Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Carol - Midnight Communion

A Sermon preached on Christmas Eve in Inniscarra

Christmas past present and future.
A sermon for Christmas Eve Holy Communion. 
He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humanity as much as that One Solitary Life.

This evening we come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nathereth, The Christ, The Son of God. We do so remembering that this one solitary life brings together all things earthly and heavenly.
That things changed for good the night the angels sang the first Christmas carol.
I wonder for you what does this annual remembrance mean?

Charles Dickens in his book A Christmas Carol --- brought together 3 aspects of life … to get Ebenezer Scrooge to look back, to look at his present life and reflect on the future. By doing so life changed for him so incredibly

Is it a time to look back ? – a time to remember the past year or years …  a time to think about happy times as family, a time of fondly remembering those things which you have enjoyed.
Christmas has always been for Christians a time of good news and great joy for all the people. However we must admit that at times the joy is sometimes marred with pain as we remember loved one who are no longer with us. As we deal with issues in families and with friends. 
As years go on … the importance of remembering and looking back, of learning from our experiences is so vitally important. But we need to remember that the Birth of the child in the manger has changed things … has opened up for us a way to understand life and death, purpose of living and hope beyond the grave.

As we look back - Have we grasped the amazing message of Christmas … that in the Child whose birth we celebrate … it is possible to understand amazing truths of the triumph of Light in the darkness, hope over despair and life over death

Is it a time for you to look around now?  - A time to enjoy the moment … tomorrow/ or today … a time filled with expectation, of loving those who gather at the table, a time when all will be well with your world?, a time of celebration, a time of relaxing and feasting.
And rightly so … In the gospels there is an amazing picture of the Kingdom of God as a feast, of enjoying life … life in all its fullness.  Christmas is a time to remember … Immanuel God with us.
I wonder as you look around … where do you see God with you? … do you see God with you in your work … in your home … in your friends …wherever you may be. As we pack into this church this evening we do so as family of God in this little corner of Ireland … Not simply to remember an historical event … as historians remember, or to re-enact a battle as actors do … but we are here to worship the Living God, to receive strength and to commit ourselves to following through.
Christmas is a time when we gaze in wonder of the events of that first Christmas in Bethlehem … far from us both in time, geography and culture but it is a event which still challenges the powerful and the weak.
 As you look around you this evening … who is Christ to you?

Is Christmas a time to look to the future? – In the angels message to the shepherds … the message is for all the people … we are included in this message … the question is what are we going to do with this message?
Are we content with simply seeing Christmas a nice tradition or are we prepared for the adventure of following this Christ Child … of taking his radical and life changing message and allowing this message to transform our thinking, our speaking, our doing not just for one or two days but for the rest of our life.
In the Dicken’s book Scrooge is given a bleak picture of what his life & those around about him could be like in the future if things did not change.
But he was given a chance to change … and change he most certainly did.
The good news of Christmas, the good news of Christians is that Change is possible … yes we cannot change the past, we can decide how we are going to react in the present and we certainly can change our future.

In his Christmas message the new Church of Ireland Archbishop said “In this Christmas season, we are each challenged to connect or reconnect with our family, friends and others who are without friends, but also to connect or re–connect our lives with a faith that tells us we are each loved in Jesus Christ, and that calls us to carry Christ’s love into the dark and lonely places of this world, near or far”.

This Christmas… it is my hope and prayer for all here that we enjoy this Christmas time but also that we allow Christ to change our hopes and mind, that we are able to change what needs to be changed in our lives … and live our lives for him.

Let us pray

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Purpose Blog #2 - It's not about you

Rick Warren begins his book with a radical statement as he sets out in looking at purpose of life ...

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU!

Then the question has to be asked ... "What is it about?"

As I have been thinking over some stuff over the past few weeks, and been reading various books it seems to me that the frameworks which we build in our lives are so vitally important.

Sometimes those frameworks stand the stresses and strains of life ... and sometimes they buckle under pressure. I remember, I think it was technology in High School when we were given the task of building bridges out of straws to span a certain distance. How those straws were arranged dictated how when weight was applied the straws would buckle.


'_IGP2629' photo (c) 2008, Samuel Mann - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Engineers also tell us how structures are arranged in big buildings dictate how they behave if there is excessive weight applied, if winds blow, if heat is applied, if cold is applied, if the earthquakes come.

Similarly as this picture shows sometimes structures can protect but sometimes those structures do fail.

Thinking about these things and building in structure into our lives is so vitally important, or strengthening the structure which we already have is something vitally important. Not only for the storms and rough times of life. But we gotta remember that Jesus said that he has come so that we may have life and life to it's full.

All structures in our world have a purpose

If the purpose of your life is not you what then is it? to answer that question we need to build a structure.

Examples of some of these structures
- Time out with friends & family to do fun stuff ... striking a balance
- Prayer Time ... time out with God
- Time to reflect, evaluate, say sorry and move on
- Time to read & study Bible
- Meeting with other Christians for Bible Study / chat
- Regular worship with Christian Community
- Living out the lessons of Bible Study
- Remembering to have a sense of humour!

For some reading these things might be thinking these are not part of anything you've ever done ... but do give them a try ... they do indeed work.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Purpose Blog #1 - some things to listen to

It's amazing how things work out ... The first set of readings in Purpose Driven Life .. the book which I set out out on this week to look at (See previous blog) are under the title of "What on earth am I here for?"

Truth be told over the past few days I haven't managed to sit down and read anything! But I have been listening to a few things during quiet time which have been very helpful in looking at the question from 2 people and I share these with you simply as reminders of what God is up to and what he might be doing in our midst and we're not even aware of it... they are all linked to purpose and living out John 10:10 - Jesus said A thief comes to kill and destroy ... but I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly. A very important lesson for all of us today.

Both of these audios are from Willowfield Parish Church recently - The first is from someone who is working with Christians Against Poverty who has seen their life transformed by God.

The Second is a sermon preached by George Newell ... who is seeing lives transformed by God in community in East Belfast


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Purpose Driven Life

It has been great now to be getting settled in here in Blarney, to meet loads of people from all sorts of backgrounds and positions in society.

