Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the road again

After a three day break ... Robert on tour continues

Me and my wee suitcase has been all over the country, many miles have been clocked up, many, many cups of coffees with rectors both those on and not on the curacy list.

For the remainder of the holidays ... all of 1 week left I am heading to belfast tomorrow to St. Barts for placement - pastoral visits and a wedding rehersal which will be a new experience.

Then its off to the metropolis of Monaghan

And down to dublin for a couple of days to get my head showered and a couple of sermons sorted out. boyz a boyz where does the time go ... before coming back up north for next weekend!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


With a title like that I was just thinking this would be a sure way to pluck up a little bit of internet traffic from friends!

Well yes it is true, but it is the "who?" question which I know you are asking!!!!

Well the answer is: I'm actually talking about my wee sis Claire and her fiance Paul Carson ... after going out now for years and years. He popped the question last night ... and clearly she said yes.

Congratulations to both of them. awwwwh.... so that's a wee bit of news from the Ferris household this christmas time. :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Isaiah 61- Celebrations midst despair

A sermon preached on Sunday 14th December at St. Bartholomews' Parish Church, Stranmillis Morning Prayer service as part of my Final Year Placement.

Let us pray
Heavenly father may your written word be the source of my spoken word
and through the inspiration of your Holy spirit
point to your son the living word
in whose name we pray amen

Before I launch into this sermon, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the huge cast, technical people, musicians and director of the “Percy” performance last week – it was amazing!

Please do turn in your Pew Bibles to Isaiah 61

I wonder what you make of this morning’s OT reading – From Isaiah – It is great to hear good news after a week of extremely bad news – Pork, collapse of more businesses, unemployment, cholera in Zimbabwe

Each day when I read the news papers or as I have been working on essays this week I have been connected to the BBC website finding out what has been happening in the world lots of bad news stories.

When we put Isaiah into his historical context it was spoken to a people who were experiencing the most heart wrenching tragedy:

Exile, which meant that a foreign army came in and took the inhabitants from one land as prisoners to another land, broken families,
economic ruin,
the unknown future – extremely bad news of the worst kind –
and what’s more they were not simply watching it on Television they were living it.

If we were looking on, if we had video footage of this time period, it would be natural for us to say
• Lord, where are you?,
• why are you letting this happen to them?
• Are they not your people?
• Do you not care?

I am sure that from time to time we can relate to these questions as we look on in so many of the circumstances we see in out world today. Not only with international situations, but also with problems we encounter on a day to day basis.

Maybe even in our own families or in our groups of friends we can also identify with of this sort of thought – where are you Lord?, It was into this situation which this reading speaks into.

As I have read and prayed through this passage over the last week or so one word kept coming back to me, in regard to this passage celebration and I’ll explain why as we go through the passage – however, I thought – seeing that it is coming up to Christmas – I’d get the parishioners in St. barts a present … please do pass the sweets around! Although do try and not rattle the papers too much!!!

Where is the celebration?

Isaiah proclaims, A time is coming when sorrow will be put to bed, a time when the broken hearted will be built up, a time when the captives will be set free.

The Bible tells us The world is a messy place, it is not how it should be – there is no denying that!

But equally, and especially in this season of Advent we are looking forward to both remembering the first coming of Jesus at Christmas and looking ahead to his second coming.

This prophecy, this message for God’s people, yes had its first airing at time of complete and utter desperation that was the exile however we see in the gospels how it applied to another time 800 years or so later when Jesus declared himself as the fulfilment (See Luke’s Gospel) – the exile was over however the Israelites had another ruler – the Romans.

Many, if not all of us here in church this morning know the stories of Jesus’ Miracles, of his teaching and of the impact that he had on the early church; but how many of us stop and think about what it means to say that Jesus is the fulfilment of this prophecy –
He said it himself in the Synagogue in Nazareth – he is the one to whom Isaiah is ultimately pointing. The Messiah, the anointed one – “today this has been fulfilled amongst you”.

The other amazing thing about God is that he is timeless and this prophecy is still to find fullness of meaning in our time – and will only find complete fullness in the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to inaugurate

This is amazingly good news – both to the Israelite thousands of years ago and also to us today - when we look around at society and where we are going as a people.

In our prayer book we have a service entitled “A Celebration of Wholeness and healing” which sums this passage up and indeed what the Birth of Jesus accomplished for the world.

When it comes to Christmas – we are going to have a celebration

Listen to some of the Good news this passage announces:
• Good news,
• proclaim freedom to the captives,
• comfort to those who mourn,
• crown of beauty,
• oil of gladness,
• display of splendour,
• rebuilding, renew, justice, everlasting covenant, rejoice, growth

At the moment we are living in the in-between times of the kingdom – between the beginning and the fulfilment of the kingdom. There is a tension there

Sometimes in a party we can be there in body but wishing to be elsewhere,
we don’t really want to be there,
we feel maybe that we are not welcome – this passage says to us that there is good news - we are welcome, we are included in the celebration.
Remember the parables of the banquet Jesus told – the guy who was giving the banquet went out and gathered anyone he could into the party.

I wonder if we are a people of celebration? – have we actually realised the joys of the kingdom, the reality that as John has written in his Gospel – that Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full...

I don’t mean walking around the streets with a fake smile, saying everything’s fine when it clearly is anything but.

But a depth of relationship in him whom we can rely totally and utterly upon,
• through the struggles,
• through both the good and the bad times,
• through the seasons of mourning,
• through the seasons of captivity,
• through the darkness, through the seasons of despair,
• when we have been wronged, when we are ill.

Wholeness and healing

Around us all, we do not have to look far, to see that there is darkness, there is despair. But the Christian hope, the Christian faith, the Christmas season is all about the light, the word being spoken which will shatter the darkness. We no longer have to be slaves to the darkness, the captives are freed.

Sunday by Sunday in every service we have a confession and absolution – through jesus we have been cleansed from sin and assured of peace. We are a people of this prophecy.

As advent is a period of preparation – how are we preparing for Christ’s coming celebrating his birth?
Are we a people of celebration?, do we know that peace, that joy, that wholeness within our own lives?

There are many things which try to steal it – alcohol, drugs, debt are some of the common ones in our society today – are they something we need to deal with?

What preparations do you know you need to make for Christmas in your own life to make this years celebration a celebration of healing and wholeness which Christmas needs to be?

The sting in the tail of this passage (if I can call it that) is that if we take this passage seriously, if we believe that we are called to the celebration, if we believe that the broken hearted should be built up, if we believe that those who mourn should be comforted, if we believe that the captives should be released, if we believe God should be doing these things, if we believe that the kingdom should be built up then yes we need to be doing something about it.

God can do it but needs us to work in partnership with him.

Who do we know that needs this good news – The first verse says it all – “the spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon __ who? Because he has anointed me to preach good news.

Lets celebrate Christmas … as Christians it is our most amazing time of the year, but also lets remember the challenge that we, all of us need to proclaim that news to the world – the world around us, the people we meet on a daily basis – all of us have great news – the best news to share.

Let’s pray …

Heavenly father,
We pray for as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas this year speak to us about those things which distract us from you, help us not to be simply hearers of your word, but also doers of the same.
In Jesus’ name we pray – AMEN