Saturday, November 26, 2011

A ponderous question ... What can we do?

It has been a great few days out and about, meeting up with friends, taking a break from parish life for 7 days.

Halfway through the past week ... a question which came a a bolt out of the blue was this question

"What can we do? "

It could be a negative question ... a statement of resignation...with the presumption that there is nothing that can be done

however it also can be a very positive question ... a statement of intention to do something.

It is a question which is running around in my mind about lots of issues at the minute ... from world wide things to smaller everyday encounters

Standing in front of St. Paul's in London on Tuesday ... surrounded by the protesters and the City of London and reading about all the issues of the world economy ... we could ask legitimately ... "What can we do?"

Walking along the London streets and seeing beggars and some of the worlds most expensive shops ..."What can we do?"

There are huge issues in our world ... and in our lives ... somehow we are called to rearrange those words to ... "do what we can" with our resources...

This is definitely something over the next while I will come back to on the blog ...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Quiet time on the Blog

Over the past few months things have been very quiet on the Blog due to the amount of other things that have been happening both online and off-line.

We are currently bringing together a team who are hoping to head of to Zambia next summer ... more details of this later

We have begun our recordings of services and distributing these over RSS Feed for those who are housebound in the parish

The Church of Ireland Gazette has a new website which makes it much easier to manage

We have set up a Bible Study bringing together On-line and Off-line communication - Bible study via email to a variety of parishioners - E100.

Hopefully we will bring the Blog back to life soon. In the interim I was watching last night
"Susan Boyle - An unlikely Superstar" one of the things she said which was really insightful

"You never know what effect you have on people until they tell you" which is really really true.

May we be people who spur each other on, encouraging one another and pointing out the great things we see in each other. There is so much negativity in our world, as Christians we are called to encourage and uplift one another in love.

Until the next Blog


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Back to church Sunday

A sermon preached at the 10:30 am St. Columba's Service on Back To Church Sunday

Please be seated.

I’m going to play a song which some of you may well know. Do listen to the words.

song ends

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would by the power of the Holy Spirit take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, and take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The success of the hit TV Series Cheers in the past has been because people could relate to the characters, there was a feel good factor. The theme tune also relates to easy going nature, the universal realatity of the human need for acceptance.

Today is Back To Church Sunday, a day when friends and neighbours and family members are encouraged to come Back to Church. Churches across the country are doing the same thing as we are. Welcoming people back to church.

But what are we welcoming you back to?, why are we coming back to church?

By meeting here sunday by sunday we are saying we belong, by meeting here we are saying we need each other, by meeting here sunday by sunday we are saying we want to know a bit more about God.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.

Life is difficult sometimes ... sometimes it is great

Life sometimes throws up challenges ... sometimes we are shaken

Sometimes we are joyous and sometimes we are confused, lonely, perplexed perhaps, grieving

Church is a place where we can come and be together

Church is a place where we should be able to find acceptance and love, we should be able to talk about things which bother us, things troubling us. We should be able to be real and we should be able to meet with people who can support us through the difficult times.

No church is not perfect ... and you’ll never find the perfect church but in this church we do in this church try to do our best to preach, teach and and to put theory and practice together.

One church leader recently said that he believes that the Local Church is the hope for the world. I too believe that. That each church church is at its very best when people work together locally, when we use our gifts and talents to serve one another.

We believe that when young and old, tall and short, people of all sorts work together for a common purpose great things can and will happen.

In St. Columba’s we are trying, we are striving to provide help and support to as many people as we possibly can.

Take a look through our parish Magazine

We are studying the Bible,

We continue to visit all those we know of in hospitals, nursing homes and sheltered accomodation,

we visit all homes in the parish as and when we can, we are putting into place ways in which people can serve God according to their gifts and abilities, we continue to try and develop our youth work, we are reaching out to our housebound parishioners via recordings of services, we continue to have the full range of activities and groups for all sorts of ages and interests throughout the week.

All of this is to help people belong to the family of God in this place.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. There is a saying ... “It takes two to tango.”

I have heard it about churches where people can walk in and out and nobody speaks to them. If this is a criticism you have please do say hi to someone. And also if someone says Hi to you do say hi back and introduce yourself.

This is a place to which anyone can come and belong. One of the reason I am here is because of the friendliness of the church when I came incognito in a shirt and tie and sat down at the back of the church one sunday morning. Someone said hi to me!

