Thursday, February 26, 2009

Busy - ness and mission

If you were to read the "here's what I am doing" bits of my blog as opposed to the other bits (sermons etc) I have used a word beginning with B quite a bit. 

the word I am refering to is busy ... life is busy, college is busy, everything is busy... but busy isn't necessarily good.  As we go through life things are busy, and it is good to be doing things, yes, but I just wonder if we happen to miss things because we are so busy all the time. 

When was the last time you stopped and looked and listened to God? when was the last time you planned a little bit of space with your loved one? things can get hectic but time out is important. We are all called to have a balance ... surely Jesus, throughout the gospels took time out. 

In college at the moment there are various pressures, the main one at the moment is the final year project. For me the is a box of books to be reading and quoting from, but through it all, I am hoping to gain a bit of a better understanding of mission and what we are about as Christians, what the church is called to be. It was great tonight to get an unexpected email from Edwin, one of the ordinands from Zambia who was ordained last week. Please do pray for him and the other ordinands in Zambia at this time as they are ordained and beginning to serve God in that country. 

Over the course of this lent, I hope to spend a bit more time "out" with God, as well as fitting in all the time needed to get this final year project done. please do pray for me and the other ordinands here in CITI as we all work on our projects and essays. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nearly Live Pictures

Well, this blog is being written just as the hair chop and leg wax is taking place ...

Our bauldy heads....

the leg wax

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lenten Appeal ... Head Shave

Below is a copy of the text which appeared on the front page of the Irish times this morning ...

Photo's Courtesy of Lesley Trennier
Written by Patsy McGarry

IN WHAT has to be among the more unusual Lenten gestures, students preparing for the ministry at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin are planning a mass hair loss for Shrove Tuesday.

Or “Shave Tuesday”, as they have renamed it.

Tomorrow afternoon six will have their heads shaved and others will have their legs waxed, for charity.

In turn they are appealing to every parish throughout the Church of Ireland to collect at least €1 from each parishioner during Lent.

The proceeds will go to the St Francis’s Hospital in Zambia, through the Anglican Mission Agency, USPG (United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel).

“Lent is quite properly a penitential season. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it while doing some good for others,” suggested group “Hair-Loss” organiser Patrick Burke, a final year student at the institute.

“Shaving one’s head is a traditional way of doing penance. Doing it with a bunch of friends in front of your colleagues and teachers is a bit of a laugh. And doing it for a worthy cause is the best of both worlds.”

The Church-run St Francis’s Hospital in Katete is the only source of healthcare for a large rural population in Eastern Zambia.

Malaria, Aids and TB have decimated the working population of the area and have left many orphans in a place where most people live at subsistence levels.

“It’s a very simple idea,” said Patrick. “If one or two people in each parish simply take up a collection and send it on, a lot of money could be raised for a really good cause very easily.”

Similar things have appeared on the church of ireland website

If you would like to support us please do! - I will be taking pledges ... Just leave your name and amount as a comment to this article and I'll get the money somehow!


Failing that you can also donate online ...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcomed to St. Columba's

Well, there we go... Just writing this blog after a morning in in the new parish of St. Columbas - meeting the parishioners and generally chatting to people.

It was all pretty relaxed.

John asked me to introduce myself at the 8:15 Holy communion and then mum, dad and I headed back for breakfast at the Rectory which as great. It was quite funny at breakfast when john was commenting that he had read on the church of ireland website that ordinands were getting their heads shaved for charity and the proceeded to ask me if I was ... to which I replied I was... but hadn't told mum and dad about it ... hehehe


Oh yes ... the head shaving is taking place on Tuesday night ... the charity is USPG who are helping a hospital in sw Zambia a very worthwhile cause run by the anglican church. I encountered the guy who was responsible for setting it up on my last trip to Zambia at St. Johns Seminary. A great guy!

so it is now all systems go as I am in transit towards Monaghan. where I am preaching tonight ... Sermon will be uploaded after the service.

More Photos during the week.

Oh yes and for lent I am joinning the parishioners in St. Columbas taking part in livelent

I'll let you know how I Get on over the next few days

Monday, February 16, 2009

More than halfway through February ... a summary blog

It seems I have been neglecting the blog for a little while so here is a summary of some of the things which have been important in the last couple of weeks

... In College ...Essays are being written, my to-do list is growing by the day
Essays for Ethics, Anglicanism, OT, Sermon for Exegesis, NT Cosmology, Theological refelction 10,000 word project as well as loads of college stuff

as well as services in Chapel and the odd lecture to go to!