Over the next few months I hope to work my way through a book which many of the study groups / home groups have been working their way through and simply fire some thoughts onto the Blog ... looking my way through some very important questions of faith, life and things generally. I do this combining Scripture and Church life,  the text of Rick Warren's book as well as through experiences.

If you wish to join me on this ... what  Rick calls Journey please do feel free to email me, comment on the blog, on facebook or invite me out for a coffee!

I hope to start tomorrow but it will not be an everyday affair ... as things around here are busy but I will try my best to keep up with reading and blogging.

The Structure begins with the fudalmental question ... a basic one which lies in all of us ...

 "What on earth am I here for?" I wonder how you would answer that question?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Community at Christmas

What a great time of year to be starting out in a community.

 I write this blog just after the Blarney Christmas tree lights have been switched on ... It was great to meet ... retailers, community reps and loads of people involved in so many ways in and around the community.

 I look forward over the months and years to come to get more involved in the work and witness of this community as it supports one another and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

 At this time of year there is so much going on, so many things happening in this community.

Based on the number of photo's that were taken this evening ... there will hopefully be a few to be linked to in the days ahead :-)

 PS ... I love the wand that was used ... instead of the traditional button ... The creativity and ingenuity of members of this parish knows no bounds! ... Well done Kate & Co!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baptism & Kingship of Christ

This morning we celebrated in Blarney the Baptism of Holly using the whole of the Baptism Service.

It was a fantastic celebration of God's gifts as well as his rule in our lives.

The sermon was geared towards thinking about kingship and about our idea of rule in our lives

If you or I were High King of Ireland what would we do?

Some Ideas included

No Taxes
School Holidays increased
Sharing laws so no one would go with out

In a very short clip from the Lion King we discovered the young Simba had ideas

That he could boss people about
That he wouldn't have to do what others tell him to do
That he could run about and play


For us as Christian we have a king ... we sang loads of songs about worship and about his rule in our lives.

Today we celebrate a commitment, a decision which parents and God Parents make to have God's Rule in the Life of Holly ... They made a solemn promise which they will try and keep

Do you turn to Christ as saviour?

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

Big questions --> basically saying that you are open to God's rule in your life and wanting that rule in the life of Holly.

What does that Rule look like
- truth
- Laws
- Living out the values of the kingdom

Importance of Worship
- Kneel before the Throne - day in day out
- Prayer - the privilege of access to the king

For all of those who have been baptised we have a challenge to live under the kingship of christ
obeying his laws and commandments

Of living out his provision for us - No better way to live



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Faithful One



A Fantastic song which we began our service with this morning ... A reminder that God is with us whatever we are going through.

Let Us ... Do what?

Sermon notes prepared for Holy Communion Service on Sunday 18th November 2012 in Church of The Resurrection Blarney.

Epistle  Hebrews 10: 11-25
The Gospel Reading - Mark 13: 1-8

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 Last week we looked at the preparations for this passage ... we looked at the fact that Jesus is High Priest, he has sorted sin and the consequences of sin ... even in our messy lives ... sin is sorted and also that for those who are in Christ ... salvation is sorted ... as we come to the Epistle passage this morning we come to the out workings of this.

What does it mean, what can we do?.

 The Letter to the Hebrew’s is trying to sort out for the early church in one location what it means to know the theory and also to put that theory into practice ...

 It is about trying to make sense of the changes which have happened in their generation.

 In the passage that we have before us this morning ... the preparations have been made and now the church - which was uncertain as to what they should be doing - the Holy Spirit through the writer of this letter is trying to work out what needs to be done.. he does work this out systematically...

 Remember the context ... It’s one where there are issues ... real issues of people drifting away, of looking to other gods, other ways to live, other philosophies, within the church there, there were those who thought that they could could be a Christian on their own, there were real struggles.

 It is into this world which the writer is writing Today we get a summary of what the writer is contending for in this letter Through Christ ... once repented ... sins are no more ... we have a clean slate BUT we have a responsibility to live out this new way of life ....

 And this is where we are today This is where the let us passages come into their own ... there are 5 lettuces in our passage this morning

'lettuce' photo (c) 2009, liz west - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 Let us 1 - Draw near to God with a sincere heart - in the full assurance of faith

This is a privilege which we have ... that we can come to God ... to our father, to Creator God who knows and loves us unconditionally... that we can simply say ... Look God I don’t know what to do or what to say ... but I want to know what you want me to do or say. I wonder today are there issues which we need to bring to God We can bring issues big and small ... to what God want us to do.

 Let Us 2 - Hold Unswevingly to the hope that we profess ... the Greek word here is rooted in the image of grabbing something and not being prepared to let go for anything ...

Baboon story ...

 Not letting go of it ... Many things in our world are telling Christians that it doesn't make sense but for those who have encountered the living God we know that this is the only thing that actually does make sense. That other philosophies, other stories make much less sense that what we proclaim. The passage then goes a bit further ... and proclaims why ... for he who promised is faithful Throughout Scripture there are many many promises ... to do with life, relationships, death, resurrection, provision and so on. He who promises is faithful... What promises do you and I need to take hold of and hold unswervingly to?

<< highlight Biblical Promises>>

 Let Us 3 - consider how we may spur each other on

The other 2 Lettuces ... could be taken as individuals but I don't think they are meant to ... but the third is definitely a corporate statement ... Nobody is called to do life alone ... outside of community ... we were created to be in community... when we try to do life alone it gets messed up ...

The church when it’s at its very best is when we draw along side one another and do what we can for one another ... when we ask how are you? Really ... when we get beyond I’m fine ... when we get down to opening up to each other on a personal level ... appropriately ... when we are able to help those who need help ... when we are open to receive the help that others can do and encouraging one another in what they are already doing

 I know it’s not quite the right time of year for resolutions ... but as we progress through the year I wonder could we integrate these things into our Christian Walk ...

