Archives 2006

Sermon: Christ the King, Year B

Texts: Daniel 7:13-14; John 18:33-37

My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn. 18:36)

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Our liturgical year concludes with this relatively new feast, instituted by 1925 to celebrate the jubilee year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea.

It also affirmed the primacy of Christ in the face of rising nationalism and fascism. The scriptural themes in the lectionary are similar to those of the Ascension: the exaltation and rule of Christ. Along with the readings of the past few Sundays and next week: First Sunday of Advent, they look to the second coming of Christ in glory and complete the cycle of the mysteries of Christ from birth to unending reign.

Yet kingship evokes ambiguous responses today. Royal weddings and funerals attract millions of viewers enthralled by solemn ritual and ceremonial elegance more than by a sense of awe at the power of monarchy. Modern newspapers raise up members of the royal family as Saints, and yet delight in hounding them into the ground and questioning their every indiscretion or utterance. Yet the readings we are confronted with today are rich with the paradox that the kingship Christ speaks of is nothing like any human, earthly concept of royalty.

Written in a time of severe persecution, the Book of Daniel celebrates the enthronement of “one like a son of man” (lit. “one in human form”), in contrast to the crumbling powers of the world empires. Daniel later indicates that this human one symbolizes the vindication of the “holy ones of the Most High,” the suffering people (Dan. 7:27).

The Gospel presents one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament, in which an arrogant Pilate learns ironically that Jesus is a king, but not the kind he can deal with. When asked if he is a king, Jesus does not claim the title “king” but replies, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” This does not mean that Jesus has proclaimed and enacted a purely spiritual or otherworldly kingdom, but that his present and future reign does not operate according to the world’s criteria of power and dominance.

Jesus further redefines his kingship as being a witness to the truth. The words truth and true, used 39 times in John, are multivalent terms with overtones of “non-concealment,” disclosure of God’s wisdom and plan of salvation and the reliability of Jesus’ words.

Jesus speaks the truth about God and humanity, which humans can reject, as “the way, the truth and the life,” and accepting such truth brings true freedom (8:32).

When faced with the truth of Jesus, people in John’s Gospel must chose to believe or reject Jesus. The choice is yours.

Pilate here becomes a supreme example of the “fence-sitter,” who can at best muster a cynical response to Jesus, “What is truth?” (18:38, unfortunately omitted from today’s reading).

The truth, my dear friends, is here. The truth is displayed on the cross. The truth is found in the empty tomb. The truth is right here – in the midst of this body of faith as we journey together holding fast to the truth of Christ’s liberation of us.

To celebrate Christ as king is to enter into the deepest mysteries of faith. Jesus, bound and seemingly powerless before Pilate, the symbol of a powerful empire that holds the scales of life and death, is the true king who possesses the power to grant a life that never ends. All who belong to the truth will be followers of this king and will hear his voice. This truth is not revealed in dominating power but by suffering witnesses.

This Gospel summons to decision not only Pilate, but the church today as well. Johannine truth suggests an authenticity between belief and practice, a faithful witness that embodies the teaching of the Johannine Jesus.

John’s Jesus is “the friend” who gives his life for others and washes their feet as a symbol of that loving service they are to embody. He is the Good Shepherd who not only seeks the lost, as in the Synoptic Gospels, but lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus’ kingdom does not belong to this world because it rejects the way of violence (18:36) and domination and the pretensions that mask truth.

So, when asked what the feast of Christ the King is all about, it is about the truth of a king, and of a kingdom far beyond our earthly understanding. The powerful Baptist preacher Dr SM Lockridge tried to explore who the king was – I wonder if you know him?

[Show That’s My King Video

Amen


Applause, Applause!

I can’t commend this highly enough, the Bishop of Southwark captures the moment perfectly.

Thought for the Day, 21 November 2006

The Rt Rev. Tom Butler

Good morning. The Archbishop of Canterbury starts his visit to the Vatican today and the standard story is that progress towards unity between the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Communion has been set back, sadly, by the ordination of women as priests and bishops and the fracas concerning gay priests and bishops in the Anglican Communion.

There is another way of viewing the same happenings. The Church of England sees itself as being both Catholic and Reformed, taking on many of the reforms of the Reformation Churches whilst keeping a continuity with the catholic nature of the ordained ministry. More than this, it is possible to see the Church of England as a Prophetic, Catholic and Reformed Church, thoughtfully and prayerful making the developments that the wider catholic and orthodox churches might wish to take into their system later.