... Out of college ... I am looking forward to being introduced to St. Columba's this sunday morning at both of their services and then preaching at St. Patrick's Monaghan on Sunday Night.

... around about ... Absolutely raving about the new disney movie "Bolt" its great. Really entertaining - laughs galore - but also soo much theological content.

Oh yes, and for any friends reading the blog - I have recieved confirmation that my ordination is on Sunday 21st June in Hillsborough parish

Monday, February 02, 2009

Curacy Round!

St Columba's Church, Knock

Well, it is quite offical now - It has been announced in Church - I am delighted to be off in June to St Columba's Knock, as Curate Assistant.

Over the course of the next few months I will keep the Blog informed of the developments.

I look forward to getting to know the church family in the east of Belfast.


Photo "borrowed" from Gary McMurray

Sermon - Letter to Philemon

Sermon preached at 6:30 service on Sunday 01 Feb 2009 in St Bartholomew's, Stranmillis

Let us Pray

Heavenly Father,

We pray that as we open your word this evening, you would speak into our hearts and minds and bring us closer to you – In Jesus’ name we pray – Amen

On a personal note, before I begin could I thank Beatitudes choir for their wonderful gift of music. I look forward to meeting them again across the river in the “other diocese”! thanks to ron janice church wardens …

Over the course of this week I have been reflecting upon how messy our Christian lives can be, and how completely messy some of the things we have to deal with can be.

A couple of weeks ago down at college in Dublin , in one of classes one of my fellow students did a session on creativity and spirituality – she brought in large sheets of paper and lots of poster paints, crayons, felt tips, thick and thin paint brushes and asked us to start painting – anything we wanted. I hate painting, it always brings me back to my high school days when we had art homework!

It always ended up a mess – colours run into one another, I use broad brush strokes when I need to use fine lines, I make the wrong tone of colour – Lots of things which could go wrong went wrong when I picked up a paint brush in school. It ended in a mess!

We live in a messy world – colours are running into each other all over the place – ethical decisions, our own personal our family lives things can get quite messy. Why the mess?

Society is made up of people and People are messy full stop!

Christians then as people and members of society are not immune to this messy ness – and that is OK.

As we look at the reading this evening we see messy-ness in a difficult situation
In this letter we see Paul is writing to Philemon (who is a slave owner)
About his slave oniesimus.

It is a messy situation as it brings together all the problems associated with
• Human Relationships
• Societal Norms
• Christian Discipleship

From the outset it is quite difficult for us to know what is going on. We have only this one small window of 25 verses. We do not really know much about Philemon, or Oniesimus. We do not know why oniesimus absconded from his household, we do not know if Philemon welcomed him back.

What we can deduce from this letter is that
• Paul knows Philemon well
• Paul is currently in prision and has met onesimus
• All three characters are Christians

Philemon is in a messy situation
• He knows Paul is someone who has authority in the Christian church and needs to balance his commitment of faith
• He has a place in the society of the day – What would the other slave owners think if he lets a prisoner dictate what he should do with the slave that ran away. It would be a bad example.
• He needs to uphold justice – Justice needed to be done!
• A decision had to be made swiftly.
• Like the rest of us I am sure Philemon had other influeneces upon his life

Philemon the slave owner

Onesimus the Slave was also in a messy situation
• What would he get if he goes back – Punishment?
• Should he even try …
• What if Philemon goes mad and kills me
• Blaming himself

Then there is the third party – Paul
• He is no doubt struggling to think what should he do
• What should he be advising Onesimus to do
• What if Philemon doesn’t listen to his appeal
• Why should he be getting involved at all?

This is a very complex situation – But Paul does put pen to paper and writes a wonderful letter – great use of language to try and Iron out the situation.

Take a look at the text – in verse 4 he Thanks God for Philemon, and tells him of the reports about his love which he has heard

Paul then goes on to appeal to Philemon on the basis of Love. A couple of quite comical things here:

Take a look at verse 10 & 11
10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[a] who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

A great play on words here – Onesimus means Useful.