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,

Critics of the church universally would tell us that we are boring, untrue and irrelevant to the culture of today. Perhaps we have been - or perhaps our critics do have some challenges to help us improve.

However, the church at its best is here to serve the outsider, to walk beside and support the tempted whatever their temptation may be, we are called to bring the lonely into fellowship and friendship, the struggling student, the single mum, the housebound, the man struggling with answering the question about what life is all about.

When we look at the Gospel reading today we see Jesus asking the Lame man “Sir Do you want to be made well”?

The man had to respond

The church cannot do things without people responding.

We can sit and do nothing for a long time or we can respond.

Many of the problems we face can be responded to positively. The are resources which the church has access to which can help people.

Issues such as debt ... a phonecall to Christians Against Poverty can see the burden of debt lifted from households

Issues such as depression and other issues can be talked through with Christian Counsellors

Issues such as loneliness can be addressed by getting involved in many of the organisations in the parish.

Each one of us ... whoever we are, whatever we are going through can find hope, love reassurance, help, meaning within church if only we ask.

If you are here for the first time in a while, or if you are here each week do know that we are a church ready to help, ready to chat, ready to support, ready to talk through worries & fears.

You will see the new welcome cards in the pews - these create an easy communication link with the clergy and vestry - if there are things you would like, if you want us to visit please do fill them in, if there are other comments. Do fill your name in as well on them.

We are called to respond

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Should Churches have facebook pages??

Over the course of the last few months I have been asked this question from a number of people.

The quick answer is ... aye why not? Millions of people are communicating in Facebook so why not have a local church presence.

The longer answer is ... yes but be careful.

A few questions about this

What info are you putting on? Who are you going to allow to access it ... Fully Public ... friends only? ... who is going to administrate it? Are you going to update it regularly?

The other thing is youth (i.e. Under 18's) on facebook ... This is a whole area of problems as there needs to be safeguards and parish policies as to electronic communication. It needs well researched and have completely transparent procedures in regard to emails and facebook messages.

As far as I am concerned I will never add an under 18 as a friend to my personal facebook friend group. All emails that I send out to our youth group are all sent out on the parish email account which the Child Protection Panel(CPP) in the parish have access to. Our parish facebook account similarly has been set up so that the CPP have access to the username and password allowing them access to all communication methods.

Having said all of this ... if people are using facebook why not use it to communicate with the church. Just ensure that everything that you do has safeguards in place

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forgiveness ...

A sermon preached in St. Columba's Parish Church at 10:30 Holy Communion

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

A story is told about a man who loved dogs. 
He went in front of his house and began creating a path from his front door to the street. 

As he was nearly finished a dog trounced right though the middle of the wet cement. 

Since he was a dog lover he overlooked the dog's inability to recognize wet cement so he calmly re-smoothed the path. 

Knowing it could happen again he placed rope along each side of the walkway. 

But a few minutes later the dog pounced over the rope and again splashed through the cement.  His patience dwindled but he didn't retaliate; he just chased off the dog with some harsh words. 

Again, he smoothed out the concrete and incredibly enough, the dog sneaked behind him and leaped flat-belly into the middle of the walkway.  The man picked up a stone and hit the dog - it limped away! 

His neighbour witnessed everything that happened and rushed over to his friend and said: "I thought you loved dogs."  The man responded, "I do love dogs. 

But that's in the abstract.  I hate dogs in the concrete."

Sorry ... I read this and thought it is quite applicable today

The abstract and the reality ... the theory and the practice sometimes can be quite different poles apart maybe on lots of issues.

As we continue through this season in the church calendar which speaks about us growing as disciples. The readings raise lots of different issues for us as Christians. Today our Gospel reading speaks strongly about Forgiveness.

Forgiveness in our readings today is one of the areas of our life where we all struggle, where many struggle to bring theory and practice into line with each other.

In our service this morning
We have sought God’s forgiveness in the words of the confession
We have been assured of God’s forgiveness in the absolution

Before we come to the prayer of consecration we will share the peace... This is a crucial part of the service when we say to each other “Peace be with you”. The challenge of this is about relationship - can you say peace be with you to those who you have not forgiven?

In our service this morning we will pray in the Lord’s prayer forgive us today our sins as we forgive others who sin against us.

But do we? is our theory the same as our practice?