For example, at the reformation the Book of Prayer offered the people of England and subsequently people in other lands, worship in their own vernacular language. It took four centuries before the Roman Catholic church replaced the Latin mass by local languages as the norm of their worship. Again, the Church of England since the reformation has allowed its clergy to marry. It’s only in the last dozen years that the Roman Catholic church in England has allowed former Anglican priests to become Roman Catholic priests, despite them being married, surely indicating that there is nothing theologically inherent preventing a married man being a priest.

Now we have the development of women being ordained as priests in the Anglican Communion. The decision was taken to ordain them believing that this was a legitimate development of church order. Over two thousand have already been ordained in the Church of England, I have 175 ministering in my own diocese. Women now form half the candidates at every ordination. It’s nonsensical to believe that there’ll be any going back and nor should there be. Women priests aren’t a problem they’re a blessing, not only to the Church of England, but to the wider community and I believe to the whole catholic church in years to come.

And what of gay priests? Of course there are divisions and splits in the Anglican Communion over this issue at the present time, and because we are a transparent church, the arguments are conducted in public. But Archbishop and Pope both know that they have serving their respective churches innumerable dedicated and devoted gay priests, often ministering in the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. They’re not a problem. They’re a blessing.

We may be in the winter of church unity negotiations, but calling blessings problems isn’t the way to move towards the spring.


Washed Clean

A powerful demonstration of redemption. Adjust your explanation of sin and redemption according to the age of your audience.

You will need:

  • Two clear glass bowls
  • A jug of water
  • Iodine Tincture (77p from the Chemist/Pharmacy)
  • Film Fixer (£3.99 from a camera shop)
  • A hankerchief – even better when slightly starched as it turns blacker in the iodine

Jesus Christ was a remarkable man: he said remarkable things, but even more remarkable were the things he did. I don’t just mean amazing things like healing the sick, or even rising from the dead, although that is the most incredible thing that only the Son of God could do.

No, this morning, I want to show you something quite special that illustrates what Jesus did for us, and continues to do for us as the Saviour of the World.

I have here, in these very bowls, some water, as you can see: plain ordinary water. Now these two bowls represent the world, and as the world is over 70% water, it is quite right that they are full of water.

Now, here I have a hankerchief, a plain ordinary handkerchief, and I think, even, that it’s clean. This handkerchief represents us, people in the world; and as you can see, when I dip it into the clean water, it stays nice and bright and shiny.

However, the world isn’t really as clean as all that is it? There are lots of nasty things going on, people killing each other and hating each other, simply because they live in the wrong part of town, or because they have different colour skin; people arguing and stealing and telling lies, all things that make God very sad about the wonderful world that he created: failing to love God, failing to follow God’s laws and failure to treat other people as we want to be treated.

So, to show this, I am going to add a few drops of some of this badness into the bowl of water [add iodine tincture, just a little, because I am sure that there is just a little bit of badness in the world, not a lot, but see what happens – the little bit of badness spreads throughout the earth and makes the water all mucky and brown.

What happens when I dip the nice clean hankie into the water now [put hankie in iodine solution, and it goes black – it makes it dirty and stained: we are affected by the badness in the world, and we are marked by it; see how the hankie goes black – and sometimes we even make the badness worse by adding our own badness: a bit of lying, a bit of cheating, a bit of stealing and a bit of failing to love God as we should. We call this turning away from God, ‘sin’.

Now, in this other bowl, we have a slightly different world, a world which is touched with the love of Jesus Christ in it [containing a solution of film fixer and water: he loves each and every one of us, no matter how discoloured and dirty we think we may me, no matter how clever we are or how we look, he simply loves us no matter what

Watch what happens now, if I take the cloth that is us, marked with sin, and put it in the Jesus bowl, [put cloth in fixer bowl, and it will turn clean again it takes away our sin, and makes us clean again, and you can see that the hankie has gone back to white again, as it has been touched by the love of Jesus. If we allow ourselves to be immersed in Christ, then we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.
However, and I think this is the clever part, this story does not just end with the wiping clean of us, and the making of us clean from sin: watch what happens when I take the cloth that has encountered the love of Jesus, and put it back in the dirty, sinful old world again [put the cloth from the fixer back in the iodine solution – the iodine will clear and the ‘water’ will be clean again, the love of Christ which has changed you, has the power to change the world, and the effect of sin can be overcome.

