Monday, August 31, 2009
Before heading of on my final stint of Summer Holidays I decided to treat myself to a new Gadget. Lots of friends have been showing me their apple iphones and telling me how great they are. Well I just could not justify the contract charges, knowing that I have a perfectly good phone line in the house which has inclusive minutes in. So I took a look around the internet and came up with a mighty alternative. An open source operating system phone call android. Which works on HTC phones.
Going on to ebay I managed to pick one of the handsets up - HTC MAGIC, and coupled with a pay and go sim with a 02 unlimited internet bolt-on for £7.50 my handset is now up and running - yeah!
Over the last few days I have been putting it through its paces ... booking trains, buses and bed and breakfast, allowing it to pin point where I am and how to get to places, so I am very pleased with how its going.
I don't trust it yet to put my diary on - so I think that will be left to the paper version for the short to medium term. But for emails, texts and calls it seems to be grand. Down south I have stuck my threepay sim in and for 10 EUR I have the unlimited data for a month so that is great :-)
What can an android do ... well. It connects to the mobile network and send & recieve email, it has various "apps" (applications) which are useful - Bible, Alarm Clock, Camera
and less useful gadegty apps include - your very own light saber, compass, bar-code scanner, pedometer,
and even less useful games such as connect four, checkers and noughts and crosses
But it does also connect to wifi, bluetooth to allow other connections.
All in all it should come in handy and I have not yet bowed to the peer pressure of "converting" to the apple way of thinking :-)
Friday, August 28, 2009
The plans are falling into place ... Enterprise tomorrow down to Dublin
Heading to Kilkenny to see what can be seen there - I have been assured that the castle is THE place to visit as well as the tower of the cathedral
Then its down to Waterford where I'll be staying in Riceguesthouse.com for a couple of nights.
Sunday the plan is to head over to the cathedral for worship then its probably off to the beach to see what the southern coast is like. apparently there is a bluegrass festival on ... yee har, sand and sea ... whether there will be sun is hopeful.:-/
Monday, is off to Cork to see what that city has in store, have never spent more than 1/2 hr in Cork city so looking forward to exploring what this city has in store, then back to waterford
Tuesday then is up to Dublin and spending the remainder of the day catching up with friends, returning found library books! and paying debts!!!! .
Wednesday is up to Bangor to spend the afternoon with some friends and then its back to Belfast.
En route no doubt there'll be updates on the blog and flickr.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Recently a christian organisation conducted a vox pop – short video interviews with random people asking them what they thought of the idea of one day off, keeping Sunday as a special day. There were a range of answers which were given.
Some confessed that they had to work on a sunday, so they saw it as irrelevant to have a special day off
Some had grown up in times when shops had shut, when leisure centres were closed and TV's were outlawed
Others saw benefits in time spent differently, time for Christians to meet together for worship, visiting family and friends
I am sure this range of things would be represented in this parish today.
This evening's Gospel reading combines two types of incidents which are commonly found in the gospel, into one event. The first – a healing miracle, where Jesus is able to cure a woman from the pain and the stigma of being cripled, the second – the controversy of the event which leads jesus into conflict with the Jewish authorities who were more concerned with adherence
to the letter of the law. Rather than the grace and mercy of the healing which Jesus Displayed.
The Setting for this event is the synagogue, the local jewish place of worship, Jesus is giving the sermon there. The woman was there in the congregation. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and with very simple words he said “woman you are set free from your infirmity”. Imagine the delight, the sheer happiness which she must have felt” she had been suffering for 18 years with this problem. What a great thing to do in the midst of worship – God healing this individual.
However, that wasn't the end of the story - there are problems on the horizon, an increased opposition to what Jesus was doing - the ruler of the synagogue was not happy, he did not rejoice, but rather when he looked at this scene he saw Jesus breaking the sabbath rules, he was working on the sabbath, he healed. This was not on, this was (in his opinion) against what was permitted in the scriptures
Let us take a moment to be fair to this synagogue ruler
He was earnest about the word of God, he was trying his best to stick by the law of Moses, we all know that it clearly states in the 10 commandments that you shall not work on the sabbath – its a day of rest.
In Exodus we get right to the heart of the law – Not just for humans was the sabbath created – Ex 23:10 For six years you are to sow your field and harvest crops but during the seventh year let your land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what you leave.
Six days do your work but on the seventh day do not work – why? So that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household , and the alien as well may be refreshed.
Sabbath, where it is included in the Bible speak of refreshment, of re-creation, of rest, of renewing of creation. It is a gift from God.
That's what that the ruler was standing up for – was he right … well yes and no!
Yes, in terms of being jealous for God's Law, but the bigger picture is that that woman had a need which Jesus could meet then and there, the compassion of Jesus and his heart of love for that woman was such that he was prepared to risk the contempt of the synagogue and heal her.
