Archives September 2008

Journey of Faith – Reflection on Session 2

We spoke of God the Father and explored a number of issues about the inappropriateness of gender for God: God who is all genders and no gender, who behaves as Father and Mother and also as something else quite different again.

A little boy had returned from Sunday School and was quizzing his Mum:

“Mum, God is everywhere, isn’t he?”

“Yes. That’s right”

“He’s here in this house?”

“Yes. That’s right”

“He’s here in this kitchen”

“Yes. That’s right”

“Yes. I suppose so…”

“…and here on this table…?”

“Err… yes…”

“God’s even here, in this sugarbowl?”

“Yes…”

The boy grabs the sugarbowl and pops his hand on top…

“Gottim!”

How we would love to capture God in our sugarbowls, to bring him down to our size, to limit him by our imagination, our intellect, our science and our language. How we want to proscribe his power and his glory to solely within the pages of a collection of books completed around 120AD. Language is simply not enough, and so we need to see the fingerprints of God in all of Creation.

We spoke of the two creation stories in Genesis: the well known 7 ‘period of time’ one from the Elohist (E) tradition, which we concluded was a pretty good 3500 year old take on Evolution, and the older, more mysterious Yahwehist (J) tradition one. I stated that I believed the Bible’s account of creation but that I was not a creationist, that I saw in evolution the fingerprints of God and rejected the literal understanding of the creation and fall myths.

God does not ask us to leave our brains at the door when we engage with him and with Scripture, and asks us to see Scripture as part of the revelation, but not its sole, literal, unthinking example.

We looked at the J, E and Priestly (P) influences on the Exodus story and watch this little diversion from last Summer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fTbCXcqrsY

Then, as we sat bathed in candlelight, we prayed together powerfully. Thank you, God. Thank you for providing this journey of faith, this fellowship and this opportunity to share.

The good people were sent out with a blessing, encouragement to read the Gospel of Mark in preparation for next week and the film of the week:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUOrKTpJ2Pw

Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973) by Franco Zefferelli         Amazon Link 

This is currently available at under 4 quid!

A slightly twee, but none-the-less lovely film about the life of S.Francis of Asissi. As his feast day is next weekend, and as the flim is currently so cheap, I strongly encourage you to watch it. If you can get past the early 1970’s Donovan music and the horrible sound mix which seemed to infect all films of that age, I think it is a powerful, faithful film about a radical notion, and a life-and-church transforming insight which led Francis to “rebuild my church”.

A good feeling as we parted this evening. Deo Gratias!


We've caught crabs again!

Church Times: 19th September 2008

This is the second photo I’ve had published in the Church Times; the first was the Arrest of Jesus by Norfolk Police at Walsingham. I’m not sure Mother M said what they quoted her as saying, but I remember my flippant little spiel to the Diocese Communications guru, which is where I assume they got the piece. 

I like this photo not least because it is close and engaging. I also didn’t need to seek parental approval for its use.

 


True Vine

There is a little dance with this done by the Sunday School. Originally written by Janet Marshall for the 2008 Children’s Pilgrimage, it will be the Gospel for the Harvest Festival next week

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjROWWnCoQA

Tree of Life – I am the True Vine

Based on John15 vv1-5

Narrator 1. stands to left of stage, narrator 2. stands to right of stage In centre is one child (Jesus) with arms outstretched above head, pointing hands/fingers upwards. Crouching, curled up tightly to left and right a little way away from child are two other children (branches). A 4th child (God the Father).crouches, curled up in front of Jesus.

Narrator 1.

Jesus said to his disciples:

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.

(Music begins – Jesus raises his head/slowly spread his arms out to sides. God the father slowly unfurls and faces Jesus – outstretches arms to mirror those of Jesus – freezes.)

The gardener cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit.

(God the Father Child – lowers one arm slowly / Jesus does same(mirrored), then the same with the other arm. He then circles round Jesus moving arms up and down in wafting movements.
He then turns to face the congregation.)

