Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Holy Land Series #1 - Jerusalem at a glance and Mount of Olives

It is only now that I have had time to sit back and reflect on Holy Land Trip.

This wee mini Series hopefully will recall some of the sights of my recent Pilgrimage with 25 others to the Holy Land, the sights, sounds, readings and prayers as well as meditations upon the readings which we used whilst out in the Land of so much history and faith story.
Our Pilgrimage began in Jerusalem, a fascinating city
A City which is Holy to Christian, Jew and Muslim where many middle eastern cultures meet and live together within the city walls. Where there is tension, where there is creativity. It is hard to capture the heart of this city ... it is unlike anywhere else in the world today.

As we entered the city by coach late at night we read Psalm 122 ... what an awesome experience it was to be in a city where so much of our faith is centred. When we think of Jerusalem we think of the temple, the streets where Jesus walked, the cross, the tomb, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the miracles.

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standingwithin your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.


God of our joy and gladness,

as we prepare to enter the city of Jerusalem

help us to take to our hearts its modern bustle, busy traffic, bright lights and at the same time to remember its divisions and ancient ways, its centres of faith for Jew and Muslim,

and all that it means to us and to all Christian people.

Protect all who live here from everything that makes for violence and hatred and keep all who visit from prejudice and self-centredness.

Bless us, who come to this holy place as pilgrims on a journey of faith.

In your mercy and love, inspire us by your Holy Spirit and speak to us through your Son, as we follow his steps to the cross and place of resurrection.

Give us joy in our hearts, keep us praising!

- and in your mercy hear our prayer –

through Jesus Christ our Lord.



As Pilgrims on our journey we set out the next day (First Full day) to explore the Mount of Olives ... What a hillside, when the bus leaves you at the top of the hill you have no idea what lies before you ... a complete mix of emotions, stories and teaching. This is the mount of olives, the real mountain.

We began when the bus left us at the top of the hill.

Churches seem to be built on every location ... more about that as we go along but as we begin we begin at the top of the Mount of Olives with the Church of the Ascension ... which has been turned into a mosque, looked after by the muslims but allowed access by the Christians.

As we progressed down the mountain we discovered many churches ... The Church of Pater Noster --- the Lord's Prayer. A wonderful church which around its walls has the Lord's Prayer in so many different languages.

The Benedictine Monastery was our next port of call, an awesome place of tranquility, peace and worship. As we sat in that place our first singing as a group took place ... Father, we adore you, lay our lives before you, how we love you ... Jesus ... Spirit.

From here we progressed into exploring the sights of the vista of the Kidron Valley overlooking Jerusalem.

The graves of those Jews who desire to see Messiah entering Jerusalem

As we progressed down this mountain side we encountered our next church, the church of dominus Flevit Where Jesus is supposed to have wept over .
Reading at Dominus Flevit: Luke 19: 41-44

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’


Lord Jesus Christ,

Today we share your tears for the cities of the world;

Still we have not loved the things that make for peace.

We weep for the divided cities;

where brother fights with brother,

where anger feeds on hatred,

where prejudice blinds the eyes of compassion,

and even religion divides,

where children are taught to hate,

and old men relish ancient wrongs.

We weep for cities of oppression:

where iron law imprisons freedom,

where thought is curbed and conscience stifled,

where the questioning spirit is called a traitor,

where art and civilising truth grow barren,

and each must think in manner as his neighbour.

We weep for cities of poverty:

where children live, but die too soon,

where eager hands can find no work,

where hunger rules and aid is short,

where mothers clutch uncomprehending young,

and where the little we could do, we fail to do.

We weep for our cities and for ourselves;

we have not learned the things that make for peace.


turn tears to love, and love to work.

Turn work to justice,

and all that makes for peace. Amen.

(Donald Hilton)

There is something extremely moving about this place, a place where Jerusalem can be seen in all its complexity and frustration. In its religiousity, and poverty, in its wealth and in its hussle and bustle.

As we progress into the Valley, we encounter the Garden of Gethsemane

Once again we need to in this place strip away the church and the tourist side of this site and look at the 1st Century olive trees, the garden where Jesus himself was arrested, where we saw the failure of the disciples to keep watch. Where he was betrayed by a kiss.

Mark 14: 32-41

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him

In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father

through Christ the Saviour of the world.

Father, in this place you Son was betrayed,

earlier that evening he had washed his disciples’ feet.

We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.

Lord, hear us

and humble us.

At the Last Supper, he prayed for his disciples to be one.

We pray for the unity of the Church

Lord, hear us

and unite us.

On that same day he prayed here for the cup to pass from him.

His disciples slept, but his mission was fulfilled.

We pray for courage

Lord, hear us

and renew our zeal.

In this place your Son Jesus Christ accepted the cup of death

and looked forward to the new wine of the Kingdom.

We remember those persecuted for their faith and for all who have died in the peace of Christ.


Being in this Garden, a filled with grief, burden and failure, turmoil and struggle, not a happy or plesent place to be but a place where we do find ourselves sometimes.


And this is just the morning of the first day in Jerusalem.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Marathon Updates

Our Parish Team are setting off to walk the marathon, hopefully via twitter we'll have updates on how things are progressing during each leg of it.

Watch the twitter feed to the right hand side of this post and we will let you know once the batton is passed on!

and our official finishing time!


A sermon preached at Choral Evensong, Sunday 1st May 2011 in St. Columbas
Daniel and the Lions Den ... another Childhood Bible story, a serene comic book story

Daniel at his window praying
King ordering Daniel into a den of lions
Lions being like pussy cats
King being shocked in the morning when Daniel is still alive

I just wonder do we need to re-discover the horror of this story, the sacrifice which Daniel faced, the faith which was bold enough to stand up to Government, the wisdom of choosing the battles to fight, where we need to witness to our faith.