This is difficult. By speaking about this we are dealing with heart problems - problems deep inside the seat of our emotions, It deals with our relationship towards others.
It can be situations which have happened recently or way back.

When we speak of forgiveness we are talking about a relationship which has broken down by words or by actions between us and someone else. Wether the action is caused by us or them.

Forgiveness according to the OED is defined as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'.

Now - that is extremely challenging for any size of offense or debt

Perhaps some may say it is easy enough if at school someone steals our favorite pen.

But bigger offences, that certainly take more and more strength of our will power

Let us look at this from another perspective ... the alternative is unforgiveness
If we are to remain in a place where there is unforgiveness - then there will be undoubtably be
Deep - seated resentment
Questions like what-if I had done something differently
A serious temptation not to display the fruits which God can develop in our lives.

It is a process but we need to choose for ourselves that whatever the crime is - what ever words and what ever hurts were done that we are not going to let them have control over us.

We forgive because he first forgave us.

When we think of the hurt we have caused God by thought, word and deed and then realise that this has been forgiven then from this place we can find the strength to forgive others.

One of the people who you find if you search of “Forgiveness Northern Ireland” is Gordon Wilson ... His daughter was killed in the Enniskillen Bombing

Gordon Wilson held his daughter's hand as they lay trapped beneath a mountain of rubble. It was 1987, and he and Marie had been standing watching a peaceful Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, when a terrorist bomb went off. The rescuers dug them out of the rubble and rushed them to hospital. But, by the end of the day, Marie and nine other people were dead.
A few hours after the bombing, when interviewed by the BBC, Gordon Wilson forgave the terrorists who had killed his daughter. He said that he would pray for them. He also begged that no-one took revenge for Marie's death. "That", he said, "will not bring her back."
The loss of Marie shattered Gordon Wilson and his wife Joan, but, they were anxious that bitterness and hatred should not rip apart the small town of Enniskillen. Before the bomb, Protestants and Catholics in Enniskillen had lived side by side, and the Wilsons wanted it to stay that way.
As Christians, the Wilsons wanted to help repair this damage between people.
After his television interview, Gordon Wilson received many letters from people across Britain and the rest of the world. Many supported him, but many others criticised him.
Forgiveness is at all sorts of levels - It is not about forgetting what has happened - not at all. But it is about allow us to move on from the consequences of an event. It is not simply a fllipant I forgive you and holding on to the consequences and mulling them over.

There is a Brilliant Book on the Subject Written by RT Kendall - Total forgiveness. He Explains that after a very painful episode in his life He made a decision for inner peace, found he had to carry out that decision by a daily commitment to forgive those who had hurt him and to forgive them totally.

He says “I therefore let them utterly of the hook and resigned myself to the knoweldge that:
They wouldn’t get caught or found out
Nobody would ever know hat they did
They would prosper and be blessed as thoughthey had done no wrong

he continues What is more I actually willed this! I prayed for this, I asked God to forgive them. But I have had to do it every day in order to keep the peace within my heart. Having been on both sides I can tell you: the peace is better. The bitterness isn’t worth it.

Who do we need to forgive today - is there someone who comes to mind who has wronged us and we need to utter those words father forgive them and father God I forgive them.

Why not begin the process of forgiveness today.

may our abstract and concrete beliefs be the same

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness? and who do you need to offer forgiveness to.?

It is challenging ... but it is the Gospel.

Let us pray.

In the prayer I will use the Post communion Prayer which we will pray later.

God of compassion, 
in this eucharist we know again your forgiveness 
and the healing power of your love. 
Grant that we who are made whole in Christ 
may bring that forgiveness and healing to this broken world, 
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


A Sermon preached at St. Columba's on Sunday 4th September 2011 based on Mark 7: 24-37 at Choral Evensong

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


Surprises are events which we don’t expect, that go beyond what we normally experience. They can be good and they can be not so good.

The random act of kindness from someone ... perhaps a box of chocolates, or a boquet of flowers or a party.

Years ago some of you may remember the TV Programme surprise surprise when our Cilla - Cilla Black opted to reunite loved ones, fulfilled peoples life long dreams and ambitions.

Surprise Surprise

The first bit of Our Gospel reading this evening is one of surprise. For us reading it today it is surprising -

we may be surprised at how Jesus deals with the Syrophonician woman in the opening of this reading

we may be surprised at her response

And then we may be surprised at how Jesus at the end commends her

A Little background

Jesus is in Tyre, a gentile area and he is there with his disciples. He knew he was sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” God’s chosen people. It was them who Jesus communicated with, they were the ones he was concerned about.