 Let us 4 & 5 (in some versions) state that we are to
Not give up meeting together and encourage one another

Highlight Importance of this in the local church in a small community such as ours

... Let us Draw Close to God ! ... in prayer and worship, in Bible Study, in taking time out to be with him Let us Hold Unswervingly to the hope that we profess ! ... to the promises which he has made Let us consider how we might spur each other on ! ... and allow ourselves to be spurred on by others, 

 For a small community encouraged in faith and in living our lives ! for God


 Collect
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that when he shall appear in power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

PC Prayer 
Gracious Lord, in this holy sacrament you give substance to our hope. Bring us at the last to that pure life for which we long, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sorted?

These are notes of preparation for a sermon preached in Church of The Resurrection Blarney on Sunday 11th November 2012
 
The theme = “Sorted?”

Based on the Epsitle reading for Sunday

Hebrews 9: 24-28

24For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.25Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own;26for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.27And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement,28so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

I don't know about you but I have been always been someone who struggles with saying something is sorted.
Sorting out ...  Black Bin Bags & Boxes
 
'Storage' photo (c) 2011, Ran Yaniv Hartstein - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I wonder do you have a fictional literary hero you can relate to? … Maybe this might tell you a bit about the minister you now have in Blarney … but my hero is one created by Richard Havergrave


Today I would love to tell you about a great character, one who is one of my all time favorite fictional hero’s ... Mr Messy ... this contains spoilers ... I hope you don’t mind


Mr Messy lives in a messy house
which has a messy Garden
but he is quite content with his messy life
Until he meets a couple of people
Mr Neat and Mr Tidy who are sorting out the garden of a neighbour

They offer Mr Messy their Services
Mr Messy reluctantly agrees
They tidy his house, his garden and basically show him that things can be different
Now the last thing that they do is sort Mr Messy out with a bath

and then Mr Messy at the end of the story laughs and says to Mr Neat and Mr Tidy that he shall have to change his name as he is no longer Messy.

Mr’s Neat and Tidy were able to show Mr Messy that there was a different way to live

When Mr Messy saw this he was able to try and live less messily
I Share this story with you for a few different reasons … Mr Messy reminds us that all of us … myself included have different things in our lives which are messy … perhaps it is our past, perhaps it is stuff we are going through at the moment.
This afternoon for our kids and parents we have Lighthouse

As I have read up on the Messy Church stuff … one thing grabbed my attention immediately … and I can certainly relate to it is that life in 2012 is messy and crazy … time is at a premium


Our world is a messy world … its a scary place … its a crazy place.


And the thing is that us who call ourselves christian are not immune from it at all … we are caught up in the mess …


This morning … I suppose I would like to remind us that somethings are sorted … some things we need to anchor oursleves to … points of reference from our two readings


Firstly In our Hebrews reading

Background to God's Dwelling - Tabernacle / Temple ...
'Jerusalem Temple' photo (c) 2006, midiman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 
Altar; Sacrifice
Sin is sorted … through Sacrifice – In OT times annually the priest would have had to go and sacrifice a goat to sort out the sin of the people … The Law demanded it
But Sin today is sorted through the working out of what happened to Jesus on the cross … as we accept this then


Salvation is sorted … through waiting on God – This is where some of us are this morning … we know that salvation is Sorted, we know that … discipline comes in


Today we know that there is no longer a temple ... but we read in scripture that we are the temple ... you and I are where God Dwells ...
 
In the messiness of Life … don't let that define who you are …

Sorting out isn't a moment in time … rather it is a life long process … in the church we love to have big long words for things … this is one of them … Sanctification … which for our purpose means Becoming more like Jesus.

Becoming more holy ... The Great High Priest has made that way open for us.
 
God is dwelling in us ... Sin is sorted through Christ  ... Salvation is sorted through Christ BUT sometime in our lives we but rubbish in with the good stuff in our lives.
 
How can we clear it out ...
 

I wonder are there areas in your life ...we know need sorted... are there areas we need cleaned up.


Do we need to know that SIN … the stuff thatwe know is not pleasing to God … can be dealt with. 'Factory in the Mirror' photo (c) 2008, Ruthanne Reid - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


Some of us need to be assured that salvation is sorted … we need to be assured that God is indeed for us … not against us … and in our waiting on him we might ask the question … where is God in my situation … where is God? He is in our problems … are we eagerly seeking him

God is dealing with us as individuals … whatever we are going through.

Our Hebrews passage reminds us that we can be included individually in the sacrifice … so that our sin can be sorted and our salvation … as we trust … as we eagerly wait for him.
 
Let us pray
 
 
 




Monday, November 05, 2012

Dedication

This sermon was preached at the United Service of the Carrigrohane Union of Parishes - on Sunday 4th November 2012 11am

The theme of the service was dedication ... and "blessed to be a blessing"

 At the beginning of my sermon I mentioned a video clip of Archbishop Albert Chama (Primate of Central Africa) ... a man dedicated to God ... who was sharing his faith ... clearly in his life

video
This video appears on anglican communion in Canada website http://missionmoments.anglican.ca/index.php/marks/videodetail/99 



Today is a day of new beginnings, It is a great privilege for me as associate minster to be beginning a new chapter of ministry here in the Carrigrohane Union.

It is great to see so many new faces, and to re aquiant myself with old friends and people who I have met on a few previous visits to the parish.

It is also a real encouragement to see so many people who have traveled so far ... family & friends from Banbridge and from Belfast. Thank you all for coming so far. And to John Auchmuty - Rector of St. Columba’s Thank you once again for alll your support & wisdom over the past 3 1/4 years.

Last Sunday ... in St. Columba’s I had the opportunity to look back ... over the past few years ... This morning is a morning to be looking forward ... looking into the future ... looking at what God is doing here and how we can invest for the future in this place.

There is an illustration which may be familiar to some of you ... A Professor in a university produced on the first day of his first year class ... a lesson which the year group never forgot...

He turned up with a Jar ... a Bag full on tennis balls, a Bag full of pebbles, A bag full of sand and a jug of water.

He first stuck tennis balls into the jar and asked the class if it was full ... the class replied yes ... no more tennis balls would go in

but he the produced ... bag full of pebbles ... with a gentle shake ... the pebbles filled the jar ... and again ... he asked the class was it full ... the class replied ... yes ... sure enough no tennis balls nor pebbles would go in ...

but then again ... he produced ... his sand ... 