You are already clean because of what I have said to you.

(As narrator says these words God the Father child outstretches each arm towards congregation in turn and remains still with them held out towards them)

Narrator 2.

Stay joined with me, and I will stay joined to you

(branches children unfurl and reach put going forward to Jesus and join their hands onto his shoulders.)

Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine and you are the branches.

Jesus(vine) and the branches now do a short series of circular dance movements.

If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.

Music and all branches and vine lower to floor together – then all leave stage.


Homily: Ordinary 26 – Kenosis

Text: Philippians 2:5-11

”He emptied himself” (v7)

These six verses known as the Kenotic Hymn contain some of the most profound theology ever written, alongside the prologue of the Gospel of John.

Both are philosophical examinations of the nature of Christ, both speak of the pre-existence of Christ and the wonder of his incarnation.

Kenosis (ekenosen) is the Greek word which means he “emptied himself” and is the centrepiece of this passage. It is described as a hymn, and is thought by many not to be originally by Paul. It is certainly more poetic than much of his writing, and in context appears to be a quotation – in the form of a common reference, so Paul cites something in common knowledge amongst the Christian communities, communities which at that time did not have the benefit of Scripture.

At the beginning of the passage is the recognition of Christ’s position within the Godhead, and his willing abrogation of that position for the lowliness of humanity. The Orthodox Church with which I have much affinity places much emphasis on the incarnation, the awe-inspiring thought that Almighty God should choose to come alongside us, and be treated not only like us, but be treated worse than most of us and be put to the death of a criminal.

In the Garden of Gethsememe, Christ said that if he wanted, angels could have come and defended him, but he chose not to let that happen, he chose to allow human events to carry him to the place of the skull. The true showing of power is in not exercising it.

Kenosis, or pouring out, is a self-initiated activity; although Christ’s Passion was inflicted upon him, his kenosis can only come from himself. Nothing could force it out of him, only by his choice. The hymn says that he became “obedient to death, even death on a cross”, as an act of choice, not of compulsion.

The Passion that we have just heard is not therefore a tale of injustice, of a helpless victim or a scapegoat, but is the prelude to a far greater story: the victory over sin and death whose denoument is the resurrection itself. What Christ endured would have been intolerable for us as mere humans to bear, the Mel Gibson film, the Passion of the Christ is a testament to that; but was willingly undertaken for our sins. At the climax of the Gospel of John, Christ declares “It is Accomplished” – his heavy task is complete, and it is a task that only one who is in the form of God could accomplish for our sins.

Amen.


We cannae take no more, Cap'n!

Friday’s Youth Club tonight was full to the brim: 59 young people. Loads more new registrations and still they just keep on coming!

The problem is, I am not really sure what it is that we are doing; whether we are doing it right or not, and I am certainly not sure what the secret is. We just put on this club, let them hang out for 2 hours with each other: a tuck shop selling at below shop prices, table tennis, bean bags, sofas and internet, we spend 15 minutes telling them a story usually in the first person from Scripture, during which I never mention Jesus directly by name – always “the Man”, “the Bloke”, “Him”, because I know that if you say its a story about Jesus these streetwise 12-year olds just switch off.

Tonight I spoke about the woman taken in adultery, and linked it to Matthew 7:1 – Judge Not, or you too will be judged. We all like a good stoning, a bit of public humiliation and sanctioned violence. We all like to judge others and turn visciously on the vulnerable. I wanted to know what happened to the man caught with her (avoiding specifically mentioning Adultery – cheating, “doing the dirty” was close enough) probably got off scot-free. “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first rock” – be careful with young people to avoid the word “stoned”.

Too many young people to play the game I was going to spring on them, so it was just the talk. Maybe if numbers drop a little we can get this stuff going. A little upset by the damage to one of our new beanbags – it needs restitching.

