If Only I Had Known

There is a television story,  Reasonable Doubts, about a woman defence lawyer representing a man convicted of brutal assaults. This man was asking the Parole Board to release him after serving a 14 year prison sentence.  The lawyer was successful and the man was  released.

A policeman who was present at the original crime scenes gave the lawyer a rough time after the hearing, telling her she shouldn’t represent such people. This man was nothing but scum.

Subsequently, the police officer discovered that the lawyer’s mother had died from cancer the day before the hearing. So, the next time he saw her he apologised.  I’m sorry, if I had known your mother had died I would have been easier on you.

Another figure in the story – the prosecutor, who had been the main star in the original trials, also gave the lawyer a hard time for representing the man before the parole board. He, too, later heard about the death of the lawyer’s mother.

So, the next time the prosecutor saw the defence lawyer he also apologised. Sorry,  If I had known I would have been easier on you.

Such stories can make us think about how often we do and say such things, If only I had known…                                                                      

In fact it happens all the time – in the normal bustle of daily living: – when we fail to recognize what is happening around us:

– when we are not in touch with what might be happening for others.

– when we are moving too fast, or feeling in need of help ourselves.

Sometimes we load up other people with our burdens, pouring out our complaints and troubles, only to discover later that the person is dealing with their own emotional burden, a burden far heavier than our own..

Sometimes we ask someone to do this or that thing, without considering their work load.  We can assume that the other person is, or should be, willing to help us, only to discover later  that they are overburdened perhaps because of a sick colleague,  or a family member in hospital.

Other times we may, in good humour, tease someone, thinking  we know them well enough for that to be ok, only to discover later that he or she is extremely  sensitive about the very thing we thought was safe to tease them about.  And we realize  we’ve blown it – we have acted inappropriately. Like the policeman, like the prosecutor, we too, may take the opportunity to talk to the person concerned.  In almost every case we say something like:  I didn’t know.  If I had known, I would not have asked you, if I had known, I would not have bothered you, if I had known, I would not have said that.

If only I had known….

Today is the final Sunday of the Church Year. Next Sunday will be Advent Sunday.  On this Sunday we are asked to remember that Jesus is Lord, our King, if you like.  I can’t help thinking that when it comes to honouring The Christ, when it comes to our willingness to show him our respect, many of us end up making the same mistake with him that we make with other people:  we blunder ahead on a business as usual basis, being casual, abrupt, insensitive – until, all of sudden it seems, we realize that something special may be going on.       If only I had known….

What is this – If only I had known excuse anyway?

I think it is a genuine sort of excuse. People are usually very sincere, even mortified by their blunder, when they offer their apology, but does it really count for a lot in the long run?   Shouldn’t we be caring and loving and respectful all the time?

Shouldn’t we always pay attention to where people are at, before we say or do something; pay attention to the situations people are in?

And shouldn’t we honour the Christ all the time, not just at special times and Sunday morning?

Think of the crucifixion of Jesus for a moment – that passage we heard read a few minutes ago. Just about everyone present in the scene in Luke, from the guards and the pharisees, to the thief on the cross beside him, taunted Jesus, saying to him:  If you are the Messiah, if you are the king, then save yourself – and save us.

It’s pretty obvious from the gospel story that none of these people recognized Jesus for who he was:  so it seems, this meant they could abuse him, as they might abuse any convicted criminal. To them nothing special was going on, just the execution of trouble makers and rabble raisers.

It was simply business as usual, business without thinking, business without considering what it was that God would want from them, whether or not this man on the cross was the Messiah – or simply a misguided fool.

If those who acted this way at the foot of the cross could come back and stand before Christ today – would they say to him: I’m sorry, Jesus, I didn’t know. If I had known I would have been easier on you. If I had known I would have taken your part like the other thief took your part. If I had known I would have wept for you instead of jeering at you.

So, what does it mean to claim that Jesus is our Messiah, our Lord, our King if you are comfortable with the royal imagery?    Does it mean we are to act differently?

Does it mean we are to show him respect, and to strive to honour him and serve him at all times?

But what happens when he isn’t sitting on a throne, is not announcing his presence among us with trumpets?

What happens when we don’t  recognize that our God and Lord  is actually here among us?