Daniel was living at at time of great upset for the Jewish People, people who had been carried away into exile by Babylon and now living in what was Persian exile after the conquest . Under the regime of King Darius. However Daniel had risen through the ranks and had kept his faith in God, despite ridicule and persecution .. he had interpreted Dreams for previous kings, he had interpreted the handwritting on the wall, he had been thrown into the firey furnace with collegues for not recognising and worshipping the King Nebuchadnezzar as God.

Daniel had been through all of this and still had found favor with the king. He had risen to heights within the Persian Empire

So we see he had seen much through his life ... Ups and Downs but God was remaining faithful even in the most desparate of circumstances.

How could he make sense of all of this?

He was faced with lions ... sure and certain danger and death

He knew what it was to face fire, he knew what it was to face an angry king, he knew what it was to speak to royalty, he had been prepared by God.

From this story, and from most, if not all stories in the Bible there is a continuity, a gradual learning to deal with situations, of learning, of taking what has happened in the past and build upon it in order to face the future.

Think of David as a Shepherd, rescued sheep ... to being the rescuer of nations
In the new Testament The disciples from fishermen to fishers of men

I am sure there would indeed have been terror in Daniel mind thinking about what was going to happen to him, but there would have also been a memory of how God had been faithful in the past - through other experiences.

One of the privelliges of parish ministry is chatting with people about their experiences of God today, of hearing in the happy as well as the darkest moments of life. I am convinced that God is a God of experience, of learning, of allowing us to experience stuff in our own time. I know over the past two years in particular there have been situations I have faced which 4 or 5 years ago I would not have coped with the same way but God has been equipping me to deal with those situations.

The same is true I believe for all of us here ... what has happened in our past, God uses for Good, perhaps so that we can understand and support others going through the same. There is a great verse which I love

1 Cor 10:13 ... No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Daniel was called to withstand a great temptation, to give up on praying ... in fear of his Life, he didn’t give in to that temptation but rather relied on his God, took God’s promise to heart and dared to believe.

I wonder when we are faced with anykind of challenge, opposition, circumstance Which all of us will be at some time or another, do we have enough experience of God to rely upon to get us through, do we have that dependancy upon God that will sustain us.

Are we prepared to pray in the good times as well as the tough times, are we prepared to allow God to guide us to do what his will is in the less scary times, in the ordinariness of life and then depend upon him when the winds blow and the storms of life do come.

Let us pray

In darkness and in light, In trouble and in joy help us O Lord to focus on your word and be about the things which help us. In Jesus name we pray Amen

Baptism / Easter Sermon

An All-Age Sermon preached in St. Columba's on Sunday 1st May 2011

Father, as we explore your word today, help us to think about it and to put it into practice. In Jesus Name. Amen

While I bring my props into place take a listen to this piece of music ...


Over the course of the next few minutes I am going to test your general knowledge with a set of questions - The answer you give will either be true, false or don’t know.

Seeing we are in church I am going to trust you to keep your own score ... Like good anglicans we are going to do a good bit of sitting down and standing up

If your answer the statement I read is true ... I want you to stand up

If your answer the statement is false ... I want you to sit down

If you don’t know and want to pass then sit in the middle ... neither up nor down!

If you are right you get 2 points, If you pass you get 0 points and if you get it wrong you get 1 point taken off!

1. The American inventor of the deep-freezing process was a Mr Birdseye?

2. Sideburns were named after a prominant wearer, a General Ambrose E Burnside?

3. Scotland Yard was originally the name of a medieval house used by Scots Kings visiting London?

4. The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race has never ended in a dead heat?

5. The first non-white British MP was elected over 100 years ago?

6. The Queen holds UK Passport No.1?

7. 3 times more people were killed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake than on the Titanic in 1912?

8. Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again Sam” in Casablanca?

9. A granny, a sheepshank and a bowline are all parts of chimney?

10. You can still be* executed for certain crimes in England?

* Time has run out.. but I’ve started so I’ll Finish!

1. True

2. True

3. True

4. False (it did in 1877)

5. True (in 1892)

6. False (she doesn’t have one)

7. False (It was reversed)

8. True

9. False all are types of know

10. False

This is a Baptism Service, a Service where there are lots of questions, In a few moments I am going to be asking lots of questions to the Harry’s parents, to his God Parents, Questions for all of us as a congregation ...

Serious questions as to what we believe, what we hold to be true in our Christian Faith. In church lots of questions are asked and how we answer them is crucially important, actually when we take the answers to heart they should have life changing consequences for all of us.

In our baptism service we are asked do we believe in God, in our confirmation service we are asked the same questions and we take ownership of them.

In our wedding service we are asked will we love, honor and keep our spouse until death do us part ...

They are not General Knoweldge questions, but questions about our specialist subject, questions in the baptism service are about ... faith in God ... about what we believe as Christians.

In this service we are going to be asked certain questions do answer them, do think about them.

In our reading this morning which Helen read for us we read about Thomas, who is forever known as the doubter, he was saying “I don’t know”, until he saw, until he came and Jesus showed himself to him.

Thomas that day turned his whole life around, from doubt to faith, from I don’t know to, yes it is true

We we are asked in the Baptism Service Do you believe in God? may we be able to testify I believe in God

But may it not end here in church but may we take the answers out and when people ask us in work, in the shops, at home, at school, Do you believe in God may we be able to say Yes and indeed be able to give reasons for our beliefs ... our world needs to know!

When we come to the questions in the Baptism part of this service, the bits that the congreation have to answer ... do think about them and what they mean for you

The bits which parents & sponsors are answering on behalf of Harry ... think about your own baptism and how you are fulfilling those answers.

Let us pray