Jesus Christ did this, because he was the Messiah, the Son of God Just as he turned this cloth back clean, so Jesus makes the world clean – as the Saviour of the World – he brings good news to the oppressed, binds up the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; comfort to all who mourn. Jesus did that by dying on the cross and by rising again to defeat death – defeating death for us all – that is why he really and truly is, “the saviour of the world”

[dispose of the water carefully, as it is both poisonous


Talk Talk phone number

Talk Talk’s website is so appalling that they don’t give out their phone number on the website, but ask you to complete a mass of details including your account details, full address, bank details and inside leg measurement. They probably want a blood sample as well.

For those of you who, like me couldn’t find a phone number on their site to contact them, here it is:

+44 (0)870 444 1820

As a phone company you’d think they would at least have their phone number displayed on the contact page of their website wouldn’t you?

The reason I needed to dance with the devil is that I got a phone message from “James from the Information Team” (who? what company? Was that my Information team in the parish?) asking me to call 08712409000, which sounds like a premium rate number.

ICTIS don’t deal with 087x numbers,  and said “contact your phone provider”. Rather than leave it alone, I thought I would. How much am I regretting this now, but I have to see it through.

See http://blog.hackingcough.com/2006/08/endemols_getric.htm

Talk Talk won’t answer the phone, so I’m off to Offcom (08454563000) to complain.


Prayers for the releasing of spirits within a home

Should you ever need these:

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. .

May you return to your Creator
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life.
May you see your Redeemer face to face.

May the Angels, the Saints, the Prophets and the Patriarchs join us/me in prayer as we ask for God’s blessing on this house.

May it be filled with joy, with laughter, with the Saviour’s love
May it be free from fear, from anger, from resentment

May all who dwell within it live in the love of Christ

We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen

Joining our prayers with the whole company of heaven we join our prayers with those of the blessed virgin:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

May Almighty God +bless us and keep us, now and forever. Amen.


Purespace or "Where would Jesus Mosh"

Max invited me to come and speak at a youth event at his Church up on the hill in Crookhorn. Clearly a subsitute Halloween couple of events.
Their event was called “Purespace”, and was for their (I would guess)  year 6+ youth group and others. Many of them were around year 9+.

I arrived early to catch the end of their event for younger ones. It had a Star Wars  theme and was like a holiday club. Really impressive: lots of leaders, lots of commitment, lots of fun. I have the holiday club thing lurking in the back of my head. I think we ought to offer something for the younger ones in the parish when I chuck all my energy into year 6+. Must keep praying on that one.

The youth event was cool. They had a good worship band: musically very competant, but a little shy. The MC, Sandra, said that they were shy as she introduced them, but they should be encouraged by this to project personality and let that vibrancy which they clearly had when I chatted to them personally shine through. This does not mean that they should try and become bigger than the worship they lead, but leading worship needs presence and confidence – think Paul at the Aeropagus to carry it off.

The band were indie in style, but the kids had settled back; so I wondered how to bring them to my attention. As a stranger, I was clearly going to be a curiosity, so from nowhere comes this whacky, off the wall idea – Moshing as a symbol of unity!

(If you don’t know what Moshing is – its the tight packed jumping up and down at the front of a concert: rowdy, lively and I suspected, right where these kids were at.)

“I heard that Crookhorn was the moshing centre of the universe, and the best moshers , but I havn’t seen any”.

I got everyone at the front, packed them in really tight and we started to bounce. I even forced the adults to join in and soon we are all arms in the air moshing in the silence. They sat were they were and I started, using this cool wireless  slide controller to run my slides.
Using the Wedding at Cana as an example, I suggested that Jesus never hung out at the back (with his pint), but would have been down the front moshing with the disciples. Jesus scandalised the authorities and was not about prohibition, but rather “I came that you may have life, life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). I am fundamentally about a Gospel that releases us rather than restricts, that transforms rather than putting us in a box of righteousness.

I knew this would be an okay message for this Church as I had a really good conversation with thir new vicar when I arrived. Although clearly of a very different spirituality to myself, we got on really well, and after 10 or 15 minutes, the word “inclusive” came up to our mutual satisfaction: here was not a narrow prejudicial church, but a deeply evangelical, bible-based church with which I could be comfortable being myself. I really liked him. More power to his elbow.

Speaking about the call of God to all of us, about the call of God to the Saints (and reclaiming Halloween as the eve of All Hallows, All Saints) and how it usually isn’t like the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where God appears out of a cloud.

“You are already Saints” (cf Ephesians 1:1), I said “because you believe in the promises of Christ”

Go and respond to that call. The young people were attentive (praise the Lord) and the Holy Spirit must have been with us, as I wouldn’t have been able to connect like that without her.