Cast your mind back to a Good Friday reading from Isaiah 53, to what the Prophet said about the Messiah.       He had no form of majesty that we should look at him,

                     nothing in his appearance that we should desire him –

      and so it was he was despised and rejected by others,

      a man of suffering and acquainted with grief.

If only we had known.

We claim the presence of Jesus, the Christ, here in our world, somewhere in our communities,  somewhere in our faith communities, somewhere in this community.

As Isaiah says, He has no form of majesty about him that we should look at him, nothing about his appearance that we desire him —      But he is here.

We owe him – we owe him our praise, our service, our special honour and care, not just at worship on Sunday morning, but in each minute of each day, as we go about our normal daily business.                            He is there.

None of us can really say – if only I had known,

For we do know –  we know we are called to live with respect and care  for all whom we meet, every day, for as the story of the Guru and the Abbot says  – Christ is among us.   AMEN.

 

Ending – or new beginning?

313,506 New Growth Stock Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from  Dreamstime

Sunday 23 October 2022

We’re coming to the ending of the Church Year, and with this comes what we call the apocalyptic readings with their dramatic pictures of endings and calamities. That word ‘apocalyptic’ has been somewhat distorted by dramatic films about the end of the world, but that’s not the word’s meaning in the scriptures. It does include the end times, but it doesn’t stop there. The theme underlying apocalyptic scripture is that of the reversal of privilege and oppression – a message that Jesus continually hammers out. But apocalyptic scripture doesn’t stop with doom and destruction; it also sings of restoration and renewal – of God’s new creation. Today’s reading from the prophet Joel fits into this latter category very well. Continue reading Ending – or new beginning?

‘Never Give Up’

16 October2022

You would think after years of women’s lib and the recent ‘Me Too’ movement there would be no more incidents of  injustice for women and yet we are now seeing a pushback from elements who justify poor treatment of women (and pretty much everyone else) as “Making America Great Again” or a part of their culture, or “just a bit of fun”. Of particular concern are the religious leaders, and their followers, who preach that certain toxic behaviours are part of their traditions and beliefs, and that to change would offend their god. And the sad thing is these religions include Christianity.

It seems like just when the persistence of previous activists’ results in some wins something else pops up. That no sooner we get comfortable with those successes that a new battle field appears and we have to fight for the same injustices, or new iterations of those injustices, all over again. It can make you despair – is God’s kingdom never going to come? is a just world ever going to happen? Continue reading ‘Never Give Up’

Cosmos and Catholicity – Creation

Cosmos

Your creation, my creation, our creation,
science’s creation, God’s creation
Whoever, whenever, whatever
One thing’s for sure
It is a marvellous creation
Full of vibration
Full of attraction
Full of energy
Full of parallels and opposites
Natural laws, manmade laws, religious laws,
spiritual laws
One thing’s for sure
It’s a wonderful mystery
slowly being unfolded
Some feel they have all the answers
Some are still searching and others are
just not interested
A magnetic equilibrium of antitheses
Life and death
Day and night
Positive and negative
Richly abundant and barrenly dry
All exist
While we wonder, why, why, why???
Rurkinder-Kaur Sidhu. Kim10@min.com

When I was growing up, the word ‘cosmos’ wasn’t part of my vocabulary. We heard ‘universe’ and ‘galaxy’ spoken of in relation to the world around us – and those ideas were challenging enough to get your head around. My particular world – and yours – has expanded in more directions than one during my lifetime. We were told in high school that electrons and protons were the smallest particles. Now we know that’s not true. And, as the known particles of creation get smaller and smaller, the cosmos gets larger and larger. Everything is constantly on the move. The stars we see in our night sky are not the stars that our first ancestors saw. I still remember an astronomer friend of mine telling me that she always quite enjoyed telling people who believed in astrology, and who rang the National Observatory to get advice from astronomers, that they were a month out of date with their star signs. That’s how far things have moved in the hundreds of years since people began to tell their fortunes from the signs of the zodiac, never mind how far they’ve moved in the thousands of years of human history. Continue reading Cosmos and Catholicity – Creation

Lost and Found

Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28

We read two sections from Jeremiah this morning and, the section in-between that is missed out, gives imagery to the Babylonian invasion.  In an interesting twist the blame for the invasion is placed with the invaded rather than the invaders.  This is real social comment where it is understood that bad national policy makes invasion a real possibility.  The second part of this morning’s reading is a lament over the devastation caused by the invasion. and Maurice Andrew points especially to the line in the second half of verse 25.