It is surprising how Jesus speaks to this woman ... he mentions dogs - in the greek it is little dogs. but even so it still is surprising perhaps even shocking.

But then we see the woman coming back to him and saying well even the dogs get scraps from the table.

We then see Jesus opening up his ministry to those who are outside of the “in-crowd” those beyond the pale of the Jewish heritage.

It is surprising ... even shocking about the radical inclusiveness which Jesus highlighted that day.. a woman, a gentile woman asking for healing from a Jew ... the cultural norms of the day prohibited joint meals, and encouraged exclusive worship ... just think about the temple ... the court of the gentiles beyond which those who weren’t jewish couldn’t go.

There seem to be a couple of themes in this passage to pick up upon this evening

The first is the radical inclusiveness which Jesus set up for us. Who are the outsiders? who are those who we see as unclean, as beyond love, beyond help? Time and again in the gospel Jesus went to them, invited them in. In Belfast today who are the people who stand waiting to be invited in, to be shown the love and the fellowship.

We do pray in our parish prayer - That God would make the door of this church wide enough to welcome all who need human love, fellowship and care.

Each one of us have to answer ourselves as to who we see as outsiders, who we see as those whom we struggle to love. And then we are reminded that we are to reach out in love to them.

The second theme I see as important is that of peristance ... I wonder if we were to encounter Jesus as that woman did that day - would we have been brave enough to ask, would we have left it when he responded as he did that day, would we have pressed in and kept going not letting up... being persistant in our prayers.

This evening we have prayed, we have asked, we have sung our praises. I wonder what is on your heart and my heart. What are we longing for, what would we love to see God doing in our lives, for our family members, for our friends. Are there things we want changed in our world.

Pressing in and praying earnestly is something we as a parish need to do - on the service sheet you will see the priorities of prayer for this season - the things we need as a family to ask our father for this new academic year

Our organisations and leaders
Those who for what ever reason are not at church
Those who have young families
The planning of next summer’s mission trip
Those on our prayer list

Are we prepared to bring these things to the throne of God, are we prepared to be persistent? There is so much that we could say about prayer and how prayer works but it does begin by doing what that woman did that day and simply bringing the need before Jesus.

May we continually be surprised as to how God answers prayer, may we be surprised as to who comes along to our church, may we live up to the prayer that we pray for our parish. May we never turn anyone away from God because of our attitudes and pedjudices, and most of all may we be persistant in our prayers

In Jesus Name we pray


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Worship ...

This appeared recently on the 24-7 prayer website ... wonderfully simple!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Is Jesus

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

Who is Jesus?

This is the primary question to which each individual has to answer for themselves.

It is the question which the disciples had to answer

It is the question which the Jewish religious authorities had to answer

It is the question which the each member of the crowd which followed him had to answer

It is a challenging and potentially life changing question ... a question for each person in each generation.

It is challenging because of the implications of the answer given.

The Background

Take a look at the reading on the sheets in front of you ... The first verse shows the Background to this scene. Caesarea Philippi - I presumed that this was an ordinary villiage somewhere in 1st Century Israel ... somewhere with the flat roofed houses, markets etc etc. It was not until my recent trip to the Holy land and discovered that this was a unique place ... It is up in the mountains, the Golan Heights, it has been a place where in the past loads of pagan religions had their temples, where sacrifices to loads of different gods happened... It is also where one of the tributaries of the jordan springs up. There is a cave which has a spring ... it is known as the gate of hades because of the depth. So with all of this pagan choice of gods Jesus asks his disciples

The general question is asked Who do people say that the son of man is?

Some say John the Baptist

Others Elijah, Jerimiah or one of the prophets

This is an easy question for them to answer ... They have heard the talk, they have been in discussion with their friends, they hear the idle chit chat on the street. It is easy for them to answer about what others say.

The personal question is then asked - “but who do you say that I am?”

Peter answers with a profound answer ... an answer which has enoromous implications.

The word Messiah conjures up the jewish longing ... the fulfilment of all the scriptures

The word Messiah trumphs the prophets, the priests, the kings which have gone before

The word Messiah is not used by Peter lightly here.

