Monday, September 30, 2013

Temporary Online Move ...

With lots of stuff going on within the parish at the moment ... my focus has been and will continue to be on the parish communication stuff ... so you can find me

on the parish website - 

on our Essential 100 Bible Reading blog -

on twitter @bobinblarney

on facebook

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Celebrate Freedom

A Sermon preached in The Church of the Resurrection - Blarney on Sunday 23rd June 2013

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

Passages 1 Kings 19: 1-15a, Luke 8: 26-39

Freedom is a call on each one of our lives … we all want to be free … we see this through the world history … nobody wants to be controlled … we see freedom fighters, we see the human rights of freedom being enshrined in laws. We Have, desire and enjoy freedom.

As Children are growing up we see them wanting freedom to choose, freedom to go where they want to go, to do what they want to do. Parents have to tread a very difficult path … allowing freedom, whilst also protecting their kids from harm.
As humans, as Christians we have been given freedom to choose … this is the fundamental God Given right … all of us can do what we want to do. What we do is up to us how we use this freedom.

When our freedom is removed … we become enslaved, imprisoned … the decisions we make, the circumstances we find ourselves can remove that freedom from us.
In our gospel reading today we see that there is a man who has had his freedom severely restricted by evil … his life is less than what it could and should be. We see he is outcast, on the edge of society but we also see Jesus’ concern for him is to be made whole, healed and sent back to community.

This man, in Luke's account is not only confined to a life on the outside of community but also his physical confines in terms of chains and shackles are limiting his movement. With a few authoritative words from Jesus his situation turns around and his life changes forever.

I recently came across this piece of street art which is in Philadelphia … it is fascinating take on society … but for me as I look on it … it speaks so much about our society today … shaping us into its mould and the freedom that is possible ... The artist to my knowledge doesn’t say anything about Christ but as I look at this the struggle inside each human being, having being moulded by our circumstances desiring to be free and in the end finding that freedom, where it truly is to be found- In Christ… It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Huge Challenge for us this morning as we gaze upon our readings today …

<< God spoke to Elijah … and asked him “what are you doing here?” twice in this passage … he had ran away from his responsibilities … he had chosen his own way … he was 100’s of miles away from where he should have been … God met him there and brought him back … told him what he should be doing. >>

Then in the New Testament passage we see someone shackled in his circumstances … we aren’t told how he had ended up in this position, what decisions he had made, what was done to him by others but we do know that evil had gripped him … and then we we see that he is restored to wholeness.

One of the illustrations which Scripture Union uses for this reading is that of a jigsaw puzzle … he catch a glimpse of what it could be … but the parts come together and make up the complete picture.
Today’s Gospel reading is picture of the possibility of freedom … which is linked to wholeness, which is linked to all the bits of the jigsaw coming together and the possibility of a new start.

On Friday Night I had the opportunity to meet a friend of Doug and Olwyn’s ... Greg a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in the USA … He was telling of an encounter with someone in Dublin… Greg was speaking a service and told the congregation of the amazing news that those who are in Christ have past sins forgiven, Present sins forgiven and future sins forgiven. After the service … the guy came up to Greg and said … wow that’s a fantastic deal …count me in! and then started telling his wife about it as well!

Folks … We have freedom … freedom to choose … with this freedom of course comes responsibility what will we choose to do, what is God calling us to do?, what is God’s best for us?
It may look like our lives are messed up … that there are different parts of us all over the place … but we are called to wholeness. We are called to enjoy life, to be complete in Christ, broken lives made new.

The jigsaw will come together, sometimes It’s easy, other times it takes a long time … may we find our freedom in Christ. Our potential in Christ, may we not be moulded into expectations of what others think of us, or what the world expects us to do. but allow ourselves to be free to do what God wants us to do. To be bold and strong for Christ.

The church is an organisation which should be declaring freedom, which should be allowing people to be who they were created to be. We should be equipping each other to use our God given gifts and to dream big dreams.

I get passionate about this because I see so many people who are moulded into the ways others see them, That may be pressure from work, family or peer pressure from friends … people who are struggling with their identity, or they have just given up in their struggle and are addicted to things of this world and simply feel that they are in a mould that they cannot break out of.

I’m sure all of us know individuals who have huge potential but due to situations find themselves hemmed into moulds, situations where things could be much better for them. Freedom is what we are called to speak.
The Christian Gospel, the good news we proclaim is freedom to the captives, forgiveness to the sinner, healing to the hurting, purpose of life to searching.

