I'm very happy jumping on to an aeroplane and going somewhere. I'm also happy with the status quo - I dump recycling stuff into the ordinary household bin ... sure it's only a can.

But I also know that things do need to change ... we need to talk about the issues ... apparently we're told that for the government climate change is not on the doorsteps

I'm also content with the price I pay for petrol, jumping into my car and going where I want, when I want to go.

But it's not really OK? is it?

Perhaps this crisis might be helped a bit not just by Government but also the churches playing our part and standing up and making our voices heard on the issues.

Lets look a little bit at this:

We know what the problem is: 

- The world is in extreme danger from human action

- As Christians we have a duty of care for this but are not doing what needs to be done

Why should we be doing something: 

- Us Anglicans have what we call the 5 Marks of Mission One of which is 'Safeguarding the integrity of creation' - which along with the other things within the marks of mission.
- The Roman Catholic Church recently stated
We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges.
Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. [22] All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.  Pt 14 - http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
 - Then there is the political willingness to do the difficult stuff...
Days before the last general election, the man who would be minister for climate action, Denis Naughten, told RTÉ Radio’s Late Debate that when he was out canvassing, no-one on the doorsteps was asking about climate change.
He wasn’t saying it wasn’t important or that action wasn’t needed, but there was little in his contribution to suggest he was the person to inject a sense of urgency into the national response to the most pressing global issue of our time.

Two years on from his elevation to minister, there is still scant evidence that it has been similarly elevated in his mind from a challenge to the more appropriate category of crisis. https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/ourview/climate-change-an-urgent-matter--minister-must-tell-it-like-it-is-857718.html

I just wonder  are we in Crisis mode yet ... not that we want to create a crisis but I just wonder are we heading in for one if something isn't done.

I Call myself a reluctant Eco because I have other things to do - I have pastoral care to think about, I have a masters to complete, a wedding to arrange, bills to pay, work to be done and I have sunday services to prepare for and 101other things on this weeks to-do list and frankly its too hard to think what steps need to be completed in order to stop the world decaying in this generation. IT'S TOO HARD!

Then the thought of raising my head above the parapet on this issue might mean ... well I dont really know what it might mean ...

But just because its too hard does that mean it shouldn't be done?

I call myself reluctant because of what I think of eco warriors ... again this is a confession and I apologise because I have a stereotype in my mind of people who recycle everything, who live in wood houses in trees and who live off the food produced in their gardens... All of these things are good but I like supermarkets, My car and pineapples!

What can be done ... we need to talk, we need a conversation?

I wonder if this can be done in the mainstream of the church - maybe as a ecumenical venture with people who have the knowledge - I'm not sure what I'm calling for, or if I'm calling for anything in particular ... I just know theres a problem that's becoming a crisis very fast and we do need to do something about it.

Anyone have any ideas ... ANYONE?

This Blog was started a while back but was given priority by a chance meeting in a coffee shop in Blarney by someone I just met who had a passion for Climate Change & churches working together. Thanks F for your inspiration - we'll see what comes of this. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sermon on Hope

 A sermon preached in St. Peter's Carrigrohane and Church of the resurrection Blarney on Sunday 28th October 2018. 


Psalm 34: 1–8, 19–22 or Psalm 126
Hebrews 7: 23–28

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

We’re now 5 Sundays away from Advent – and the church calendar changes and tries to prepare us for the preparation for advent

Hope is my theme today - It’s one that has been taken from our OT reading and Psalm

See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
   and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
   those with child and those in labour, together;
   a great company, they shall return here.


May those who sow in tears
   reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
   bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
   carrying their sheaves.

As Christians … hope should be our bread and butter - the things that sustain us when times are tough and when there seems to be no way forward.

Time and again in Scripture we see dire situations - being sustained by hope, by vision.

Psalm 42:5
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.
Hope is one of those words that roll off our tongue without too much thinking .. I hope its going to be dry today, I hope things will go well with the examination …
Michael D Higgins in his speech yesterday mentioned The people have made a choice as to which version of Irishness they want reflected at home and abroad. It is the making of hope they wish to share
I hope, you hope, we hope but what do we hope for?
One definition of which I came across … Hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present.