‘And all the birds of the air had fled.’ Which reminded him of a character created by the New Zealand author Owen Marshall who was ‘so tough that the birds stop singing as he passes’.  [1] Continue reading Lost and Found

Creation’s Challenges.

04 September 2022

We’ve just moved into the season of Creation. It’s a newish season of the church year, but it has rapidly become an urgently important season. It’s intended to be a time when we deliberately make connections between our interpretation of Scripture and our awareness of “creation.” This isn’t something we do easily because most of us have inherited traditional ways of reading and interpreting scripture through the lens of our humanity. This is, we focus on the personal – (what does this passage say to me) and also social justice. The Season of Creation challenges us to reconfigure our thought patterns and to ask: “How does this passage affect my attitude towards the Earth and all its inhabitants?”

The season began on September 1 – Creation Day, and today is Ocean Sunday. But I needed to start at the beginning because of those amazing images coming to us from the James Webb telescope. We are getting images that have travelled through billions of years – thousands of millions of years. From before the time when our planet first came together. It’s hard – no it’s impossible to comprehend the time scale. My brain can’t cope with more than a few millennia. I know that life began on this planet hundreds of thousands of years ago, but I can’t easily grasp these timespans, let alone the cosmic ones! Continue reading Creation’s Challenges.

Open Tables

 

A sermon on Luke 14: 1, 7-14. . August 28 2022

Luke’s Jesus sometimes seems to be preoccupied with meals. There are more references to eating, banquets, tables and reclining at tables than in any of the other Gospels.  Luke suggests that, for Jesus, the table is a key place for teaching, and for encountering the marginalized. Jesus also uses the meal table as a focus for some of his parables. Sharing a meal, sitting round a table, is a principal site for fellowship and for teaching. So, here we go again, with a meal within a meal.

On the surface, this looks like a straightforward little story. Don’t ever assume that you have a right to the place of honour. It’s not status that counts, it’s service. You may think you are important – but that won’t necessarily be the way God sees your rȏle. That’s the obvious message of this little parable that Jesus told. It’s the upside-down kingdom again – and let’s be quite clear about this – it’s seditious stuff. In Jesus’ world, status was important and status underpinned the established authority. This is Mary’s song all over again: ‘He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts……… he has brought down the powerful from their seats, and exalted the humble and meek.’ We’re so familiar with this theme, and possibly with this story, that we can slide over the provocation, but be very sure that his fellow dinner guests would have got the point. Continue reading Open Tables

The Call to Prophecy in words and action

21 August 2022

Readings

Jeremiah 1, 4-10

This morning’s reading is about God empowering Jeremiah, God puts the divine words in Jeremiah’s mouth.  This is known as word-event formula and although it is not found in earlier prophets it occurs 30 times in Jeremiah, 50 times in Ezekiel, and 12 times in the Deuteronomistic History.  Maurice Andrew suggests that it indicates that Jeremiah is a prophet to the nations, like the servant in Isaiah, and he is also a Deuteronomy prophet like Moses.

Jeremiah is the prophet most identified with doom, and this is supported by verse 10 where he is commissioned ‘to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow.’

Maurice Andrew says he often thought that Jeremiah is the journalist’s favourite prophet and he recalled a TV programme where Hamish Keith spoke of ‘the Jeremiahs of journalism.  Keith was referring to predictions of the fall of the government of the time and indeed predicted the downfall of governments as journalists still do.

Dr. Andrew goes on to suggest that Jeremiah is really inclined to be a realist who can always see the potential for disaster. Continue reading The Call to Prophecy in words and action

Loving God by Loyalty to All Humanity

Vineyard Song - Out Here Hope Remains

Readings for 14 August 2022

Isaiah 5, 1-11

In this passage from Isaiah the people of Jerusalem are provoked into accepting judgement on themselves. The friend has done everything possible to cultivate a vineyard and would expect it to produce grapes.  At that point the people of Jerusalem are called to make a judgement between the friend and the vineyard.

Finally, the friend is identified as God and the vineyard is the people of Judah.  God expected justice but received bloodshed.[1]

Luke 12:49-56

Fred Craddock says that Jesus is the crisis of the world and by that he does not mean an emergency but the moment of truth and decision about life.