How have we been molded … for the good, but also negatively … how do we break out of the mould of the world and be bold, be strong for the Lord. That’s something each person will have to look at for themselves but I get excited when talking about freedom, because freedom invariably means change, it means action, it means prayer, it may mean pain, but we are free. We are people of freedom.

Again in the New testament passage … The guy was told to go back home and tell …
As Christians we are called to use our freedom to bring freedom to those we encounter … Just as Jesus did.
Our world so often views Christians as people who are so bound up with rules and regulations but we are also people of immense freedom … we have been set free from our sins, we know where we stand within eternity… let us share this freedom with the world around us. And let us know this freedom for ourselves.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grace in the Public Square

This sermon was preached in The Church of the Resurrection Blarney on Sunday 16th June

Speak Lord that I may speak your word to day

Today as a staff team we want to preach about the Protection of Life during pregnancy Bill – in other words “The Abortion Issue”….. we feel compelled to do so because it is an issue which the church has a deep interest because of our understanding   of the Sanctity of Life”.

We are also doing so because in the survey conducted recently within the parish someone asked for more sermons on live issues. And we want to respond to that by saying, that if we have neglected this area it is because:
  • ·         10/15 minutes is hardly long enough to really present these issues
  • ·         We as clergy  wrestle with these difficult issues ourselves and we find it no easier than church members to speak clearly, without being simplistic. we are also aware that by speaking on these issues there is the whole area of pastoral care for those who these issues affect. So sensitive that that it has divided a nation for 30 years.
  • ·          I prayed at the beginning that: Speak Lord that I may speak your Word today….. the preacher has an responsibility which we take utterly seriously … and I am hugely conscious that words have a huge power to build up but also to tear down …. This has been the most difficult issue I have had to preach on ... I’m happy to discuss this with anyone over the coming days.

First of all let’s just put into one sentence what we mean by the Sanctity of Life …

"With God as creator - The concept of the sanctity of life is the belief that all human beings, at any and every stage of life ..., are to be perceived as persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity and therefore must be treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status."

It is this Church holds onto. While these are views that are enshrined in the Bible, the church believes they provide the very air that we need to breathe as a human race.

So the church says to this world ...  this message is not only for the faith community but for the world. We believe that God cares for the whole of the world and our lives and therefore the church has a role of being a voice to speak into the issues about the sanctity of life.

It is this sanctity of life which spans from beginning of life to end of life issues.

Now in Ireland the RC church is the voice that is being heard the loudest but  What does the C of I have to say?…. Within the church of ireland, we were asked 3 days before the meeting to prepare a submission to the debate in Dail ... basically the conclusion was this ...The full text can be found here 

“The Church of Ireland opposes abortion in principle but acknowledges that there are exceptional  cases of ‘strict and undeniable medical necessity’ where it is and should be an option.

There is a variety of opinion within the Church of Ireland on what constitutes ‘exceptional cases’ but agreement that it includes circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother”

The major difference between the RC and C of I is that ….the Anglican Church doesn’t tell you ... it invites you to participate and journey in the decision making . historically The church has 4 tools for any of decision which we make

  • Scripture
  • Tradition
  • Reason
  • Experience

Over time these 4 sources interact with each other, and cause decisions to be made which previous generations of the church may have disagreed with. However, as technology, society and thought have developed the church has to re-engage with the debate and find out what we need to say in our day, in our place.

God has given us all freedom of choice ... and the choices we make as christians will be informed by these things.

Let’s take the Bible and the Gospel of the day and those words of Jesus to Simon “Do you see this woman?”

This story has nothing to say about the protection of life during pregnancy but everything to say about how we can have all the correct moral standing, right doctrine in the world and still not see individuals for who they are.

What I want to do now, is ask the question: Do we see…this woman…this man…this situation…. do we feel the tensions within, the contexts from which they come from...
here are a few examples:

-  Do we see the uncertainty of women in hospitals at the moment?

- Do we see the 16 year old girl’ who is has been trafficked into a prostitution ring getting pregnant and seeks a termination?

- Do we see doctors who are torn Ethically with decisions they have to make on a daily basis?

- Do we see the woman who travels to London for an abortion because it affects her career plans and lifestyles and she has three children already?