Elsewhere in Lukes Gospel, in Chapter 6 Jesus does declare himself Lord of the Sabbath, that it is lawful – and asks them question is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do evil.
Jesus of course is not, in these passages saying everything goes, that we can do whatever we like on the sabbath, and open ticket and ignore sabbath observance. We need to carefully understand Jesus' guiding principles when it comes to dealing with people. He turns no-one away, He has compassion on them and he heals completely. Whether on the sabbath or not.
Elsewhere in the Gospels we are reminded that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
What then does this mean for us?
What we need to get to grips with in our own life is what sabbath should mean to us here.
If sabbath, that particular rest which God commands each of us to observe is a gift, it is one which has layers and layers of wrapping on it some of which I would suggest turns people off even thinking about it today.
Christians have, since early church time moved sabbath, their day of rest from the 7th day of the week – the Jewish Sabbath to the 1st day of the week in memorial of the resurrection and have marked it as a special day for their services and rest.
When Constantine brought Christainity as the religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century the machinery of empire shut down on the Sunday and this was replicated throughtout successive generations.
But what of today? In this 24 hr economy with shops, restaurants etc. We do live in a complex era – what are the underlying principles which we can take from the gospel understanding of sabbath
In the past, in living memory – 15 /20 yrs ago everything was outlawed on sunday, all shops shut, no television, swings locked up, stayed at home. Is that what sabbath is about?
There is problems with this – if we go down this route, of legalism, of imposed sanctions, are we imposing on people who do not share our respect for the word of God?
On the other hand, if we see sunday as being simply another day in the week, we are at serious risk losing the special time we have been given.
We do have the gift of the first day of the week as being set aside for things of God, of re-creation, of doing something different. We do need to, as christians hold on to this gift, to use it to its full potential. To use it to cultivate our relationship with God, to grow, to meet as community of believers to use it to build up, to liberate, to feed on God.
Jesus did not come to abolish the sabbath, as he did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfil and un-wrap it from the legalism which surrounded it in his day.
As far as working on the sabbath, on sunday, I find it very difficult to preach that you should not work on a sunday, considering my position of being up here in front of you today! And also knowing the amount of essential work that is going on in our communities as we speak, police, taxi drivers, doctors, bus drivers, newspaper shops but what we need to get to grips with is taking that sabbath time, that time out to rest and re-couperate.
It is an amazing witness to Christ if we can keep the sunday as a holy day, and those who do, know it is a powerful statement of their discipleship – We know of Eric Lidell (chariots of fire) who refused to run on a sunday, Just last week there was an article in the Sun newspaper
Dan Walker fronting football focus - insists on observing the Lord's Day even though there are top-flight matches almost every Sunday this season.
Jesus healed a woman crippled at the synagogue that sabbath, and got into some serious hot water for it. As we look at the gift of sabbath, can we say that we have used the sabbath, the day set aside for relationship to feed upon the bread of life, to ask for healing, to be healed, to do good.
It is crucial that we do take rest, that we do use a day set aside from whatever we are doing to focus on other things, to focus our minds on important priorities which wouldn't otherwise get covered during the week. Sabbath has always been a time for rest and recouperation – in nature a field set aside for one year in seven fallow allows for nutrients to replenish, as humans one day in seven allows us to relax, to replenish for what lies ahead the next 6 days.
It is not a day for lying idly by watching the world go by, but a gift from God to focus our attention on relationships, for doing good and focusing our attention on him. Could we do our shopping on another day – the simple answer is probably yes!
When we think about sabbath / Sunday – the Lord's day let us use it to its full potential - not legalistically but as a gift from God to focus on him, on his word and his priorities of Loving God and loving our neigbour.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Take for example, the tall ships - They were an amazing sight docked at the harbour in Belfast - allowing people on, the buzz about the city was great. What really got me excited was not the things that you really think - the fairground rides, the buzz about the city, the difference in the city since the last time they were here 18 years ago, the fireworks. No, the thing that really got me were the real life stories which were highlighted on the Eamon Holmes BBC programme - the stories of people of all ages, abilities who were on the ships taking part in the adventure. One commented we've been through the storms and the thing in the people on the shore have no idea the great adventure we've been on!
Another commented that the race had changed their outlook on life. It would have been very easy for those young people to sit back and do what the rest of us landlubbers did and relax at home but they took the challenge, they stepped up and said, even though I know little about sailing, I want to do this. What an adventure they have been on. The parallel is there for all of us, The adventure of faith, the adventures which await us as church, the call to go out and do something is there, are we going to take the challenges as they arise - they are all around us, some are easy flat calm, others are big cross - atlantic sized adventures.