Simon Peter has come to this conclusion after all that he has seen and heard, the teaching, the miracles, his own reflection, his discussion with the others.

Simon Peter and the disciples lives change at this point ... He is given the name peter ... meaning rock ... he is given the task of building church ... building church ... the first time that this word has been uttered ...he is to build a new community.

The Background was a pagan marketplace of all sorts of gods

The General Question was asked

and the Personal question was asked

The Background was a pagan marketplace of all sorts of gods

In our world today - there is a market place of ideologies, of all sorts of beliefs, all sorts of weird and wonderful things. gods made of all sorts of things ... maybe not found in temples but certainly gods nonetheless.

Within this marketplace the same questions are posed. The General question is asked

who do people say that the son of man is ...

The Theos research also examined who people thought Jesus was.

Two in five (40%) said they believe that Jesus was the son of God and

nearly half (47%) that he was a holy prophet.

When asked whether they thought Jesus was a good man and wise teacher, 66% of people agreed.

Only 11% disagreed.

That is familiar when we read the gospel account

We know what people say ... The question then turns personal

Who do you say that the son of man is ? ... If he is who he claims to be ... if he is the messiah, the Son of God ... then like Peter ... our call is then a call to surrender, a call of service, the call to prayer, the call to live lives worthy of the calling to which we have recieved, the call to work within the mission of God with everything we have

It is pretty black and white ... either we are involved wholeheartedly or not involved in this mission.

Either we love the Lord our God with our whole heart soul mind and strength and love our neigbour as ourselves or we don’t ... Jesus is pretty clear on this challenge.

This is the call to Christian Discipleship ... This is the question which we all are asked ...

“ Who do you say that Jesus is?”

Here is a quote from Bono ... Lead Singer of U2

Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius.

But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook.

Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet.

I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that.

But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah.

At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was -the Messiah - or a complete nutcase.

If he was and is Messiah ... then we all have questions to ask of ourselves as to how we are living and how much impact Messiah has in our lives and in our daily work.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bono on Grace

On wednesday evening our Bible Study was looking at God's grace

One of the best and frankest description on the implications of Grace that I have read is this piece of an interview with U2's Lead Singer Bono

Bono: ... It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

.Bono You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics - in physical laws - every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah - or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched - Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Awwayas. Used by permission of Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the website at While the book includes numerous passages of Bono discussing his Christian faith, it also includes occasional salty language from both parties.)Copyright © Christian Music Today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The potential of small things

A sermon preached on Sunday 24th July at 10:30 Service in St. Columba's Parish Church

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at a few of Jesus' Parables ... the sower and the seed, the wheat and the weeds,

'Seeding Fava' photo (c) 2010, Klearchos Kapoutsis - license:

Potential can be defined as capable of being or becoming

Over the course of the past few days I have been looking over the first parable in the set which we read ...The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

The seed is planted with potential .. it is capable of being a bush, or becoming a bush... it has potential.

All seed have the potential. Teachers look at young people in Primary School and say that they have great potential. We look at the world today and see that it has great potential ... it is capable of being or becoming something fantastic.

There is also negative potential ... the human being has also the potential of doing great harm. Yesterday as I was at home I switched on to BBC News Channel as it was covering the events which happened in Oslo. One human being causing so much harm to so many people, as I watched that then news started breaking about a train crash in China, and further news about Singer and Song Writer Amy Winehouse, and then more news about the nurse who is alleged to have tampered with medical products.

Potential ... each and everyone has great potential ... but our God given best potential is to live as citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. To use our gifts and skills, our talents in the way God intended us to, to make an impact for good on the world around us. But he will never force us to make these decisions.

God has always been a God of freedom,

God always has been God of Transformation,

God has always been a God of potential,

When we look down through the pages of History God has used ordinary people to transform this world... and the truth is he still does it today.

Down through the years Christians have been at the forefront of some of the major things we now take for granted ... In Modern Society we could point to Christians

Men and Women who saw thing were not right, that humanity was not living to its full potential and who decided to do something about it.

• Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children - first laws to protect children from abuse (Rev B Waugh)

• Barnardo's - world's largest orphange system (T.J. Barnardo)

• Richard Oastler campaigned to protect children through the Factory Reform Bill and Anti-Poor movement.

• Almshouses birthed and were the first to offer formal care for the elderly and disabled in society.

• Prison Reform pioneered by the Quakers.