- Do we see our politicians receiving threatening messages written in blood?

- Do we see the dilemma of being a catholic but not a catholic Taoiseach?

I was amazed and horrified to read in the papers this week  Enda Kenny saying in the dail this week
"I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer..." detailing how he had been sent items of Catholic regalia and threatening messages.
"Therefore I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach."

What do we see from these images? Do we look beyond? Do we see them as Christ does?

Have you seen this woman Jesus said to Simon …? …..He had condemned before understanding.

And not only that ... he failed to understand that Jesus as a prophet didn’t condemn her.

So often we only hear the voice of condemnation and not the grace of Christ that made this woman lavish her love on Jesus.

She who discovered that previous life was like living like a fish out of  water and found love through those words of not just a prophet, but the Son of God “Your sins are forgiven.”

And in this debate about the lives of mother and baby we need to look beyond and sadly so many Christians all too often seem to be taking Simon’s side.

The churches concern for what is right is not heard because it only seems to condemn. In its battle with the forces at work in our world it is using the blunt instrument of doctrinal certainty instead of pointing to the lavish grace of Christ.

In fairness they are in the battle …. There are powerful forces at work.

The secular view that wants to ridicule Christian beliefs as of a bygone age.

Forces at work in the media who take the unfortunate and regretted words of a midwife in the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar about Ireland is a catholic country that doesn’t allow abortion and sets ablaze the kind of forest fire the book of James speaks of in Chapter 3 “The tongue is also a fire  ... it sets the whole course of one’s life on fire….”

the media has set the nation on fire and of course douses the fire of the Holy Spirit that wants to speak of the of the politics of forgiveness and grace ….. Because it doesn’t sell newspapers and create advertising revenue.

We also see in Ireland the power of the church over the state …battles long lost in Europe … 

Now today Christians everywhere need to unite …

Jeremiah the prophet called to speak into the needs of his day.

Called even before he consciously knew it called from within the womb where God began to shape him and form him so wonderfully... to to fulfil that destiny...God’s purpose.

The church today in a post Christian era  must find its destiny to point to this God who cares for everyone.

  • - Firstly we must live by the manifesto of the Sermon on the Mount and not just the commandments of the Old Testament. They are even more demanding in their demands because they require seeing and acting for others as Christ does.
  • - Welcome into the church family with open arms everyone. If we take the sanctity of life seriously .  One sinner helping another through the challenges & difficult decisions of life.
  • - We need to be teaching the Gospel of grace… ??interestingly in the opinion poll released this week a majority of people thought that abortion on request is wrong. This surely says something about the positive Christian legacy that we have inherited??. it is now the churches task to teach the ways of the Kingdom that call for accountability and yet are lavished by grace.

And we need Act Immediately while the legislation is being debated and write to our TD’s/ Taoiseach to ensure that the legislation will be robust enough - See our parish Blog for the text example 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trinity Sunday

A sermon preached on Trinity Sunday in Church of the Resurrection Blarney on Sunday 26th May 2013

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
Today is a day when we celebrate God … who he is in all his fullness …
Celebrating Father, Son and Spirit and the relationship between the three  and in celebrating …
We remember
  • The work of the Father in Creation,
  • the work of the son in our redemption which he has won for us and the
  • work of the Holy Spirit in our sustaining us in our lives today .
We celebrate also the dynamics which exist between them and the love which is at the very centre of the relationship between the three parts which overflows into creation.
In our readings today we see this work between the three is a work of love … it is dynamic and it flows out to the world
The father loves the son and the same love he has for the son is the love with which he loves the world.  And we (as people in the world ) are called to respond to that love with which he created the world and he created us.
The Epistle Reading
Romans 5: 1-5
By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace  with God. Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that’s not all! We gladly suffer] because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.

Paul writing to the Romans…  we see that it is by faith we have been made acceptable to God … by faith we have the peace with God … its then we able to live at peace with God.
Those 2 words … at the beginning … BY FAITH  … For so many that step is difficult … we have questions, we have doubts, they put up all sorts of arguments  but there comes a time when the challenge has to be made.  
We see also that Christ has introduced us to the Father’s undeserved kindness on which Paul says the church takes its(our) stand – I wonder do we understand God’s amazing Glory.
But with all of this, and this is where we sometimes get things wrong …we sometime think that all will be rosy but we see that Paul is grounded … this life is one in which there will be suffering and difficulties. But this is where the Holy Spirit, the Sustainer, the advocate and the teacher comes in who as he describes will fill our hearts with his love.
In our Gospel reading today we see the dynamics which exist in the relationship once again is unique and upon which the gospel absolutely depends
12 I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand.13 The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. 14 The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking my message and telling it to you.15 Everything that the Father has is mine. That is why I have said that the Spirit takes my message and tells it to you.