What he was illustrating was the importance of priorities ... if the students put the important things in place then there would be plenty of room to put the others in ... BUT if he had focused on the unimportant, on the small things and forgot about the main things then some of them would have to be left out.

On this day of dedication ... we are focusing on the important things in the parish ... focusing on focusing on our faith, our vision for the future, focusing on our finances.

In our reading this morning - Jacob gets a Glimpse of the future and is reminded of the promise of Abraham ... of God’s blessing to him and his offspring

Three big areas and getting these right so that in the months and years to come all the other things - important as we as a parish reach out into the communities to which we belong... we can see that these have been included.


Focus on faith

Each of us here this morning have a story to tell, how you have come to this particular point, a story of how God has been working, guiding, directing, calling, teaching or whatever way we would like to describe our encounter with God.

Throughout the centuries of the church ... there always has been people with stories of faith - people who have dedicated their lives to God ... ordinary people with extrordinary stories to tell ... lives devoted to God’s service. At this service as we think about the theme of dedication we do so simply because God uses dedicated people living lives worthy of the calling to which God has given to them.

I look forward to hearing and witnessing what God has been and is doing in this place and sharing stories of what God has been doing in Belfast, in Zambia as well as my own journey of faith to this point.

Focus on the future

I’m excited to be here at this time ... I’m excited to be part of the team who under God will be able to see new things happen, strengthen what is already happening. I do believe that greater things than have happened in the past will happen in the future. But they will only happen when we work together, when we as the Body of Christ in this place share our skills and our talents, when we take time to pray, to study and to seek God’s direction.

Vision & Strategy group forming 

Focus on finances

Again this is one of the important things ... On this day of dedication ... it is taking what we have been blessed with and blessing others through that blessing.

We can choose to look on this negatively or positively ... time after time in Scripture we see the Israelites being commanded by God to give back to God a thank offering for all that he had given to him.

Dedication is choosing positive to give back to God a bit of what he has given to us. It is saying that we are in this all together ... we are investing in the vision this parish has for the future, we are investing in the faith stories of our friends and family members.

The day of dedication ... this is an extremely important day for this parish ... but I am also aware that there are many people who are here from other parishes from Seapatrick and from St. Columba’s - these things still hold true for ... wherever you come from...

Faith stories don’t just happen ... they need people to invest in “making disciples” ... that means time spent with people ... they need people to teach, they need people to chat, they need preachers, they need youth leaders, MU leaders, opportunities to put faith into action, they need people to reach out, to chat at work & people to challenge appropriately

Future vision ...Churches are called to grow, they are called to have vision ... in proverbs ... without vision people perish ... if churches don't know where they are going, or what they are about then they flounder... are you prepared to get behind the vision for the parish you are involved with ... whether that be the vision of this parish which you have read about???

or if you are from seapatrick ... it simply and succinctly is Growing in God’s Love and sharing it with others

or if you are in St. Columba’s the vision is expressed in the prayer for the parish ... making the door of the church wide enough to welcome all who need


finances ... We all know that finances are tight at the moment, and things are not good in the economy north or south ... are we prepared enough to invest in the priorities of the vision which our parishes are working towards to invest over the next year in seeing what God can do with the resources we have been given.

The challenge has been set out to people here in this union of parishes ... but it is a question wherever we regularly worship .... are we prepared to invest sacrificially and dedicate our resources of time, talents, ourselves to God and to the work to which he has called us to.

If we are ... are we prepared to lay down a marker, to remind ourselves of God’s provision, of his Goodness and loving Kindness to us?  

Sunday, November 04, 2012

I'm here!

Over the past 7 days a whirl wind of emotions and activities have taken place ...

From Belfast to Blarney
From Good byes to hellos
From packing to unpacking
From familiar to unfamiliar

And all the rest ... I have been sincerely gobsmacked by the thoughts and love shown both by St. Columba's people and Cork people as well. It was simply wonderful to witness.

As I Start out on a new ministry here in this small community in Blarney I am excited about the possibilities and the opportunities which we will witness in this place over the coming months and years ahead.

Some photos of the weekend will be posted here soon :-)


Monday, October 29, 2012

I know that i'm coming and going ...

Over the past week(s) emotional goodbyes have been said ...to friends, people who I have had the privilege of walking with through happy and sad times, through the ordinariness and through the messiness of life.

It was great to be able yesterday to say thank you to all those who have made the last 3 1/4 years very special indeed.  I have been in the very fortunate position to have had a great start to ordained ministry with John as Rector & the whole parish team here in St. Columba's. I hope over the next little while to pick up on some of the things I have already said as I look back ... and also look forward.





Tomorrow morning the Big van comes to take away my boxes and bags, setee's & book shelves as a new chapter begins in a far away land ... a land of castles, villiages and parks and lots of other things! ... a new adventure in faith and discipleship.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

You are my Vision ... Rend Collective

Below is a new take on an ancient hymn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Galatian Thoughts Continued

'freedom is all you need (148/365)' photo (c) 2011, Tim Geers - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/It has been great over the past number of weeks looking at Paul's letter to the Galatians.

Looking at the arguments which he is making to the Galatian Christians as to their Identity which should be in Christ rather than in becoming Jews.

There is always a balance here and this balance is vitally important for us as Christians.

On one hand we are not bound by Jewish Law ...not at all but in Christ we are not called nor allowed to be law-less ... actually on the contrary we are to be people who are respect the law.

In trying to get this balance .. this evening after Bible Study, sitting in the office I encountered something which I knew but in preparation for upcoming services I was looking at Romans 3 which seems to have a lot to say on this very topic.



Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,


‘So that you may be justified in your words,
   and prevail in your judging.’
But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!

 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written:
‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
   there is no one who has understanding,
     there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
   there is no one who shows kindness,
     there is not even one.’
‘Their throats are opened graves;
   they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of vipers is under their lips.’
   ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
   ruin and misery are in their paths,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
   ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

And this indeed is the balance Justification comes only through Christ and the redemption which he has won for us ...

Hopefully this insight helps ... especially for those who were at Bible Study tonight.

