Friday, March 27, 2015

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


Sermon preached in Inniscarra Church on Sunday 22nd March 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does that mean? 

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

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


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

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

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

Let's Pray ... 




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


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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blue Christmas - Thought

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

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

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

Jesus - Fully Human 

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

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

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

Jesus - fully divine 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

in what possibly is this new season of your life. 


Let’s pray. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lighthouse Keepers

I read this, this morning and really spoke to me

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

Ian Adams 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

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

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

More information on Messy Church check out www.messychurch.org.uk or messyireland.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Short Reflection - Flower Festival Service

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

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

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

Let’s take the flowers which surround us today  …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much more valuable are you than flowers or sparrows.

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

Let’s Pray







Friday, September 12, 2014

worship .... Holy Communion

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


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

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Starting Out ... all parts required!

Sermon preached at 11am United Celebration in Carrigrohane on Sunday 7th September

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

Romans 12:1-12


Today as Ian has said, we’re celebrating with those who have jsut been through the growing leaders course, we’re excited about those who are about to embark on the youth version of the course, we’re also excited about all the things that are happening this term in the parish and we’re expectant for the things God is going to be doing in our midst over the next year.


This morning I want to challenge us about the Bible Passage we’ve just read … it’s a passage that sits at a crucial point in Paul’s letter to the Romans … in Chapter 12 … it’s a passage that is often quoted … its a challenging passage but its a passage with very clear application to us in this season for our church.


Before we get to the application … we need to understand where it sits. Paul is writing to the church in Rome … a church which wants to know what all of this Christian stuff is about. He wants to lay a foundation upon which to build … The first 11 chapters of this letter speak about who Jesus is, what he has done and most importantly of all … how the church understands this … how Jesus and his teaching is different from all those other philosophies, teachings and religions of  who have gone before … he’s at pains to emphaise the importance of faith and trust … the importance of the life, death and resurrection of Christ


Once this is understood … and he goes into tremendous study of this over the 11 chapters we get to the point of … in light of all of this then we’re called to give our bodies to be living sacrifices … It is based on this passage we have our post-communion prayer … a prayer which is so powerful it has the potential to be life changing …


we’re called to use our minds to think about faith, think about who Jesus is and what he has done and then to trust him. This is a life time process … to have our minds renewed


As part of this study this morning … I believe we’re called to
  • Use our head - to Think Deeply
  • Use our Gift - to Serve Effectively
  • Use our hands and our feet to Love Practically


It’s these things which growing leaders have been covering


Before we think about these things … there’s a movie I got to watch over the summer … 

Take a look at the video ...




Everything is awesome, everything is cool … central character … like everyone else is going about his hum drum ... in a world where nobody questions anything ... everyone is just doing what everyone else is doing ... but that is not what we are called to as Christians existance before his life changes … but take a look at the opening


Head … THinking Deeply


Our world today is such a complicated place … we’re having to deal with things which generations past could not have imagined … our globalised world links us up with Brother’s and sisters around the globe, ethics and politics, money markets and instant news. We’re having to take God’s word and apply it in situations which are complex and sometimes overwhelming. But as Christians we need to be aware and struggle with these things and let our voice be heard in the public square. But for that to happen we need to do what Paul exorted the church in Rome to do … Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This includes studying the Bible, It includes finding out situations, subjects, areas which we dont know about and discussing, asking the difficult questions and taking our stand when we need to on the issues of the day.  And there are many things as leaders … in our church in our community we need to


The church needs to think deeply about politics … It is interesting that this week in the UK that a government minister told charities that they should stick to their knitting and not involve themselves in politics … This has caused huge consternation in all sorts of places … but particularly in organisations such as Tearfund where part of the whole ethos is a call to change the world … social Justice, climate change,


And Just yesterday - Diocesan Synod met to listen together as part of the first steps in the human sexuality listening Process - this was an important first step - we look forward  to the continuing process … more voices need to be heard in this important topic for the church. We’re called to Think Deeply … this is not always easy but it is vitally important.


Gift- Serve effectively


In this passage we see that there are many different gifts and this is not a exhaustive list but certain there are important principles here which Paul repeats in various letters


Things that we are called to do … but more than that … that we were created to do … but which needs to be fanned into flame within us


Over the weeks and months ahead we are hoping that as we move ahead with vision 2015 that we as a parish identify and apply giftings to the situations … In this passage we see Prophets, Servants, Teachers, Encouragers, Givers, Leaders, Mercy people,


Hands … Loving Practically


This is the bit that we are reasonably good at … we are good at the doing … the Verbs in the passage … the doing words … and also the “not doing” words in the passgage … Let’s look at what the church should be doing


I wonder which of these areas we’re called to … or is God laying some of these things on our hearts this morning… which of these gifts does God want us to fan into flame … which of these do you and I need to work with over the next term … in response to God’s love.

Conclusion
Let’s bring all of this together now … all of us are created as individuals … all of us are loved by God, all of us are unique and have a place in his church, in his kingdom. Do we know we are loved by him, do we know his care, his protection. If not let this message penetrate through our mind … let this good new renew our mind … the rest flows from this


If we know how much God loves us, then how are we communicating that with others… do we allow this message to penetrate our heart and be expressed with our mouth … How will the world know if someone doesnt speak about God to them. We need to be people speaking out our faith to those around about us. Our world needs to know about Jesus. In a world which is growing increasingly hostile to Christianity … to the message of Jesus we need to stand up and speak out … because we have the answers to so many of the worlds problems!


Take six eight-stud LEGO bricks (2x4) – how many ways can they be combined?


With the aid of computers, the exact number of combinations has been calculated as 915,103,765!


To the Lego … in the seats we have lots of lego ..little bricks … little individual things small in themselves … but which have huge potential to be put together in so many different ways to build space crafts, elephants, and lots of fun


I wonder if we are prepared like lego to be put together by God … to be used by him in new ways, in creative ways … to do things that he wants us to do over the next term as we are brought together as a holy temple.


I’m really excited to see Prophets, Servants, Teachers, Encouragers, Givers, Leaders, Mercy people,


Where the local church is a place where love is sincere, where we are hating what is evil, clinging to good, where we are devoted to one another in love, where we are zealous from eachother, joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, sharing with those in need


That’s the attractive picture of a local church … this is what we are called to … its radical, its exciting, it calls us to step up and out, beyond ourselves … but it needs us all. Are we prepared to do this?


I don’t know how every piece fits together at the moment … but the promise is that it does .. it will and it will be to God’s glory.


Here’s something we encountered at New Wine this summer … a radical vision of what happens when we become the piece God has created us to be


“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made- I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.


My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving & dwarfed goals.


My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.


I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me & when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.”


Over the summer I have been challenged myself and I believe I’ve got to challenge others … To step out of the normal … to speak out … to think deeply as to what difference our faith is to make …. and to love unconditionally … The Christian way of life is a radical call to the other …  If you want to make this sort of commitment … as nike says … just do it. Life is short are you prepared to play your part in this great kingdom building project … just do it!


As you go out … please take a piece of lego … take it in your car, set it on your desk, on top of your tv as a reminder that you are a valuable piece of something bigger than you, that you are an essential piece of what God is building

If somebody asks you ...why the lego … why not use it to talk about Church … how Valuable you are Each bit is vitally important