Let’s Trace it again
All that the father has is mine -  Jesus  says
Jesus proclaims that message
the Spirit takes Jesus’ message and tells it to you
Like we saw in the Romans Reading …  we see that the spirit is revealing the truth to the world … That Truth, as we trace it through John’s Gospel is the love of the father for creation and the relationship the father wants his creation to respond to the love that is shown
We see it in John 3:16 the well known verse
God so loved the world that he sent his son
We see that he also loves his son … 3:35

  • The Dynamic of the father is always outwards love flowing to the son and to the world
  • The Dynamic of the son again is always outward love flowing to the world and to the father
  • The Spirit’s love is filling our hearts with the love of the father and the son

No other philosophy … or religion apart Christianity … proclaims this truth of the relationship in God at the heart  this is love, and grace together   …
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities.
Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
After some discussion, those in the room had to agree. The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.
The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law -- each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
Undeserved Kindness … Made possible through the relationship of the trinity … we can’t work our way, talk our way only by faith through grace.

  • Thank God for the trinity
  • Have a think about the freedom this gives
  • The great news of relationship this is possible  
When we grasp this … and it does make sense … it’s a relationship right before the beginning of the world and will sustain the world beyond the grave.

This is why the church does what it does
This is why we invest in kingdom things so that the world may know the love of God

So to recap
Trinity is essential … the relationship … equal and eternal
Its unique …none other speaks of grace made possible through the relationship
It’s the heart of message we proclaim to the world

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blogging Resumed

I was reminded this morning about my Blog ... I have certainly mangaged to neglect it since Easter (not unusual on this Blog) ... perhaps its been the pace of life, the many and various things which have been happening and the other things which take time away from sitting down and taking time to put thoughts together.

So with a cuppa coffee in a coffee shop with wifi ... what's been happening since Easter Sunday in this wee corner of Ireland ?...

Well, looking back at previous pages in the diary ...

... It was great to be back up in St. Coumba's for K McA's Wedding ... a wonderful event such a relaxed day and great to see so many friends gathered around and helping out in all sorts of ways at that event :-)

... We've been trying "Normalise Prayer" (a phrase which I was very struck by just before easter ... for me this means simply putting prayer into everything that we do as Christians)

... We held a prayer team training event with resources from New Wine Ireland for a team from the parish and others from various local churches in preparation for the New Wine weekend with John Hughes. This was a great time of teaching, fellowship and worship in Blarney Church.

... Lighthouse (Messy Church) has continued to go from Strength to Strength ... with the introduction of T-Shirts for the team, Puppet Ministry and new activities

... A week off spent in Rome and England It was great to catch up with Family :-)

... It has been great to spend time with friends who visited and catch up with them

Over the course of the next while again there are lots of things to do  ...

... Preparation for things in the Summer ... Holiday Club, New Wine in Sligo, Photo Festival, Prayer garden (More on that in a later Blog)

... Pastoral visits around the Village of Blarney

... Keeping going with whats happening

... finalising our new website

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sermon 2013

Sermon preached on The First Sunday of Easter ... 31st March 2013 ... in the Church of the Resurrection Blarney 

What a difference a day makes ... Just 24 little hours! 

Bishop Tom Wright - in his book Surprised by hope ... Writes That ... "We could cope, the world could cope with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one...

All of us have questions ... 

What does the future hold ?... what’s the big picture? ... what on earth am I here for? ... is there a plan? ... Life after Death ...

These are all questions we at various times I am sure we have asked and have grappled with. It is interesting to hear people talking in cafes...on TV and around campfires. The human condition asks these questions. 

Easter day brings these questions into focus ... because on this day we are talking about death and life, God and eternal things, the big questions and it is interesting how as society has moulded these huge life defining issues into fluffy chicks, white rabbits with baskets and chocolate. 