Remember ... Celebrate your new identity in Christ ... and the freedom we have in Him.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Fear!

A sermon preached in St. Columba's Pairsh on Sunday 23rd September 2012 at 7pm Evening prayer.

Aim - No Fear

There is a brand which young people today wear on hoodies and on jackets ... even now drinks bear this logo which originated in the United States ... which has a logo which says ... NO FEAR


as I did a bit of research on this I found that it orignated in Cage Fighting ... We’re strong enough we dont need to fear anything ... we can go it alone because of our own strength.


It’s interesting ... in light of our readings this evening.

When we look at the Old Testament reading I’m sure that the Israelite people were people who were exactly the opposite ... I would see them as complete the opposite of No Fear ... i’m sure they saw themselves as weak, When face with the prospect of meeting the Holy God on the mountain ... and needing to be made clean ... I’m sure that they saw themselves as weak and afraid ... before an all powerful and holy God... there was fear. Fear of Judgement, fear of the unknown, fear of God - literally!


As we turn the the new testament reading ... we see a different fear ...

We see the disciples going about with jesus ... fishermen & others who had left everything to follow this teacher. He had been teach on the mountain huge crowds and reminding them what they already knew about about God, his commandments and what they are to do. He also went further ... you have heard it said ... do not murder  ... but I say ...

In this teaching he also said ... as we think about fear & worry ... do not worry ... your father in heaven knows what you will need ...to face whatever comes along.

and then the disciples are in the boat ... and the situation rises where they are worrying, where they are afraid ... a very natural response to the situation ... they do worry and they are afraid. Fear for their lives, fear of the wind and the waves crashing in on them, fear of the situation they find themselves

But ... God was with them literally! Jesus was in the boat!


God was with the Israelites as they journeyed in the wilderness ... yes he is a powerful  and holy God who cannot abide sin but he has always through the pages of scripture made a way for sin to be atoned for, for us to be in right relationship with him.

As we come to the New Testament times - God of the holy mountain stepped down, giving us an example to follow - to remind us that he is still powerful, that he is still creator God ... the disciples looked at each other and said ... who is this ... even the wind and the waves obey him.

Whatever we are afraid of ... whatever we may face ... whatever things we or others are going through we are called not to worry ... or be afraid ... and I know that that this theory is all very well ... and we have know idea how we’ll cope when the next squall or storm will rise ... as it does have a possibility of doing. But for us as Christians ... this is not just hopeful thinking, or a nice bit of academic theology
The disciples were in a very real boat, in fear and the situation looked bleak, but with Jesus in the boat ... in their moment of desparation they really knew who Jesus was when they called upon him.
'Worried!' photo (c) 2011, Alon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Time and again through the pages of scripture at big and small events ... God reminds his people that they are not to be afraid ... he’s there and he knows what he is doing



At Christmas ... there is a command which we remember the Angel Gabriel giving to mary  Do not be afraid ... to mary ... to Joseph  ... to the shepherds

But this command is opened up ... in the Sermon on the mount ... remember the command about worrying ... do not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear ...

Then time and again Jesus as he meet people he tells them DO NOT WORRY ... Mary & Martha ... do not worry.


Whats going to happen?, What about... whatever we are afraid about?

We worry about many things...


We at our Funeral services often read from Romans Chapter Tweleve ... whatever we are facing may we remember that God ... the God of the mountain and the sea ... and at the end of the day it’s God’s Love that will keep us ... yes things may happen but God will never leave us nor forsake us.

Listen to what Paul wrote to the roman Christians...

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May we wear the brand of no fear ... not because we are all powerful, or have all the answers but because we are people who have the Holy Spirit

No Not by might, nor even power but by the Holy Spirit

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Galatians - Introduction

Tonight in the parish Bible Study group we began a new Bible Study series looking at Paul's letter to the Galatians and worked our way through the first chapter.

With this letter it is so vitally important that we understand the situation in which it was written. All too often we look at the early church with rose tinted spectacles ... which this letter does not allow. ]

We are working our way through one of Tom Wrights study guides.

To this end it was useful to have Tom introduce the book in his way ...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Importance of Justice

'3D Scales of Justice' photo (c) 2012, Chris Potter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

Tonights readings as well as the Psalm which is printed on the sheet speak of law, speak of Justice and doing what is right as well as spreading the burden. 

Our first reading speaks of the importance the Israelites whilst they were in the wilderness placed upon doing things right, and judging of cases. Moses father in Law made sure that responsibility was spread out. 

Our psalm which we didn’t read 

Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live, •
   for your law is my delight.
78  Let the proud be put to shame, for they wrong me with lies; •
   but I will meditate on your commandments.

In our Gospel reading ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

As I have thought and prayed over all of this … I am reminded of the many injustices in our world today … how can we live in such a world where there is poverty and pain and injustice … where so few have so much, where resources are so injustly shared. 

This summer I have been so challenged and as the team have come back from Zambia they have expressed this anger and these issues. I wonder have you ever grappled with this yourself. The fact that there is such an inequality … can the situation ever be changed? 

HIV/AIDS, Poverty, hunger, Malaria, lack of water, lack of access to education, rich, debt, 

The dream is one where these are turned on their head, where our everything we do to others, we would have them do to us. Imagine being caught in the spiral of poverty, injustice what would we wish someone to do for us. 

As I read the Bible, I know God has a heart for the underdog, the poor, the marginalised, the one who needs justice. What are we doing about it. Our faith has to go beyond simply saying Oh that’s terrible … we are called to action … to be people of action in our world … things will only change if we change them. 

I don’t know what this means for each one of us … but I do know that we are called to do something. Yes we come to church, yes we partake of Holy Communion but we are then sent out to action, to live out what we say we believe - fearlessly and radical. 
When I read of the disciples & the early church, I read of a church which is reaching out in power and deterimation to widow and orphan, to sharing of resources as each had need. 

In our world … which today is a global village … who are we called to help? whose suffering or issues are we called to allieveate … who needs justice,... who can we speak up for? 

You and I have tremendous power … and in this ever connected world we are called to work for those who going through troubling times. 