Then if we were to read on – in verse 22 – Paul is on his way.

A messy situation but things can indeed be resolved through love, through truthful words spoken in love.

When we look at this situation the common ground for all three parties is Christ. I wonder in our dealings, in our conflicts, in our messy lives do we when we are dealing with other’s generally seek reconciliation, seek to sort out the situations.

Paul does have a desire for reconciliation- he could have very easily have to onesimus to get lost!, Paul had problems of his own, this situation was not his problem. His deep love for both parties put him in an awkward position but he was prepared to stick it out and do something. He made himself vulnerable. He was between a rock and a hard place.

Lives are messy, situations which we encounter on a daily basis are messy. The God we worship here tonight is a God of transformation and reconciliation.

We all know that there are relationships which are destructive, which need to be severed. But there are also those relationships which need to be worked at, where reconciliation is possible. In practical terms, for Christians, Philemon throws up huge challenges.

For those who like Onesimus are seeking reconciliation, are seeking something to change they may need to honestly speak to someone they trust to get advice, someone they can see who has deeper insight into the situation.

For those who like Paul are in a situation where people are confiding in them, they need to be wise in their counsel and choose their words carefully so that the person may be built up and the situation resolved.

For those who are like Philemon – they need to be ready and open to accept that mistakes have been made, most likely on both parties. They need to open dialogue and be ready to draw a line under the entire situation.

Conflict is inevitable in life, in church, in society, in families however we need to identify it and learn some lessons. Wise counsel is often useful to gain another perspective on the situations we find ourselves having to deal with. Wether that be from a close friend, a member of the clergy, a professional counselor, a doctor … whoever

To return to where I started – Life is messy, paint does run but what can result can be an creative, constructive situation which can relieve so much pressure on all sides.

Wise counsel, Prayer and Listening to God need to be thrown into the mix when dealing with messy stuff to do with relationships.

In Conclusion,

I suppose what I am saying, in the messiness of life, in the complex situations we find ourselves acting out on a daily basis, wherever we find ourselves we need to find those people we can confide in, those Christians whom we respect and trust to speak truthfully into our situations.

The God we worship wants to be close to us and to be involved in our lives seeking reconciliation and peace. Creating order out of chaos.

Let us pray.

Sermon: Mark 1:21-28

This sermon was preached at 10:30 Holy Communion in St. Bartholomew's Parish Church, Stranmillis on Sunday 01 Feb 2009 on my final day of College placement

Mark 1:21-28 (New International Version)

Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil[a] spirit cried out, 24"What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

25"Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" 26The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Let us pray,

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

If I was to ask you to think about the word authority, what words or images come to mind, maybe a policeman, maybe a judge, perhaps a world leader, an academic maybe who is an authority in such and such a field. Your mind may be drawn to your own job if you are a supervisor or manager of people. The word authority implies decision making, responsibility and some sort of leadership role.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been watching with much interest what has been happening in Washington D.C after the inauguration of Barack Obama. I am a fan of the west wing TV series as well as 24 both of which portray days in the life of a president in the Oval office, the successes and the failures of the American administration as they try to run the country. As well as the stresses and stains of everyday life in the positions of power.

I don’t know what it is about this American president which as captivated me, maybe it is because he is of ordinary origins – I have been reading his Biography!, maybe because he seems to be a beacon of hope for the nation, maybe its compelling that 1 man has so much power …

The man, Barack, looks and acts like a leader, someone who has authority but also someone who seems to handle this power well, he has got people around him whom he can trust and delegate that power out to. Someone who also exudes charisma and trustworthiness. Something new promised for America – history of course will tell wether or not this is the case.

Our reading this morning from the gospel of Mark speaks about someone who has authority, begs various questions such

  • who is Jesus ?
  • Where does his authority come from?
  • And what is this all about?

Over the course of the last few months, whilst I have been here in St. Bartholomews, I have joined you as we have journeyed as we do annually through what is known as ordinary time, through advent as we seek to prepare for Jesus coming as a Baby in a manger, through epiphany, his Baptism and now we are starting on Jesus’ public ministry.

Who is Jesus and how is he different from the scribes?