As an image to help the understanding of that comment he suggests a gable of a house where two raindrops strike the gable and could run off either way.  If instead of a gable, we think of a ridge in a mountain range the raindrops could indeed, end up oceans apart. To turn towards one person, goal or value means turning away from another.

According to the sayings in this reading God is acting through Jesus in a way that creates a crisis that produces difference even in families.  Peace, in the sense of status quo, is disrupted and historically this has proven to be true.

Sermon

‘Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!’ (Luke 12:49). Continue reading Loving God by Loyalty to All Humanity

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’

August 7 2022

Blessed Are the Peacemakers, for They Will Be Called Children of God" (Matt  5:9) | Bible Commentary | Theology of Work

Is there anyone who doesn’t hope for peace. I don’t know of any nation that doesn’t give at least lip service to the words inscribed on the front of the UN building in New York. ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.’ Those words have sat there for over half a century, and how many of the nations that send members to sit in UN meetings have known even one decade when their people all sit under their own vines and harvest their own crops? What do they think they’re doing, all those wise men and women who debate the ways forward for the world’s countries – including their own? We might be forgiven for thinking: very little.

We might be forgiven for thinking that, but are we then shifting the responsibility onto someone else’s shoulders. Anybody’s but mine. It’s not my job to work for world peace.  Others will do that, somewhere other than the place I sit in. Just let me go on sitting quietly in my own garden and dreaming of peace, but don’t ask me to do anything about it. Is that where we’re at?  Continue reading ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’

Millennial dilemmas

31 July 2022

Here we are, in your beautiful and beautifully strengthened and renewed church. What next? How will you use your treasure?

Strangely enough, the readings chimed in with these questions. We had Paul insisting on the universality of Christ’s new kingdom, and Luke reminding us about the futility of accumulating possessions, and challenging us to find and hold our real treasures. (As one of my favourite hymns puts it: ‘The pearl of great price and the treasure of heaven’, i e the great love of God.) Continue reading Millennial dilemmas

Maintaining the Chain of Religious Memory

Sunday 24th July 2022

St Ninian

Text: Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, Luke 5: 17-24

In 3 weeks’ time I am preaching at St Cuthbert’s, the mother church of Edinburgh. It is part of a trip as Moderator to connect with the Church of Scotland as Moderator of the PCANZ. It is also a personal pilgrimage, linking with my own family roots in the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. The day after I preach at St Cuthbert’s, I make my way up to Iona, homage to St Columba and his impact on Celtic Christianity. I hear that some of you did a similar pilgrimage to Scotland in 2016. That on that trip the author of a book on St Ninian told you: “Forget Columba – Ninian was the spring from which the river of Celtic Christianity flowed”

That is, indeed, a claim to fame that you can be a part of. From those beginnings of Celtic Christianity with St Ninian in the 4th and 5th centuries, here we are in 2022 reopening a church that bears his name! Continue reading Maintaining the Chain of Religious Memory

Learning from Mary and Martha

“Learning from Mary and Martha”
July is Bible Month. A time when the Bible Society encourages a focus on the Word of God. As ‘people of the book’, as Presbyterians claim to be, it seemed to me to a chance to share a ‘proper’ sermon, unlike the reflections and such that I have done with you previously.
The readings today have been read and preached on for centuries, especially the story about Mary and Martha. In fact I am tempted to declare that this is one of the few stories where a tale about women has influenced men as well. The contrast between the service of Martha and the contemplation of Mary became the foundation of difference between the secular life and the ordained. Continue reading Learning from Mary and Martha

Plumb Line

The Plumb Line: Praying Effectively – THE 918

Amos 7:7-17
Maurice Andrew suggests the idea of Yahweh holding a plumb-line against the people could be referring to dilapidated city walls. However the plumb line might also be a metaphor of assessing the people’s trueness. Are they true, straight and upright in their loyalty to the divine laws and just living?
Amos’ words are not well received and Amaziah tells the king that Amos’ words are too harsh for people to bear and he instructs Amos to desist.
Amos notes that he is not a prophet or a prophet’s son which Andrew says probably means that he is not one of the band of professional prophets that can be ordered around by the priest. He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. The sycamore was a type of fig tree which was inferior to the figs we know but was very popular with the poor because it had three crops a year. A dresser made an incision in the fruit before they were ripe so that the juice ran out and the rest fermented, giving the fruit a sweet taste Continue reading Plumb Line