Moved into a time of prayer, got the band up to extemporise, but they started the next song, so I cut into them after the first verse, and as they continued playing (after my encouragement) we prayed over the music, offered ministry time (but clearly I was not as good as I could be, as there were no takers) and then on with the rest of the event.

For the second time in 2006, I have preached at a youth event in a style that was both deeply of me, but also far outside my tradition. My ministry seems at times to transcend all kinds of labels. Let it be so.

Came away tired but enthused. God be praised.

…and to top it all off, the church sent me one of those wireless gizmos this morning as a gift so I can play with the toy at St Thomas’! God be praised!


Backloading Complete…

I have just completed the backloading of this blog with previous material. I hope I have the dates roughly right. I have also uploaded all of my sermons at this Church since my induction 2 years ago.

It is interesting: although I do the bulk of the preaching (for I consider it to be a) my responsibility and b) as the stipendary member of clergy, I should do more than my NSM-colleague who has plenty of other work-related pressures about), there are considerable gaps in the sermon sequences. On occasion, I preach without notes, but this is not the norm, and the pattern is not reflected in this. Have I lost those sermons? That would be sad, for I’m sure the ones not on this site are the best of the bunch…   🙂

I have also loaded some postings from a previous parishLife blog: ones related to mission and ministry and not about things which should be left off blogs. I have learned. See?

Off to Church shortly to prepare for the reception of a coffin into Church. A wonderfully faithful lady, dearly loved by us all. She will be missed. Compare with the usual 20 mins at the Crem: Reception of the body at 4.15pm followed by Vespers for the Dead; A Requiem Mass this evening at 7.30pm and a Funeral Office tomorrow at 10am. This shows how much the parish think of her. This is how it should be. She was not rich, or a great organiser of people; but kind and funny and feisty and faithful. How I wish we could give thanks to God for people like her in this way more often.

Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord / and let light perpetual shine upon her

May she rest in peace / and rise in glory.


Sermon: Ordinary 30

Sermon: Ordinary 30

Text: Mark 10 46-52

Go, your faith has saved you”

In the name of the +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Once upon a time (and doesn’t it fill you with dread when a sermon begins with ‘once upon a time’) but still, Once upon a time, Bartimeaus, the blind beggar who features in this morning’s story, could see. He was full of life, and I suppose we can assume, full of hope.

Then something happened to him, and he lost his sight: disease, accident, we don’t know; but bereft of sight his options in life collapsed and he ended up begging by the roadside.

These days, blindness is not nearly so catastrophic, and those with diminished sight certainly do lead full, enriched, happy and productive lives; but then, it was very different: no sight, no work, no work, no food – a very direct relationship. So Bartimeaus sat by the roadside hoping that someone would pity him and would fill his bowl with food, or give him a few coins to purchase what everyone needs.

As anyone on the streets of Leeds, Manchester or London will tell you, Bartimeaus had a hard life. There was little sympathy for those who were blinded. Some thought that it was the fault of the blind person: that they had been struck blind because of some sin or wickedness; others simply felt you were a drain on society, a social parasite – best ignored, best left begging by the roadside.

Because Bartimeaus was blind, he was in many people’s eyes, less than human. He had become an object: an object to be pitied, or cursed, or ignored. Bartimeaus was therefore stuck at the side of the road outside Jericho, with the world passing him by.

How many of us, I wonder feel as Bartimeaus must have felt? How many of us feel that the world is passing us by? Prevented by one reason or another from fully participating in the life that goes on around us.

I am sure that many of us feel trapped in the life we have, in our jobs, in our relationships, trapped in the body we have; unable to break free, unable to change things…

And how many of us, finding ourselves in that position, do anything about it? How many of us reach out for help?

How many of us find out our friends and our neighbours and confide in them our feelings, our needs? How many of us actually ask our families for help when we need it? How many of us even think to reach out to God and ask that he help?

Sometimes we suffer, not because the situation cannot be overcome, but because we are afraid to ask for help, we don’t want to be a burden on others, or perhaps we do not want to seem weak in the eyes of other people.

You will be able to think of your own examples, but:

I know of someone who will not tell his wife how troubled he is, because he thinks she will not be interested in his plight, as she has so many troubles of her own to bear.

I know of several people who will not seek help for their addiction to alcohol, or drugs, because they cannot admit to themselves that their problems have become bigger than they are.