• Braille system for the blind developed by Louis Braille.

• Pioneers of free health care for the terminally ill (Douglas Macmillan)

• Advocates of International Fair Trade (Tearfund)

• International Housing for the poor - Habitat for Humanity (Millard Fuller).

  • Leprosy Mission - caring for those no-one else wants (Dr. P.Wilson)
  • Abolition of Slave Trade (W.Wilberforce and wider Church)

• Pioneers of Microfinance for poor countries (D.Bussau)

• Pioneers of education for the deaf (Rev. Gallaudet)

• Fathers of modern Foster Care (Charles L. Brace)

Simple Ideas which we now take for granted ... but which came from Christians living out their faith in their own fields of influence.

All of us are called as part of our Christian faith to be involved in the mission of God where we are ... of doing the small things which we can ... even though we think that they are so small and insignificant ... of remaining faithful to the small things and seeing them grow into something which is of great significance, of living lives which mean something ...

situated under the covers of each of the pews ... you will find that there are some seeds really small seed ... but seed which have the potential to grow ...

Sunday by Sunday we come to church ... we read readings, we hear sermons, we receive communion we commit ourselves to be living sacrifices ... and we go out. .... the past few weeks we have heard loads of things about Good soil, about producing a good crop .... there is a real challenge I believe.

As a church we are called to grow ... we are called to develop ... we are called to find out more about God ... we all have potential to do great things for God.

Perhaps we are not called to start a new organisation as some of those people were

Prehaps we are called to find out more about God’s will is for our lives

Perhaps we are called to get involved in something new here

Perhaps there is some particular need / injustice that we are concerned about

Perhaps we would like to get involved in a particular role in church life

The potential is great ... the seed that you have in your hand has the pontential to produce a vegetable, a tree, a flower ... each something different.

The only way we can know what we have got is to plant it and see what happens.

None of us know really what the future will hold, nor what our faith will look like in days weeks or months ahead but we do need to take care of it.

If you are up for a challenge, take the seed, and plant it, give it some water, and see what is produced!

If you are up for a challenge, take the faith which you already have, add a wee bit of Word and Christian Fellowship and see what could be produced

God always has been God of Transformation,

God has always been a God of freedom,

God has always been a God of potential,

It has always been up to us ... either we plant the seed and allow it to fulfill its full potential or we keep it in our pockets and don’t let it grow.

As a church we get the variety and the nourishment when everyone finds their full kingdom potential.

I Look forward to hearing in the next months as to what has been produced!

Monday, July 18, 2011


A Sermon Preached at 7pm Late Evening Office in St. Columbas Parish Church 17th July 2011

Text Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


This evening I would like to consentrate on the first bit of our reading

Our lectionary is great as it causes us to take a balance in our Christian life, sometimes we are caused by our readings to get out and do things, sometimes we are caused to reflect on Sin and then to repent, sometimes we are caused to think about others and other times we are reminded to pause, to take stock of where we are.

Every single one of us needs rest ... we need rest to recharge our batteries, we need rest to re-engage with God, we need rest to remind us where we are and what we are doing. Our american brothers and sisters may call it a “Time Out”.

We are spiritual beings, we are called to take time out, to reflect on how much more there is to life. We are called to mediatate on Scripture, to discover the richness of prayer.

The greatest resource that we have, the most limited resource we have on this planet is time. How we use this time allotted to us speaks so much about our priorities.

Over the past couple of months I have been very concious of this ... I have met lots of people in homes the length and breadth of the parish who are extremely busy either with work or dealing issues within their families.

I also know from speaking with Good school friends that spending time with the important people in their lives is difficult - due to other demands on their time.

It is one of the reasons that I am I running with the idea of Pause. Simply taking “Time out”. Of giving people the excuse to meet up for a picnic lunch, or a cup of coffee and a chat detail of the events are in the magazine.

The whole Idea of Pause is to use it as an excuse be honest ... I’m very happy if nobody turns up ... as I would be glad if 100’s do! if you cant get out to the pause things in the magazine ... please don’t worry ... It is simply an excuse to take a break from the norm. To meet up with friends, to encourage one another.

To do what those disciples were trying to do in that boat ... to get away and pause but pause with a purpose ... to be with Jesus and with one another.

We are called to be people who do pause, If the all powerful Jesus and his disciples needed to take time out how much more do we.