So.. Easter day ... a day when we proclaim Christ is Risen ... What difference does that make?  I’m suggesting from the readings today that 

  • Easter Produces Hope 
  • Easter Provides meaning 
  • Easter Changes Everything 

Hope ... is one of the essentials of life ... It is the virtue of the expectation that what we see is not what will always be ... in other words that change is possible ... no matter how unlikely that change might well be. 

This excites me ... and I hope you are excited too... When Jesus came out of that tomb on that first easter day he launched a world of justice and joy and hope for the whole earth. 

We can live through things if we have that expectation that better is possible. Easter provides this by saying Life is worth living, our world is not how it should be and we can change our circumstances in the present. 

Our hope in Christ is for now as well as for our future by this hope that things can be better things which lack meaning can have meaning. 

Hope for the poor, Healing for the sick, friendship for the lonely, meaning and restoration for the depressed, freedom for the slaves, homes for refugees, food for the hungry, a future for the abused, the down trodden and the despairing. 

God’s kingdom in the resurrection has been inagurated but it is still to find its fullness in our midst. 

We see some of this hope in our midst as we work to see God’s Kingdom here ... but more of it is still to come. 

Easter provides meaning ... In our world today there are many people who are searching for meaning, striving for the eternal things - some try to find it in all sorts of strange places - Tarrot, Material Possessions, Crystals, Pilgrimages, adventures ... 

In our Easter celebrations ... easter allows us to see that Those who are in Christ ... are a new creation the old is gone the new is here and that it is possible to find meaning in the creator God who has come amongst his people ... through sending his son to share our human experience. 

Our task ... Our purpose is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian Life, corporately and individually in worship and mission. 

No other faith in our world today speaks about life and death the way Christianity does. 

Each person is a unique creation, loved by God, created for a relationship with him and we are to find our meaning in the mission he has given to humanity - Creating a better world, loving our neighbour, getting to know God better, telling others about him

All that we do as easter people we are called to know that fear is gone - worry, hatred all the rest of the stuff when we get the eternal perspective is removed. 

Yes setbacks come ... illness, broken relationships, bad decsions, but the big news about easter is that it is possible for us to have a structure upon which to make sense of life, death and meaning. 

There are many places which try to provide this, many gurus in our world today which try, down through the years people have tried to give their own philosophies. However the claim of the church is unique ... is that what we proclaim in our creed ... yes Christ has been crazily misrepresented by those who are supposed to know better but at its core - Christ claim to be the Son of God and that Death has be conquered has to be believed. 

And we also go further ... This is not just a nice code to be live life by ... just for now ... the Apostle Paul doesnt allow us to have that sort of belief If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The effectiveness of Easter, is for all time - is for eternity. 

Easter Changes everything 

Imagine a business who is looking to grow ... they bring in a consultant who from outside is able to ask difficult questions, allowing those in the business to dream big dreams. 

One of the basic questions which they will ask ... where would you like to see your business being in 5 or 10 years down the line. This is a dreaming question, it is a question which asks something about the core business, about their values, about what could be. 

Once the vision is mapped out the question will be asked what steps need to be taken to get there ... what resources are needed, what needs to be worked on and what other things need to be done. 

Easter provides an opportunity for us all to reflect on our lives in the light of not just 3-5 years but what our lives look like in the light of eternity - in the light of the knowledge that we are called into relationship with Christ and what does that mean in terms of our dreams, in terms of what we we could do for him, in terms of the things we value. 

A business which doesn’t have a vision for what could and would be ... who is simply doing the same things day in and day out without planning for the future could be seen not to be growing and perhaps even declining. 

We all can get caught with all the worries of today, with all the concerns of making ends meet for today, and all the details. 

But easter calls us to a bigger vision, a vision which changes as we realise that our lives mean somthing more than the sum of our ideas, our wage packet. That there is something more going on. 

In conclusion 

The Easter message makes sense ... 

- Easter Produces Hope 

- Easter Provides meaning 

  • Easter Changes Everything 

Let us take a few moments to pause ... Are there things we need to re-think, things that the Resurrection has thrown up for us that we need to follow up upon 

Blarney Update

Below is the latest Blarney Update to appear in our parish Magazine

Now that the month of April is on the horizon and the clocks have changed, plans are beginning to come together in Blarney for all sorts of things happening both within and beyond the church doors.