Being around people, friends who are passionate about mission, about encouraging christians to get on with the job, of experiencing the world wide church is indeed contagious. We have such an amazing message to share with others and it is the greatest adventure and it is centred upon the joy which we hold in Christ.
Today, in 2 church services, sitting in the pews I have been reminded of the hope we have in Christ which is central to what I do from day to day whilst in ministry.
Firstly, this morning we looked at Ephesians and the idea that we are called to rejoice as the early Christians did with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. The whole issue of worship and the reminder that we do these things in continuity with the ancient israelites - ancient words ever true.
Then, this evening I sat through the most amazing exposition of 1 Cor 12 about the Christian hope of resurrection and how essential the doctrine is to the faith. Why Jesus had to be raised from the dead, and the implication that we will be raised as well. Basic stuff but really foundational. Delving into the common objections - spiritual v's physical resurrection very well handled by the preacher... food for thought!
So there we go ... some thoughts from the curatage.
This week holds more adventure,
Visitors round for meal
Holiday Bible Club 2 evenings
God is good :-)
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Luke 12:13-21 (New International Version)
The Parable of the Rich Fool13Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
14Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
One thing I enjoy doing is cooking – and you all know how important it is to organise time when it comes to cooking. Today, for example was roast pork, there is no point what so ever in putting the carrots on before the potatoes or putting the stuffing in before the meat. Its all about seeing what takes the longest and giving emphasis to the important bits.
Having the right priorities is extremely important –
what should I do now?,
what should I be doing tomorrow?
What do I need to buy?
What should I be saving for?
In our homes there are some tasks which are priority some days whilst other days they do not take priority as something more important has taken priority.
Each one of us lives with having to balance priorities –
Time spent at work,
finances, Saving and spending,
time on Holiday,
We Balance priorities by the way we
organise our time,
In this evenings Gospel Reading Jesus is warning someone in the crowd that has been following him about his priorities – Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
When we watch TV, there are always people trying to sell us the
most up-to-date thing.
Walk down the high street and windows are crying out to us you need what we can sell you. In our consumer society today we can have anything we want, and we can get it quicker than ever before.
Jesus’ words are eternal in this regard – Humanity has always been trying to grasp what it doesn’t yet have.
So, if life is not all about the abundance of possessions what is it about? The parable demands us to ask this question with what God Said “ You fool! This very night your life is being taken from you.”
What is life about? – It’s a huge question and one that I am not going to cover in a short address but having said that, over the last few evenings we have been looking through previous stories in Luke’s Gospel which point to some facets which need to be included in our answer.
Firstly we looked at the good Samaritan. The parable which was the response to the question what must I do to inherit eternal life – Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. With the definition of neighbour being expounded beyond the traditional boundaries.
Then we looked at Mary and Martha, and the idea of sitting at Jesus feet, as mary displayed before doing. The Idea of setting aside a time when we could be alone with God, of building the relationship with Him
Last week we looked at the whole issue of prayer, as depicted in response to disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray.
None of these things are popular priorities in todays world of making money, of consumerism and capitalism. Helping an outsider, giving money to an inn keeper to pay for treatment, spending time to listen to Jesus intently – time could be better spent, then taking time to pray … its not a constructive use of time and resources people may tell us.
Christianity, living for Christ, is the radical alternative to the consumerism and individualism which we see in our world today. As people build up bigger and bigger storage barns, give their time and talents to make more and more profits.
What Christianity offers and points to a different way of life, a life concerened with the other, a life lived towards God – It gives life meaning now and also has the promise of Eternal life.
Our priorities are things which we need to sort out – we need to sort between things that will last and things that won’t
How much time are we investing in our relationship with Christ, are we reading the Bible daily? Are we praying? (Not as a guilt trip - but as we would invest our time spending with a friend). Do we know the full riches of prayer and Bible study, do we need to put things in place to get to know him better?
We are members of families, of friendship groups – Are we spending quality time with them. In society today relationships are being broken as people make wrong decisions about their work and their home life. What priority do we give our family and our friends?
We all do have resources: time, money, physical things and talents how we go about investing those may have eternal consequences.
As members of the Kingdom of God – we are responsible to the King for our use of the resources granted to us – what we do with them is up to us.
But we must remember we will be called ultimately to account for the decisions we have made. Which is a sobering thought – but it is also, if we turn it round an extremely liberating thing – God has given us so much, he has lavished his grace upon us – therefore we have the joy to share those riches with others wherever they may be.
It is my prayer that we all learn how to use what we have been given to the Glory of God and the fulfilment of his purposes.
I would like to conclude by asking us all 3 simple questions
Firstly, what am I doing?
Secondly, What should I be doing?
And Finally what would God want me to be doing?
Those three, if all the answers are the same then we are in a place of surrender to God
If they are out of kilter then we need to ask how can I change something to make the 3 line up so that your priorities and Gods do match.