Whether it be people in our circle of family or friends who need our skills to help them with an issue they are going through - we are called to fight injustice 
From Zambia

Perhaps it is a cause which we need to support in terms of world poverty by supporting / working for … 

The big dream is that there would be justice, peace and the renewing of creation. 

We pray for peace, we pray for justice … in our small ways we try to live out peace and justice but sometimes we ‘ve  got to take a stand. How can we make a difference … The big question which I have been challenging the parish with recently is … What can we do … when faced with these big issues … are we shrugging our shoulders and saying what can we do? or are we rolling up our sleeves and asking “right, what can we do?” 

We all have something which we can contribute to our world. Let’s just do it!







Deciding & The implications of our answer

'Decisions' photo (c) 2011, Doug Wertman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Aim: Do we know how to articulate who Jesus is & what does that mean?

Today’s gospel reading is one of the most challenging in the lectionary ... It’s challenging because it asks questions and then poses a big challenge to which we are called to respond to. 

If you look at the reading in front of you ... have a look at the first paragraph 

Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi ... this was a place ... outside of Jewish Territory ... it is where Gentiles worshipped a whole variety of gods ... today you can visit this place ... in the hills ... there were temples and all sorts of shrines. 

and it is in this region that Jesus posed his first question ... who do people say I am? 

A general question ... a factual question ... which the disciples were happy to give an answer to ... some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, some the prophets ... 

Then the personal question ... who do you say that I am? 

I wonder if we were to pose these questions in corn market or in Kings Square  ... who do you say Jesus is ... I wonder what responses people would give? 

Which would we feel happy about giving a response to ... are we happier saying what others say or what response would we give to the personal question ... who do you say Jesus is? 

As we read on down through the passage ... things get a little more complicated ... when we realise that Peter got the first question right .... Jesus is the Christ 

but he didn’t understand what that meant ... and that is a feature of Mark’s Gospel ... that the disciples time after time put their foot in it, they say and do things which I am sure they reflected on later ... O I wish I hadn’t said  that... Scholars tell us that Peter probably was one of the people who Mark used as a source for his gospel so I am sure he would have recalled is stupidity. 

But Jesus uses Peter’s declaration here to tell the disciples what it means ... once they recognise him as the Christ that it’s not going to be plain sailing... its not going to be easy

Look at the words he uses: If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

It is costly to follow Jesus - we must never forget that ... 

This morning I would like to pose two very simple Questions 
  • How do we articulate for ourselves the answer to “Who do you say Jesus is?” 
  • What does it mean for us 

Down through the years Christians have had to struggle with these questions

Who is Jesus? 

CS Lewis famously answered the question 

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."[5]

or the Hymn Writter John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace puts it like this 

"What think you of Christ? is the test, 
To try both your state and your scheme; 
You cannot be right in the rest, 
Unless you think rightly of him."

If asked what of Jesus I think, 
Though still my best thoughts are but poor, 
I say, He's my meat and my drink, 
My life, and my strength, and my store."

For those of us who know Christ as Saviour and Lord then ... then are we prepared to live our lives as though we are bearing our cross ... taking up our cross and following him ... again a huge challenge ... when you look around the church you see crosses ... but the cross as we know is an unpleasant thing ... it is a place of sacrifice, of suffering and of pain. 

but when we understand it ... it there is nothing else that makes sense ... 

as Isaac Watts put it 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

and concludes with the line 
... Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Are we prepared to answer the question ... “Who is Jesus to me?” 
If answer is I don’t know ... find out 
If answer is Lord and God ... then how are you living that answer out? 

A sermon preached at 10:30 Holy Communion in St. Columba's Parish Church on Sunday 16th September 2012

Amen. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Zambia Articles

My Column in The Columban September


I am writing this in seat 22H, just about to cross the equator 6,100 miles from the UK, alongside nine amazing parishioners who are returning from a terrific adventure as described on pages 14 and
15 in this edition of The Columban.

The trip to Zambia was spent building relationships and witnessing the work of the Northern Zambian Anglican Church. As a team, we laughed together, cried together, worked hard and asked some of the toughest questions...in terms of suffering and the Christian response, wealth and poverty, and met some of the world’s most vulnerable and poorest people. We also met some modern day saints, people who are caring for the sick, making an impact on young and old, giving them hope and a future.

It certainly will take a long time to unpick the lessons learnt on this trip and I really believe that the question which has been with our team right from the beginning, namely ‘What can we do?’, is a truly pertinent one.

As a parish, it is a question which I hope we will be able to talk about over the next few months. I know, as a team, we feel a responsibility to do something about all that we have seen. I look forward to discussing this with groups and individuals as we discover together what God is calling us to, in terms of a longer term link between St. Columba’s and Northern Zambia.

RF

The Writeup about Zambia which again appeared in September's Columban


After months of fundraising, training and preparation, the Ipalo Team have visited Zambia
and returned home again, safe and well. In this extended article for The Columban, Team
Leader, Robert, our Curate, reports on some of their daily experiences.

ZAMBIA IPALO TEAM REPORT
Ten members of our parish headed to Zambia for 14 days, invited by the Archbishop of
Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama. An intensive programme was organized
for the ten days to be spent in Northern Zambia, examining many different aspects of
church and community life. There were many highlights and these are simply a few…
We arrived in Lusaka on Saturday, 28th July, and were transported to Kitwe (a 4½ hour
bus journey) after which we were given an extremely warm welcome at the Cathedral
by Mothers’ Union and the Dean of the Cathedral, with singing and cold drinks. During
the team introductions, Helen mentioned that she was a choir member who carried
the Cross in church, so she was invited to carry the Cross in the Cathedral the following
day. The team then moved into accommodation on an ecumenical foundation campus,
where beds and food were sorted out and preparations made.

Sunday, 29th July: The team headed to the Cathedral where we took part in worship,
a creative mix of Anglo Catholic praise and worship, evangelical and traditional, which
is the real strength of Zambian worship, combining the best of all strands. There
were traditional hymns and lots of dancing and actions. As visitors, we were asked
to introduce ourselves and received a warm round of applause. After the service, the
team was treated to a wonderful cake and Zambian hospitality.