  • ·         The Parish Website continues to be developed
  • ·         Blarney Church has its own Facebook page – please do “like” us.
  • ·         We are looking at our summer programme in the church especially tourist friendly information leaflets which will be distributed in May- June.
  • ·         This the end of this month we are looking forward to welcoming John Hughes  - please do come along if you are free on any of the evenings  / Saturday Morning. More details elsewhere.
  • ·         Linking up with primary School’s in the Blarney Area.
  • ·         Continue to Develop our Lighthouse Ministry – AG reports on March’s Lighthouse :

“ The Lighthouse Easter celebration - Wow! So much enthusiasm! So many people and lots of happy noise and movement around the place! We have just had our Easter Lighthouse and there were a record 94 people in the church, with lots of new and familiar faces. It has been just such a joy to be able to be a part of Lighthouse and seeing the numbers attending it grow.
Some of you are probably thinking, so what is this Lighthouse thing all about. To Explain what Lighthouse is as well as having songs, prayers, Bible stories, all of which regularly happen at church services, there are also lots of different activities through which the Bible story may be explored. 

This month we did such things as put red paint handprints on the shape of a cross to show how Jesus died to forgive our sins, fold and cut a piece of paper to give lots of different shapes which could be used to tell the story of Good Friday and also spell out the word ‘Alive’, make a model of the empty tomb, an Easter card to help us share the ‘Good News’ with others and ice and decorate biscuits to share together at refreshment time, as well as other games and activities."

The Lighthouse is aimed at families with children 3-12 years, with a play area for younger children.”
Why not come and join us at the next one which takes place on Sunday 14th April at 3.30 – 5pm.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Move us into action ... we must go! ... but how? ... where? and whom?

Right ...

With lots of people in Blarney ... I have just returned from a service for the World day of Prayer ... a service prepared by some women of France. A service which is being prayed by lots of people throughout the world over these 24 hours.

There was a real challenge in this service this evening, and if this challenge isn't heard then I wonder what the church of God is doing ... it is a challenge ...a huge challenge ... A biblical challenge right throughout Old and New Testament ... a challenge which, as we were challenged tonight with is get on with it ... do it!

According to the World Day of prayer website
World Day of Prayer is about Informed Prayer which flows into Prayerful Action. After hearing the voices of our sisters, experiencing their pains with them, and feeling their hopes and fears, we are empowered to act. Prayer and action are not two different things connected by a string but rather inseparable realms of our faith experience. To pray truly is to be changed. To truly let in a new perspective is to be changed. To act in accordance with these shifts happens organically. Action continues our prayer.

OK, let's be very practical about this ... in Blarney, in Cork ... wherever you find yourself ... what can we do for those who are Hungry, Thirsty, Strangers, Naked, Sick, In prison

How do we know who they are?

I was very challenged by someone who said on the way out ... something along the lines of ..."well what are we doing about what we have just prayed about" ... mmm... yup ...

 all ideas welcome ... It would be a great conversation to have ... not for the sake of talking but to get on with the business of being Jesus' hands and his feet in this village, city, county and beyond.

Be careful what you pray for!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mustard Seed Mission

This morning ... I was reading through the CMS UK resource for Lent and the whole issue of "Mustard Seed" came up ... the small things which we do which can have unforeseen kingdom consequences.

This is a facinating area which has really been on my heart this week ... for a few reasons ... take a read at the reflection below ...

Mark 4:30–32


“Do you know what’s in a bottle of washing-up liquid?” asks Caroline Gilmour-White, a SAMS partner.  
“At a training day in an urban church in Asuncion, Paraguay, we saw the following ingredients being added:
  • Water
  • Caustic soda
  • Sulphuric acid
  • Trietanaloamina - an ingredient that softens and/or lubricates the skin
  • Scent
  • Colouring
“The government programme DEAG, a bit like the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, uses every opportunity to share their trained knowledge to improve people’s lives or economic situations. We had sewing in the morning and detergent making in the afternoon. The day was a hit with everybody. Our prayer is that lots of people take initiative and start mixing, bottling and selling. Everyone uses detergent and the supermarket quality is often not as good as homemade. People can boost their incomes very easily by selling door to door.”

Reflect on how God can use even small things to bring transformation to people and societies. Where have you seen God at work in the small things?

Lord, great things grow from small beginnings.
Trees from tiny seeds. New quality of life from a small business venture.
Faith in Christ from a word shared or kindness performed.
The Kingdom of God from shoots of faith
Lord, please - give us vision and give us faith.