Every single one of us has a spiritual side to our lives ...

Nobody is called to a 24/7 Job, we all need to take time out, to an active rest which can sustain us but as Christians we are called to life in all its fullness. And here in lies the tension of being and doing, of as Mars Bar’s famously.... Working, Resting and Playing

It is my prayer that we discover what this means in our lives. That we would find places in which we can pause, that we can build into our lives a rhythm of places where we can be fed, challenged, where we can process how we are developing in our walk with God and then put into practice what we are thinking.

A couple of practical questions

  1. How in the past week, month and year have you rested?
  2. How in the past week, month and year have you taken time out with God?
  3. How in the past week, month and year have you done something practical for God?

Let us Pray

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

A season to grow

We are all living in a busy and complicated world

The rhythm of times and seasons in the church calendar is useful

... there are times when we are really busy and there are time when things quieten down

... there are times when we celebrate and times when we are more reflective

... there are times when we remember certain events and times when we look at general points

This sunday sees the beginning of the green colours in church which are ordinary... pastoral ... growth colours reminding us that we are indeed called to grow, to live

In this period between Trinity Sunday and the start of advent we will be reading Bible Passages which are focused on living out the Good News, of applying principles so that we grow as Christians, so that we become wiser in our learning, so that we become a wee bit more like Jesus.

Time and again Jesus used images from agriculture ... seed, roots, vines, wheat to speak about growth.

The readings at this time of year have been chosen to challenge congregations around the world to put into practice the whole of the Gospel - to apply the passages to our everyday situations.

Inspiration for sermons come in all sorts of different circumstances ... from all sorts of different people

I am learning in the curatage garden that there is a need to not only feed and water the plants but I also need to remove things that might damage them. I do love taking advice from people who know what they are talking about. Just this week Jim came and said that the window boxes are looking well but he also said ... look there is something damaging those young plants ... you need to get pellets to remove those pests.

Jim knows what he is talking about ... and sure enough they have gone. I needed to take action.

Every single one of us is called to grow, we are called on an amazing journey to know God better, we are called to develop, to become more like Jesus. Our reading this morning calls this sanctification ... a process of development ... Sunday by Sunday we come to church to worship, to hear the word of God proclaimed, to be strengthened when we hear it, to recieve Holy Communion, to be reminded the length Jesus has gone to for us and to be sent out our way, to wherever and whoever we are serving this week.

In our Epistle reading this morning we are reminded of the things which could so easily prevent us from growing up in the faith. Paul writing to the Church in Rome reminds them of sin and all that that word conjours up in our minds.

Not one of us are perfect ... all of us need to hear the message that we are all called to reflect on the stuff in our lives which we need to get rid of. If we don’t take action like my little flowers we may be hurt, we will be damaged by it.

When we talk about sin ... we could rhyme of a whole list of ways to sin ... but as we were preparing the current all age worship service sheet

we found the wording

Forgive us Lord

when we do the wrong thing,

when we say the wrong thing

even when we think the wrong thing

None of us have to look too far to see things that we have done, said or thought which are not of God’s will

When we compare our love to that of 1 Cor or our actions to that of what the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us

As we begin this period of growth over the summer period how are you and I going to grow, how are we going to put into place in our lives places of spiritual food, reflection, challenge and indeed community.

In St. Columba’s our prayer has been and will continue to be that all ages would be welcomed, would recieve love and fellowship. That all envy, pride and hatred would not be found here. That those who are tempted would find help, that those who are grieving would recieve comfort, that there would be mercy and place of growth


It is to this end that we want to provide Bible Study right through the summer on a wednesday evening ... currently looking at a book called Knowing God. Each Chapter is a stand alone study so if you want to come along please do let myself or the rector know ... copies of the chapters will be available

We also want to provide during the summer months dates, times & places to meet and be together, ... for all ages... Today we are heading to Tollymore. Other times will appear in the mid summer magazine

We simply want to give people the excuse, the space and time to pause, to chat, to be together and to renew strength and go on their way in hope and Joy.

We do live in a busy and complicated world ... church is called to stand out, to be a place where all can belong to a loving and caring community. It is our prayer in this community would grow into and would know that we are here for one another through good and bad. For this to happen we all need to play our part.

I do believe that this is Faith and Growth in action

Let us pray

Help us Lord to grow, to become more like you in our attitudes, in our words and deeds. Amen