STEP OFF YOUR WORLD

What if the world was one country? A psychologist on why we need to think beyond borders

Luke 9: 51-62. June 2022

Today’s Gospel is a real challenge! What on earth does Jesus mean? What does he call his followers to do? Is he really saying, it’s OK – it’s more than OK, it’s the right thing to do – to take off suddenly into the blue, leaving family, responsibilities, friends, work, and everything that makes up a life in community. And don’t even stop for a few moments to tell them where you’re going or why? We’ve all heard stories about missing persons in our society, and the heartache they leave behind. We wouldn’t dream of calling this responsible behaviour, if one of our friends or relations just took off. We’d be calling in the police and putting advertisements in papers and on line and going out and looking ourselves. What are we to make of this gospel reading? Continue reading STEP OFF YOUR WORLD

Trinity

12 June 22

One of the incessant commercials we endure currently has a man interrupted while painting his fence and told about the tiny cable under his feet.  He is then teleported into a massive tunnel under the berm where small streaks of pulsing light flow down the middle.  ‘You said it was a tiny cable he protests’. ‘It is, this is a metaphor.’ voice-over replies.

A metaphor that tells us that the tiny tube carelessly stapled to my fence can carry far more data than its size might indicate.  Trinity is a bit like that.

The Rev Dr. Robin Meyers recently argued on Facebook that the doctrine of Trinity is a metaphor that evolved as a way to try and understand God. Continue reading Trinity

Winds of God

05 June 2022 Pentecost 2022 St Ninians.

Do you ever stop and think about something you just said, and wonder, now just exactly what did I mean by that? We have our routines of greeting and parting. ‘How are you?’ we say? ‘How’s life?’ Do we really want to know – in detail? How about supermarket staff with their: ‘How’s your day been?’, or: ‘Have a good day’ when we know perfectly well they don’t want to know.

And we also  do things without thinking what we’re doing – even in church. We often begin worship by affirming the presence of God’s Spirit. Whenever we celebrate communion, we tell the story and we invoke the Holy Spirit – we call on God’s Spirit, using a prayer of transformation. Do we really know what we’re doing when we call on the Holy Spirit? How would we respond if God’s Spirit was made known in a truly dramatic way? Continue reading Winds of God

As One Door Closes …

Easter 6

Acts 16:6-15, John 14:23-29

‘As one door closes, another door opens…’

To most of us, I imagine that’s a pretty well-known phrase.

Although it’s usually meant to reassure, for me this little proverb raises a number of difficult questions, such as:

Just who is it that is opening and closing those doors?

Are the main points of entry and exit in our lives controlled entirely by ourselves and other human beings?

Do they function randomly?

Or are they under the remote control of a supreme being;

Are our doors indirectly opened and closed for us by God?

Does God have ‘a plan’ just for people of faith, or for every human being,

And where is God when everything seems to be going wrong?

I’m aware that last question sounds more than a bit melodramatic,

And I can’t help recalling ‘ Where there’s life, there’s hope’ – another helpful proverb I learned at some point in my distant past.

Continue reading As One Door Closes …

Inclusive Christianity

Readings: Acts 11: 1-18

This section of Acts is significant because the early followers of Jesus saw ‘the way’ as a reform of Judaism and all their cultural conditioning would encourage them to keep it within Judaism.  ‘Luke’, says William Barclay ‘sees this incident as a notable mile-stone on the road along which the Church was groping its way to the conception of a world for Christ’.[1]

It seems to be a strong group building practise to limit diet, dress or behaviour as a distinguishing mark that encourages our ‘in group’, ‘out group’ instincts.  But the early church seems to have overcome that tendency even though later sections introduced new sanctions.

John 13: 31-35

This passage begins immediately after Judas has left and is the beginning of Jesus’ farewell speech which repeats the theme of love several times, intensifying the love commitment each time.  Raymond Brown writes that Jesus gives the disciples a command that, if obeyed, will keep the spirit of Jesus alive among them.

Love is more than a commandment; it is a gift from God.

Sermon

Continue reading Inclusive Christianity

Mission Now but Mission How

Introduction to the readings

Acts 9:36-43

This is clearly a reflection of Jesus raising Lazarus and the leader of the synagogue’s daughter.  In his commentary on the passage William Barclay includes the previous section about Peter’s healing of a paralysed man.  In that passage Peter says ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.’  Although we are not told what words Peter used in his prayer in the raising of Tabitha it is fair to assume, as Barclay does, that both healings were carried out by Peter ‘in the name of Jesus Christ so Peter is shown allowing Christ to work through him and not through any special power of Peter’s.