This may seem like a very simple and straight forward question to us as Christians today with 2,000 years of scholarship behind us. With simple creedal statements, of searching scriptures, of devotion and in our own lives our encounters with God through our own experience of the risen Lord. However we must remember that astonishment of those people in the synagogue – they knew very little about the person of Jesus, it was through his teaching that his authority was shown.

The question as to Jesus’ identity is one of the fundamental questions which Mark is concerned about throughout his gospel – he opens his book with the outrageous claim – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and then the rest of the gospel asks the question again and again – who is this Jesus?

In our passage this morning – Jesus is seen as someone who is a teacher, but more than that he is a teacher who has authority over evil. There is one thing teaching that God has power over evil, but then when evil is presented before him he claims that authority and calmly commands it to go.

It is interesting that the first to recognize Jesus as “the holy one of God” is the evil spirit.

Where does such authority come from?

The short answer is from God – We see on many occasions throughout the gospel narratives Jesus claiming authority over

  • Nature – events around the lake: calming of Storm, walking on water, feeding of the 5,000
  • Disease – many healings
  • Sin – “Your sins are forgiven”
  • And in this and other cases – power over evil
  • And Ultimately – Power over death.

Many miracles pointing to the coming of the kingdom and the eventual defeat of evil.

This authority comes from the Father – purely and simply. It cannot conceivably come from anywhere else

What does this mean?

This episode provides us with an insight into something which we know very little about, but an area of the created universe which there has been much rumour over the centuries. Many very scary films have picked up the themes of exorcisms, of evil portrayed in horrific detail. We also see Jesus throughout his earthly ministry confronting manifest evil in many scenes and simply telling it to leave.

Do these sort of things happen today? Rationalists over the last couple of centuries have tried to deny the existence of evil, claiming that it was down to psychological illness. However there is more to it that this – the church does recognize that there is evil in the world. We tread a middle way in talking about such matters – Lots of things which have been put down to evil in history of course have been down to what we recognize as mental illness but there are thing which are evil.

Christians who are relying on Jesus, who are living for him we have nothing to fear – why? Because Jesus is the one who has authority over evil and this power is the same as the power over sin, the same as the power he displayed over the diseases which he healed back in 1st C Palestine and he still does it today.

Take a look at the passage again – what is its emphasis?

Is it on the evil one? – no its not … its on Jesus … its on his power, his teaching and his authority. So what?

What is our focus? Are we concentrating on evil within our midst? – are we looking towards the wrong authority? There are many different foci within the world today:

- World leaders

- Money Markets

- Models

- Films

- Consoles

- Pop Stars

None of these of course are evil in themselves, however they all can become tied up with evil

However the distraction they take from the One who is the real authority is important to note. Evil is real in the world today but God is more powerful, more beautiful than anything that the Evil one may throw at us.

In our Baptism service we are asked

Do you to reject the devil and all proud rebellion against God – I reject them

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil - I renounce them

Evil does not have a stronghold on the Christian – Look at the authority Jesus has – he commands the evil spirit to leave the man – and it does – just like that.

Things that rob Christians of hope do not have a stronghold over Christians either – It may seem that it does – but “whom resist steadfast in the faith”

As Christians we have to actively reject and renounce those things which are not of God.

There may be things – not evil at all – but just things which are detracting from promised life that Jesus promised which you know that you need to dump out in a spring clean (if you can do that at the start of February!)

Who is this who has the authority? – It’s Jesus Christ, It’s God’s Son It’s God’s Holy one!

Where does his authority come from? - It’s directly from our father, the creator

What is this story all about? Its about living life to the full … God has a plan for us, evil does try to throw us of the path – but evil is doomed to failure – we have to continually look to Jesus to focus our eyes on him, he is the one with authority.

We do need to be real and honest about this stuff … if there are things detracting us from the life that Jesus promised that we need to dump – DO IT!

The other thing which is quite scary is that Jesus, like the obama administration if I can draw an analogy , he has delegated power – we are ambassadors representing Jesus to the world outside, we are disciples learning what stuff Jesus has given to us to do. So we also need to be getting on with the job of spreading his word, where we are and whatever he has called us to.

In Conclusion,

Let us remind ourselves that evil does exist but our focus should never be on it as the one with the authority is Jesus.

We need to remind ourselves that in Baptism we reject, renounce and we turn to Christ.

Jesus has the authority but has given us a share in that authority as we proclaim the good news in our communities.

Let's pray