RF - For me this is crucial ... whilst we in Blarney are not called to make and sell washing up liquid ... the small things we do for the Kingdom do not go un-noticed... This monring I drove up to the church gates and out of the corner of my eye ... I saw a card sitting on a seat at the church gate, covered in plastic and addressed to "whoever finds it" ... I have no idea who put it there ... but I opened it and found inside a letter reminding me that I am special and some other encouraging words. After resealing it and leaving it there its great.

I wonder who put it there? it doesn't matter ...  but it is my prayer that whoever else sits and reads it will be encouraged in whatever they face today.

Small things ... we have no idea what effects they will have in the greater scheme of things.

What small things will you do today ... to help, to encourage

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mission, me and Lent

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of Mission for a variety of reasons ... It is a topic which I have thought about quite a bit from college days.

This morning I woke up, and over breakfast was browsing around various websites ... and came across Church Mission Society - UK website and found this resource which is great!

 The resource itself is very simple and easy to use ... straight forward and cuts to the core of what mission is all about and why we should be about the things of God in this our generation and in our culture.

As people of God we are called to communicate in a way which resonates with our society ...
what does that look like ... well.. it will be different for different people but from this resource there are many challenges ... I particularly like this resource and practical outworkings of the challenges it poses.

Take for example today ... which by my reckoning is Day 8

The reading which they pose is ...

Luke 4:16-24

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.

“Can someone from Kibera [the vast informal settlement outside Nairobi] be ordained in the Anglican Church?” I posed this question to a class of students from an ecumenical university who were studying at our Centre for Urban Mission, based in Kibera. It wasn’t a very original question. Forty years ago, our vicar in Bermondsey had asked something similar about dockers in London’s East End. Thousands of years ago, Nathanael asked regarding Jesus: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “No”! my class replied. Whether the students were being pessimistic about Kibera residents or the Anglican church, I’m not sure. Either way, they were proved wrong. On 26 October the Archbishop ordained three Centre for Urban Mission graduates. Lillian had lived in Kibera virtually all her life until she had to flee the post-election violence a year ago. Her classmates, Zadock and Barrack, helped her get out of Kibera with the few belongings she could carry. Seeing all three of them ordained was a wonderful affirmation of the gifts, calling and experiences that people from Kibera and other “slums” can bring to the rest of the church. I don’t know whether they were the first people from Kibera to be ordained, but three in one day – that must be a first! (Anita and Colin Smith, mission partners in Nairobi)

  • Where do you see mission flourishing in your local context? 
  • Is God stirring up a new call to mission in surprising people or places you know?
  • Is God stirring up a surprising new call to mission within your own life?
  • How might God be stirring up the CMS mission community (RF- or our parish community?) for action – and what might your part in that look like?

This is a huge challenge ... are we looking for the surprising people ... are we looking our for opportunities in our local community... finding the points of contact in Blarney, in Carrigrohane, in Belfast, in Banbridge ... wherever we are ... in misison in its fullest sense. 

The invitation here is to accompany us in this journey through lent and take to heart some of the lessons from the world church and apply them to what we are doing in the church in this our wee corner of the globe! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Listening to Jesus … … In times of Temptation

A Sermon preached in The Church of The Resurrection – Blarney on Sunday 17th February 2012 – Luke 4 reading – Jesus’ Tempation.

This is the Second of in a series – Listening to Jesus …

… In times of Temptation

Life can be hard! (For many this is a complete understatement … depending upon the situation you find yourself in today!)

The wilderness is a difficult place to be … for each of us it is a place we do not choose to be but sometimes find ourselves
A couple of years ago … I led a trip out to the Holy Land … It was a trip which T and K R from this union were on as well. I had the privilege of celebrating Holy Communion in the Judean wilderness …Somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho …  Nothing there except rock. A barren desolate place. Sun beating down and no shade whatsoever to be found.

It was probably the most poignant communion service I have ever conducted because of the scenery, the hostile nature of the terrain. The Gospel reading was read that we had this morning.
And there was a real sense of having to rely on God in that place … In the heat we needed the sustenance of our water bottles … and when it came to food … we only had with us the bread of communion.