The passage follows a series of sheep and gate parables, and Raymond Brown writes that, in this place in John’s narrative, the demand that Jesus say plainly whether or not he is the messiah makes perfect sense.  He has referred to himself as a shepherd, a metaphor which traditionally has been used of the Davidic kings and of the expected messiah.  However, Jesus is always anxious to qualify what messiahship might mean because it had strong nationalistic and militaristic overtones.  Jesus’ concept was entirely different, and he answers by giving examples of what he is doing, in his ‘fathers name.’ and in verse 30 that is summed up, as is common in John’s Gospel, in a theological statement ‘The Father and I are one’.

Jesus is the good shepherd but only his sheep recognise that, he is not going to force that recognition on others as a military messiah might be expected to do. [1] Continue reading Mission Now but Mission How

Crossing the Line

Our Gospel reading is challenging. First of all, it almost looks like an appendix – an afterthought. If you look at the ending of Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel it says: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Now that sounds like a final ending to me. So Chapter 21 is almost as if when the author – or maybe some other author –read out what was written to his community, someone said, “Oh, but you’ve left out a really important bit. You’ve simply got to put it in. Everyone needs to hear it”. So, if the writer agreed that it was important, let’s think about it a little.

The companions of Jesus found themselves in a totally new place of living. They reacted as we almost always react at first to dramatic change. They wanted to blank it out – to go back to what they were used to. Just as we do in these days of lockdowns and mandates and sudden changes in the way we communicate with our families and communities. The apostles probably wanted to be with family and friends in the place they had called ‘home’ for most of their lives. They wanted to find themselves doing familiar things. Possibly they may even have decided that before they made any radical changes, they needed to think things over; to weigh the risks. Also, of course, they wanted to remove themselves from a volatile danger zone. Back home in a small village was much safer than in Jerusalem. But – and this is always the result of change – they found that the challenge wasn’t going to let them alone. Jesus wasn’t going to let them alone. The changes followed them home. What had happened was going to change the landscape.

Continue reading Crossing the Line

Questions are OK!

We’ve heard a lot about resilience lately. Christchurch people are ‘resilient’. We were ‘resilient’ after the earthquakes – although as years go by and repairs are not finished and gathering spaces are not restored, that resilience has got a little frayed. We heard it after the mosque massacres. We were resilient. We moved in to help and support. We shared the love. Now we have the pandemic. Here we go again. Be resilient! But what, precisely do people mean when they say this? I think we’re expected to take it as a commendation – a pat on the back for being strong characters with good coping skills.  I treat that understanding with a good deal of scepticism. I suspect it’s much more a way for those in power to paper over the cracks and find reasons to delay putting in much-needed resources. After the earthquakes our ‘resilience’ meant, for example, that no, we didn’t need any extra help for the mental health services. We were all right. We just got on with it. By now there’s more recognition of the need for mental health support after disasters, and for the length of time it will be needed. But it’s still not in place.

Coping skills don’t necessarily kick in automatically whenever there’s stress. Not everybody has the same skill in managing in difficult times. We know now that some of our emotional health depends on what happens in our early years. It is true – or so I learned once at a lecture given by Ken Strongman, Emeritus Professor of Psychology – that older persons often react less strongly to emotional stress – we’ve learnt from experience over the years. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel stress!

Continue reading Questions are OK!

Palm Sunday

Readings

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 are a mixture of motives.[1]

What is important is that the Psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus.  As with so many instances the gospel writer is using tradition to express meaning about Jesus rather than give historical detail as we might expect.

Continue reading Palm Sunday

‘Jesus has gone! ?’

Resurrection Sunday

Introduction to Bible Readings

I invite you to connect with the resurrection reading using your imagination. Take a few moments to imagine how that morning might have engaged your senses of smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing.

  • What sounds might you have heard that morning?
  • What scents and aromas would have been in the air?
  • What taste might have been in your mouth?
  • What might you have touched that morning?
  • What sights would you have seen at the tomb?

Prayer of Illumination

Kia inoi tatou, Let us pray;

Jesus, we do not always find it easy to recognise you, especially when we do not expect you.