Monday, 30th July: We were invited by the Archbishop to meet him and his team.
Archbishop Chama is the most wonderful man – so humble, so visionary and
hospitable. The parishioners spoke so very highly of him. He is responsible for the
Anglican Church in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi, as well as his own
diocese! He then introduced us to two of his team – Mrs. Tembo and Esther Piri, both
of whom are working on life changing projects – Mrs. Tembo with HIV / Malaria, and
Esther with Home Based Care. In the afternoon, we took a tour around Kitwe which
was an eye opener for our team. Extreme poverty and wealth dwelling side by side was
something we had heard about, but it was truly shocking to see at first hand.

Tuesday, 31st July: Today’s theme was educational and we were taken to Chambishi,
a mining township north of Kitwe. We were welcomed by the Headmistress of the
local high school. This was a real eye opener. She explained that there were over 1,000
pupils in the school barely large enough for 500. There were only 19 classrooms and
44 members of staff, many of whom are past pupils. She also told us that roughly one
in ten pupils were “vulnerable”, meaning double orphaned due to AIDS. Despite these
difficulties, the school’s football team were provincial champions and made a good
showing at the regionals. Our team was amazed at how happy they were with so little.
We left gifts of a large globe and sports equipment, and offered them smaller presents
to which the headmistress responded, “no gift is small”.
Before leaving Chambishi, we visited a local Anglican church, St. Anne’s, which is home
to a handful of parishioners…just a thatched, mud bricked building. The afternoon was
spent thinking about theological education at the seminary, where we met members
of staff who encouraged us to reflect on our own role in the world Church.

Wednesday, 1st August: This was a day of strong and mixed emotions. We were invited
to participate with Esther in the Home Based Care programme, delivering essential
supplies to the most vulnerable in the community. We also met AIDS sufferers in their
own homes, who were extremely appreciative of the diocese’s help and support. It was
dreadful to observe at first hand the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but also awe
inspiring to realize the tremendous effort people of the Church are making to reach
out and care for those who are so desperately ill.

Thursday, 2nd August: Today was meant to have been a very practical work day,
making blocks with a new machine which the diocese had purchased. Unfortunately,
however, due to unforeseen problems the machine had not arrived. The team was
brought to a different site where another church had been using a similar machine,
and it was brilliant! It was a site for housing widows and orphans. The team also took
the opportunity to use the sports equipment purchased by our Doves, Brownies,
Mums & Tots and Sunday School as we played cricket, parachute and football with the
local children.
In the afternoon, we met with the project committee of the new School and Skills
Centre which the diocese is building. It is a breath taking vision and one about which
I will write in the October edition of The Columban. We visited the site and were most
excited about its potential.

Friday, 3rd August: The team travelled to Chingola, a town further north, where we
met with an HIV/AIDS and Malaria Support Group, witnessing at first hand the work
of people who are “living positively” (their term), trying to break the stigma of the label
of the disease. We also met the Diocesan Youth Executive who presented us with their
comprehensive vision of youth ministry in the diocese. The day ended with a visit to
a local parish, who were also building for the future by means of a nursery school on
their small plot of land.

Saturday, 4th August: By now, we realised that our team were adept at ‘flexibility’
and ready for anything! We started by visiting Mothers’ Union and hearing from their
President, Judith, about their work in reaching out and helping those in desperate
circumstances. We were then due to visit a parish to find out about the work of the BB
and GB. However, when we arrived a wedding was in full swing ... to which we were
invited! In the middle of the wedding, after the giving and receiving of the rings, the
local Rector invited the team to stand up and introduce themselves.
Sunday, 5th August: The team divided itself up in order to visit three separate parishes,
where we were all welcomed, introduced ourselves and participated in their Bemba/
English services, each one lasting between 3½ and 4½ hours!

Monday, 6th August: We visited a rural community parish who have a church with no
doors and little furniture, but who are building as they can afford it. There are many
stories to tell about this church.

Tuesday, 7th August: The team made an emotional farewell to their newly found
friends of the past ten days and presented the Archbishop with gifts from the parish to
the church in Northern Zambia, before setting off for the capital, Lusaka.
Wednesday, 8th August: We travelled to Livingstone, home of the Victoria Falls, and
spent two days working through the many things we had seen and experienced, as
well as enjoying some of Africa’s natural wonders before travelling home. Having set
off into the unknown only a short two weeks ago, the team returned brimming
with determination to do even more to try and support the wonderful people of
this beautiful country.
Robert

Friday, July 27, 2012

This morning 10 of us from St Columba's said their farewells to friends and Family and headed to Heathrow where we are at present. Surrounded by prayers of parishioners and friends we are looking forward to the next 14 days touring around Zambia - meeting new friends and discovering what the local Church in Zambia is doing. I was speaking this morning on the phone to Archbishop Chama who is looking forward to our arrival. We would also like to welcome to our blog Cliff ... one of the youth at St. Paul's which be will be visiting later in our trip ... Mulishani? (How are you). One of the great things about being sent out this morning from our parish I asked our prayer chain to pray for a simple and straightforward travel ... It is amazing when we count our blessings ... We got through the fast lane in Terminal 5 Security :-) God is Good!! Please keep praying ... we hope to update this blog as much as possible ... please do leave comments below we will pick them up from time to time on the trip. Blessings Robert (In T5) no photos yet but some will be coming on future posts

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The simplicity of sent ... simply sent

'89/365 Mar 30, 2011' photo (c) 2011, becca.peterson26 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

A sermon preached on Sunday 8th July 2012 at Holy Communion Service in St. Columba’s Parish Church, Knock, Belfast. 