This vision for better days that changes us in the present is useful

so for example a student might say I hope for an A in my exam (future vision) … but that student can change what they are doing in the present in order to work towards their hope.

Of course not everything is within their control but there is a vision of something better.

The hope we have in God is of course similar to this but on a different scale

Our hope in God is that he will see us through the tough times but also our ultimate hope that we will be with him forever - where there will be no more pain, sickness or death. 

This hope is peppered right throughout scripture - The Israelites dared to have hope, there’s an audaciousness to the hope we have in God- Its this hope that sustains through dry times, its this hope that paints a picture of a better way when things are going tough

Its a hope that actually things can be turned around, that different decisions can be made, that there is a way around an obstacle, that grief can lift, that life is indeed worth living.

Perhaps sometimes we feel life is out of sync somehow … perhaps things are getting us down - have you ever thought about writing your hopes down … your hopes for the future … and also wondering what you need to change in order for you to get closer to those hopes

Many of the things we hope for might be in our grasp if we’re willing to work towards them.

Ultimately we’re called to hope in God … How do we do that? … well we take time to cultivate that relationship with him, to get close to the father, to take time out with him

Tears to joy
Going out Weeping, bearing seed for sowing
Returning home with shouts of Joy carring their sheaves

Ultimately our hope is summed up in Hebrews 7

Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him.

The hope in this is clearly seen in the priesthood of Jesus … and we’re included those who approach God through him.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews talks about confidence in the Hope we have – they go to great lengths in outlining why we should have confidence in Christ.

It doesn’t say that …he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him.

This is not a might or maybe thing … it is full confidence.

This is challenging but it gets to the very heart of hope …

(Bible Study Story)

When we look back at Genesis … we see the snake in the garden articulating something which happens time after time … did God really say …

That temptation can undermine our understanding of the most fundamental relationship between youself, myself and God.

Did God really say … is it really that easy.

And the answer is yes it is

Trust in God

Allow the Holy Spirit to work stuff out in your life

But there’s also the confidence to say actually my Hope is in him alone

This is not always that easy in our culture … where there is the issue of self-reliance, self confidence. Self

Of course all of these things are important but God reliance, God Confidence

Reliance upon his promises, his actions is something we need to talk more about.

I just wonder as we prepare for Advent this year – are we prepared to talk more about his plans, his purposes, his kingdom and see where it might take us to in our faith.

This might mean a few things … for us as we think of the implications of our hope – I would love to suggest 3 things for us to think about.

With our hope secure:

Trusting God for all things – deepening our trust … thinking about areas in our lives where we aren’t that great in trust him – and placing that under his regime
Treasuring  the things of his kingdom – where our treasure is there our heart is -
Tending to our soul – How is your soul? –a strange question maybe … but it is an important one -  in this time on the run up to Christmas where is your relationship with the Lord?, how is your inner life? Your quiet times, your listening times? The time you need to take with God?

There’s no better time than now

There’s a prayer that is stuck to my wall in my study

Yes we are still fools
Yes we are still dreamers

Who else would keep looking at desolation and in the end only responded by imagining beauty?

Who else would stay in manure and wait for sees because they remembered a rumor of fruit

Who else would reach right into the deepest pain and fear and try to love there even continue to try when hope dies and loves flame flickers in the cold wind of selfishness?

May we be saved all the more from the false sanity of comfort and numbly knowing all the answers

May our questions old and new be transfigured into the kernels of graced dreams and grow our deep rooted imagination of creation healed and whole

And in our becoming begun again

May the ancient first fruit of inspired hope nurture enough new foolish wisdom to go on living the love that makes no sense.

My prayer for all of us is that we would understand the inspired hope that we have and discover how amazingly wide, high and deep the love of God is and rest in that love and share the reason for the hope that is within us with others this day and forever more.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

a wise heart - Sermon Sunday


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.


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 ...