I know of young people who have a hard time coping with life because they will not approach their parents or their teachers because they are afraid that they will get into trouble or even worse, be ignored if they do.

I can think very readily of someone who will not pray for God to come to her help because she thinks he has more important things to do than listen to her.

However, if we have the courage and most importantly the faith to reach out to God and ask Him to help us, he shows us that he does have the time to deal with us, and to comfort us in our times of need.

This is a hard thing to do, for it takes courage, it takes faith and it takes, much as Bartimeaus has shown us, perseverance: the path through to God and through to His salvation is beset by those wanting to detract us, those trying to quieten us down and keep us in our place: keep us begging by the roadside.

We have to realise that there are times when we all need help, times when we must turn to other people and turn to God. The Good News, is that there is no situation in life which is so bad that someone cannot help us with it in some small way, that someone cannot help us to overcome it, or to help us bear it.

“This is something I have to face on my own” is a supremely selfish position to take.

We really do never have to face things on our own; for even if we cannot find someone else amongst our partners, our family, our friends or society in general, then we have the assurance that if we turn to God, he will be there. Even at the greatest hour of crisis, in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord knelt and prayed.

However:

The devout priest was caught in a flood one day, and he climbed onto the roof of his Vicarage and as the water started lapping up over the roof he prayed “Lord, deliver me from this flood”.

The water continued to rise and a policeman in a rowing boat passed: “Can I help you Vicar?” “No thanks, the Lord will deliver me!”

A little while later, the water is even higher, and the Vicar is up to his waist, even standing on his roof. A lifeboat cruises past, and the coxwain shouts out “Can I help you, Vicar?” “No Thanks” was his reply “The Lord will deliver me – I’ve prayed for it”

After another few minutes, the water has risen so much that only the Vicar’s head is peeping out from above the water and a helicopter flies over. The pilot leans out and calls “Can I help you Vicar?” “No thanks, the Lord will deliver me!”

At which point, the water rises over the Vicar’s head and he drowns.

When the Vicar arrives at the gates of heaven and faces St Peter he is furious: “I’ve been a most serious and devout priest all my life, devoted to prayer and good works – why didn’t God answer my prayers. “Oh,” says Peter “That ‘s strange: we sent two boats and a helicopter after you…”

God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want them to, for as the prophet Isaiah recorded:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, says the LORD.”

We may find this difficult to accept, but sometimes the answer to our prayers is not always what we expect. There is a strand of thought that suggests that if God doesn’t give you what you want it is because you havn’t prayed hard enough, or have been sinful and so your prayers are diminished in some way, but this is wholly wrong: this is the sort of blame culture that said that Bartimaeus was responsible for his blindness.

No, God will always answer prayer in a way that is appropriate for us. He will always give us what we need, and will always give us the strength to bear what we must bear, and more than that, bear it so well that our world and those around us changes because of it.

This is the lesson of the Garden of Gethsemane and the lesson of every dark night of the soul. It is the lesson of the Cross and of the tomb and all the suffering we may have to bear. It is what lies behind the transfiguration, what lies behind the resurrection on Easter morning and what lies behind the life that Jesus Christ promises us: “I came that you may have life, life to the full”

Did he not also promise us this:

“Come all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Seek and you will find, Knock and the door will be opened to you. Ask, and you will receive.”

These are the promises of Christ that he kept for people like Bartimeaus when he was on this earth and that he still keeps in heaven as he intercedes for us before the Throne of Grace.

Although it was Bartimeaus who was supposedly blind, he was able to see with stunning clarity what many others around him were unable to see: that Jesus Christ was amongst them: “Son of David” he called him, which was not merely an indication that Bartimeaus knew what clan Jesus was a member of, but that he was of the Royal line, and by implication the Messiah, the anointed one of God. Bartimeaus turned to Christ in his hour of need, as we must also turn to him in prayer at our hour of need.

Do you notice that Christ asks Bartimaeus what he wants, and Bartimaeus has to ask for his sight to be restored. Christ will not assume he knows what you want. You need to ask, and ask for what you really want. Bartimaeus could have asked for a million pounds or a sports car, or even his next meal, but he asked for his sight.

Bartimeaus was healed because he had the faith to ask of God that which he freely wishes to give us, but just like that celebrated Holman Hunt illustration, the Christ that stands outside the door and waits, requires us to reach out to him, to open the door to the Light of the World, to call out to Jesus Christ, and like Bartimeaus, it will then be “our faith that has saved us”.

Amen.

END