Text: Mark 6: 1-13

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
Bible passages at this time of year remind us that we are called as Jesus disciples to go which is quite interesting due to the number of people who when it comes to the summer holidays are going places. 
Yes, airports, seaports, rail & bus stations are gearing up for the annual get away. Journeys near and far. In houses The packing, re-packing, measuring hand-baggage and the weighing of cases are all taking place. We pack things just in case the weather might be hot, cold, rainy, dry. 
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Whether we are going for a hike, a camp, beach, city, village, or simply planning on a staycation ... preparations are being made. 
For the Zambia team which we commissioned last week we were reminding the team last sunday of the things which they still needed to do. 
... What they need to bring with them 
... What they need to leave at home 
... What they need to prepare 
I have this file full of stuff ... health forms, Risk assessments, Airline Tickets, Mobile phone numbers, draft Itinerary, maps, visas, Packing lists, budgets, insurance documents ... and all the rest. 
Things which are all essential to responsible travel today. Making sure every i is dotted and t is crossed. 
All of this is to enable our team to have a successful experience overseas. 
However - when all of this is stripped away ... the task is the same ... whether we are going to Ballyhackamore or Kitwe Zambia. 
We are called to be sent out ... simply ... with our own God give strengths and weaknesses , with our own experiences of life ... to do what we can ... alongside those we meet. 
A lot of attention has been placed on the Zambia Team in recent weeks and months ... now the challenge I would like to present is one about being sent here in Knock. 
As the team responds to the call to go to Zambia ... what about to our local community here? 
Do we know what the needs are around here?, Do we hear the call to the people we encounter day in, day out?  
What could you or I do simply and without big resources ... no money, no extra clothes, no bag? ... just ourselves ready to serve God in whatever way? Reaching out into those areas in our community which need to hear about and see expression of God’s love in action. 
Are we prepared to use whatever we have in our hand to propel us on, to encourage others as they walk with us. 
Do we believe we are sent ... to our young people in our parish ... could we get involved on a Friday Night? 
Do we believe we are sent  ... to show love and support to those members of our congregation who are living lonely lives in our neighbourhoods?
Do we believe we are sent ... to encourage our friends and colleagues when they are going through difficulties? 
Do we believe we are sent ... to get help our neighbours down our street and share with them the hope that we have in Christ ... in a simple way ... 
Do we believe we are sent ... to those who are struggling with life and doing what we can to alliviate their suffering
I hope we do believe these things ... because as Jesus sent his disciples so to this day he sends us to do these things. 
As the Church, as the people of God in this place ... we have a responsibility and a calling to Go ... a calling to live lives doing what we believe God would have us do. 
At the end of each service we are dismissed with the words ... Go in peace to love and serve the Lord ... in the name of Christ
May we take this as our commission for this week ... and Serve God Simply with what we have. 
Let us pray. 
Amen

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Trinity Puzzle??

'Shamrock Vector Image' photo (c) 2010, Vectorportal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A sermon for trinity Sunday- Preached in St. Columba's on Sunday 3rd June at Choral Evensong.

May I speak in the name of the Triune God ... + Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Today is Trinity Sunday ... A day when we celebrate God, a day which young preachers dread ... how do we explain the mystery? ... a day when we focus on the nature of God and how he relates to himself.

It is a day unlike other celebrations in the liturgical year - At Christmas we have reading about the incarnation, At Easter we have Good Friday and Easter Day. At Pentecost which we celebrated last week we celebrate Holy Spirit coming. Today is different ...

Nowhere in scripture do we find the word "trinity" but it is a doctrine which we cling tightly to as Christians because without understanding that God is One and also God is three we would have an imbalanced understanding of who God is and what he has done in the past and what he is doing now.

Our Gospel reading this evening however, points to the fact of God the Father (the voice from heaven), Jesus God's Son being baptised, and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. There are other points in scripture where 1, 2 or 3 persons of the Trinity are present in their respective roles doing things. 

Many images have been used to describe the trinity in the past ... as to visualise How God can be One but also be 3

Famously Patrick used a Shamrock one leaf ... three parts

Others have used Ice water and steam  or 3 ingredients for shortbread ...Sugar, flour and butter.

All of these have their own advantages and shortcomings

but in essence ... the doctrine of the trinity is all about the relationship between the various parts of the Godhead.

God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier

Each part is intimately linked to the others ... It is a relationship of mutual dependance ... it is a relationship where all are equal but all distinct as well.

It is this relationship which shapes our worship sunday by sunday.

Our worship has this trinitarian dynamic to it ... our psalms are suffixed with the Gloria

Our absolution ...

Our creeds are trinitarian in their structure

When we pray ... we pray to the father, though the intercession of the son in the power of the Holy Spirit

When we read Scriptures ... God’s Word  we ask for the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help us to apply it to our lives.

When we go out ... we go on the commission of God ... to make disciples, to baptise in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

As we leave church every sunday we leave with the Blessing of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

As Triune God Christians ... we are called to show the Love of God in everything we do. So often we fail, So often we get things wrong, we mess up Oh how I Long that as Christians we would be able to show the world that relationship which Father, Son and Spirit have by the way we treat each other.

Time and again we do get things wrong, we forget to show love, we dont have time for other people, we say the wrong things, we do the wrong things we even think the wrong things.

Over the course of this week on radio on various topics ... I have heard various people who have looked at the church and see people who say one thing and their experience is of something completely different. It is painful to hear of that kind of experience ... I would love to have the opportunity to say to them ... give the church a chance ... yes we do get things wrong sometimes but we need you!

Being trinitarian we are invited into a dynamic relationship ... where we are called Children of God, invited into a relationship which changes us ... we are a redeemed people and we are being sanctified, being changed.

It’s been nearly 3 years since I appeared in St. Columba’s and day after day, week after week I have been learning, developing and growing ... perhaps some may use the chiseling term ... the edges have been knocked off ... the work of the Holy Spirit is very much like that and we should be all open to that ... our discipleship should be informed by our relationship with the Holy Trinity ... becoming more like Jesus.

This dynamic relationship, this creative relationship between the 3 persons of the trinity isn’t simply a theological argument for university student ... rather the God we worship is the same yesterday, today and forever ... he is working, somehow in his church today and when we come into a working relationship with him - as Christians we can be transformed by the Holy Spirit into becoming more like Jesus in relationship with the father.

I wonder if you were to ask ... how has the Holy Spirit been transforming your life since this time last year?, How have you become more like Jesus?, How have you been communicating with Father God this past week, month year?

We are all invited into this dynamic relationship.

It is a creative and transformative relationship which should impact all areas of our lives.

Our Trinitarian God wants us to have our L Plates firmly up!

Let’s Pray