Over these weeks of Lent we are reading the readings laid down by the church … but are also keeping an ear to our theme …listening to Jesus … this morning is in the Midst of temptation.
Our reading this morning follows on from Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River and he is driven into the desert for 40 days … this has all the echoes of 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness following their exodus from Egypt. It also reminds us that Jesus was tempted as we are … in his own way…and we see how he faces his struggles … struggles which we face will undoubtedly be different to his but none the less real for us.

As we think of temptations … we know Jesus faced 3 temptations
… the first was breaking his fast, turn these stones into bread … He could … it would only be a minor thing you may think …but actually he knew it was something he shouldn't be doing and replies with the words of scripture

… Then there was the worship … bow down and worship me … this seems to be a more serious one where … could you imagine what would happen if  Jesus got down and worshiped the devil the whole story would have been very different… The importance of worship … what we give our worth to is so vitally important Jesus knew this … its fundamental in terms of the commandments
… Then we have Jesus deciding not to be a super man character … not to jump of the temple … the only signs which Jesus did had meaning beyond themselves … showing his power over nature, over sickness, over death … he wasn’t show off / show man but rather he was into kningdom building

Jesus’ Temptation in the wilderness seems a whole world away from the lush green, wet weather here in blarney … 2000 years after the events  
However …  if we look at these temptations … we see that actually the same fundamental things are still around … As Ecclesiastes reminds us “There is nothing new under the sun”
Whether they be  small things … which we think won’t count in the great scheme of things
… things of our worship –OK we might not be tempted to  bow down to golden calves or the devil but we could possibly be putting other things before God…  And this can be lots of different things … what we spend an enormous amount of time doing …
… the bigger stuff which glorifies us rather than God … then maybe we shouldn't be  actually doing those things .

Temptations are those things which we are constantly being prompted to do which if acted upon have the potential to destroy the our life, our relationships, our security and our minds but also the smaller temptations might seem to be insignificant in themselves but lead to more things if we keep going down that road and .

Once you pop you can’t stop … somehow this seems pretty true  (Pringles Ad) / Jaffa Cakes

In our world today there are many, many temptations around us.  The things I find tempting will be different from yours and vice versa … all will be different from each other but the heart of the matter is the same… They are things which have the potential to destroy.  

Overcoming temptation …
I am no expert in this … and certainly I have been preaching as much to myself as I’ve been preparing this sermon.

I do think it comes back to Self Discipline … Of the old faithful ways of the Spiritual Disciplines

Knowing Scripture … Knowing the promises / words of God
For parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles … anyone who has influence on young minds here … this is something which is key for you guys … of trying somehow to help kids and young people know key verses so when temptations in you kids lives come they have somewhere to turn for truth

This is one of the reasons that next Sunday we are giving out to parents … new books which have been produced of ideas for parents to take time out with their kids and help them to get into the Bible
For all of us … having a knowledge of God’s word the resources of memory verses and committing scripture to memory for those times of struggle

Knowing God … Taking time  … Coming before God at all times during the day … Knowing Whose we are …. And who we are … Before the wilderness experience … Jesus heard God’s voice … This is my son …

Community of faith
Not many of us will face temptation in a physical wilderness with no-one else around … even  though we might feel it is so.
The church community is called to be there for each other, to hold each other accountable … to ask the questions … How are you … really?
The Wilderness times are not nice … but none of us need to go through things alone.  As a community here It is my hope and prayer that we are a people who are able to chat to each other, to support each other.
Not one of us has this all sorted … all of us do find ourselves at various times in situations which are scary, which worry us, which have the potential to destroy good things … but also each of us also have the potential to encourage and to build each other up in the Lord.

In listening to Jesus… and his word this morning

… know that he has gone through temptation … in the words of
Hebrews 4:15 - New International Version (NIV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
… Know that temptation is able to be overcome -1 Cor 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to all. 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.
… Know that temptation is not sin
So often we beat ourselves up when we think of those thoughts about what we could do …its when those things are acted upon then there are issues … temptation is common to all … find someone to chat to, pray, read the Bible, find ways of diverting yourself from giving into temptation. Things can be overcome.

Lent is traditionally a time of self examination … as you look inwards today … in what areas do you need to be careful …what temptations are you tempted by and how are you going to overcome that temptation?

O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

All of us have to keep our ears tuned to what God is saying to us… Which is great in theory  … it is my prayer that we may know this in practice.

Folks this lent, if there are things which need sorted … please do find people to chat to you, to encourage you.