Help us to understand you now in the scripture.

Set our heavy hearts on fire with love for you, and send us on our way rejoicing.

In your name.

Amine/Amen

  Continue reading ‘Jesus has gone! ?’

Hands- Good Friday 2022

 

(You are invited to look at your hands)

As we look at our hands, we can see some of our life’s story etched on them: cared for, pampered, blemished, scarred, or out of shape, they tell some of our history. We also use hands as an image of ourselves, our actions, and attitudes, what we take and how we trust. Hands are part of this Good Friday story. May God’s Spirit touch our hands, our heads, and our hearts as we share this story again.

CLEAN HANDS

Reading 1: John 18:28–32

Jesus before Pilate

28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.[a] It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters,[b] so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

 Reflection 1: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day worked hard to keep their laws and sometimes used it as excuse not to help people. Trying to keep their hands clean meant not getting involved.

We look at our own hands: clean from our morning shower, perhaps, or maybe there are still marks on them and dirt under our nails. We give thanks for our working days, the daily tasks we do to earn our living and run our homes; we are grateful to those who give us a hand, and we acknowledge that we live in community and often work with others.

Continue reading Hands- Good Friday 2022

The woman with the alabaster jar.

Today we’ve heard two versions of another story that’s familiar to many of us – the story of a woman who anointed Jesus. And I have to say that it’s a story that’s often mis-read, misinterpreted, and mis-remembered. We can be so much influenced by familiarity, or by what we thought we learned in Sunday School or Bible Class, that we can miss deeper and richer meanings.
How many of you remember best the version that says the woman was a sinner? How many of you have heard the story interpreted in a way that goes so far as to label the woman as a prostitute? How many of you have heard versions – or seen paintings – where the woman is indentified as Mary of Magdala – Mary Magdalene? I could answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions. And some of those interpretations can lead us down some very strange paths. Continue reading The woman with the alabaster jar.

Coming Home – Sunday 27th March 2022

A sermon on the Prodigal Son, Luke 15: 11-32 Lent 4 2022

Most of us know and love the story of the prodigal son. – it’s one of those stories that stick in the mind –that’s the mark of a really good story. Perhaps we’re too familiar with it. If we heard it first at Sunday School, we learned that it’s a parable about God’s enduring love, even for the lost and straying. And, of course, it is! But it’s also a great deal more than this.

We’ve lost the dramatic impact it had in its first telling. Continue reading Coming Home – Sunday 27th March 2022

An Open Invitation

You may have recently seen the photos of the Russian President Putin meeting visiting heads of state at a massive table. He is at one end and the visitor is some considerable distance away at the other. It was rightly seen as a power play by political commentators long before the more obvious events in Ukraine. For despite the roundness of the table, usually a nod to the equality of participants, here these photos demonstrate that Putin is clearly the one in charge. “Yes, I have invited you to join me at the table, but I am the one with the power,” it says. But that is totally the opposite message the passage from Isaiah wants to give. With its references to journey and invitation it is clearly stating that coming to God’s table is coming home, that this is a table where everyone is equal. Continue reading An Open Invitation

Freedom or Personal Sovereignty

A lot has been said about freedom as people block streets and camp in the grounds of parliament and Cranmer Square, thereby restricting the freedom of others.  A colleague of mine suggested that a better term to define the overall goals of the protesters would be ‘personal sovereignty’

However, having had an overload of David Attenborough on summer television I doubt that any primates have such a thing as ‘personal sovereignty.’ Certainly, we have seen aging alpha males defeated and sent to forage for a lonely subsistence in a hostile environment, excluded rather than free. Continue reading Freedom or Personal Sovereignty

REMEMBERING JOURNEYS

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13. Lent 1C 2022

We’re at the beginning of Lent: a season which, I have to say, we don’t really know what to do with. Oh, we have special Bible studies (sometimes), some of us change the colours in our churches, and we have a few extra possible services that we may or may not use. Given the attendance at some of these, they are treated as optional extras. And we have a set of readings that take us through the 40 days – and with some of these we struggle to find our way into them for our time and place. Today’s readings, at first hearing, don’t seem to be related. One is a defining narrative for the understanding of the covenant between God and Israel. It’s the climax of the Exodus story. The other is familiar to anyone who has grown up in the Christian faith. So – where to start? At the beginning! Continue reading REMEMBERING JOURNEYS