But it comes back to this simple issue – what is it that makes Friday’s such a popular club? I simply don’t know. I simply don’t care, I am just happy to do God’s work and to build his kingdom in this community.


Church does not know what they do with its money

http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2008/09/26/16347/church-accused-over-short-selling/

My best friend works in the City, handling their PR and smoothing over the cracks with weasel words and pretty graphs. You have to admit at the moment, he must be having a nightmare of a job as the “trust” and “integrity” of the City is crumbling around our ears.

This week, ++John and ++Rowan have both spoken out against short-selling – a practice that few of us understand, except that when it works it makes a shedload of money and when it doesn’t work, the economy goes under and the traders still get to buy a new Porsche. My friend sent me a Spectator article which pointed out that it isn’t the bank’s fault, just the regulators and the government’s. A big boy did it and ran away. I suspect they are all culpable in this one; but this year I’d like my Porsche in red please.

I see from the FT though that (not for the first time) the Church, or more particularly the Church Commissioners have been also doing the dirty, allowing their stock to be sold short and fueling the gambling-on-failure spiral of greed. The FT article does suggest that the Church profited from short selling (in fact, if I understand it, my pension stands to lose out if the price actually is driven down) but by supplying the stock to be shorted, we have been shown up as hypocrites.

Fair cop, guv.

I expect the Church Commisioners to get a thorough bollocking. Apologise. Sort out our own house and behave like we’re supposed to behave. This is not like what the rest of the City is doing which is blaming everyone else and chosing which SatNav Model they would like in the glittering prize for failure.

For Reference:

A History of Short-Selling http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1843255,00.html (a but US orientated, but then again, it is their fault)

Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_selling 

The City will be the first to accuse the Church of hypocrisy, a case of the plank in their own eye. However, if the Church Commissioners behave decently, act promptly and ethically and sort things out then a step in the right direction will have been made.


Worship Box: Firebox

The Diocese want some boxes of Worship Materials that you can borrow and utilise ‘out of the box’ worship. This is my humble submission. Maybe you want to make use of these yourselves…

FireBox

Equipment:

  • Multisensory, Non-electric, Portable, Reusable
  • Stones – large bag from local garden centre (the Range)
  • Balti Dishes of various sizes
  • Box of Charcoal
  • Box of Sherborne Incense
  • Bag of Play Sand
  • Handful of Sponges
  • Box of Candles from Direct Candles
  • Large Bucket (or can use the box the set came in)
  • Instructions – Scripts (Laminated)
  • Audio CD, and maybe a handful of MP3 Players
  • DVD of Images / Video
  • Supplying a number of rituals which can be utilised by small groups in worship. Title: “Firebox”

Ritual One: Love and Self Control

Equipment: Stones and sponges. Large Bucket of Water. Audio: Inner Journey

Come into this station. Enter and relax.

Love can be as soft as sponges, or feel as hard as stones. It can make us feel warm and enriched. It can frustrate us, especially when love is painful, when love is unreturned, or when the love someone has for us prevents us from following our own selfish desires: the parent who won’t let us out all night is the one who loves us.

Pick up a stone. Cradle it in the palm of your hand. Feel its smoothness and its broken edges.

Examine it closely. It’s been shaped by centuries of waves and weather, damaged by explosion, by digging and building. Yet here it is, in your hand, in this field. In this place. In your possession.

It has been shaped by experience, good and bad; just as we are shaped by our experiences of life, of love.

I will take your heart of stone, the prophet told the words of God to the people, and give you back a heart of flesh.

Our experiences can make our hearts as cold as this stone, as tough as rock. Emotions can bounce off of it and nothing can touch it.

Do we think this makes us strong? Do we think that by putting up a strong shield against people we’ll save ourselves from being hurt?

Do you really want a heart of stone?

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

As you cradle this stone in your hand, pass onto it all those feelings of hardness in your life: those times when you have rejected others, been indifferent to their needs, their suffering. Let your selfishness coat this stone.

Now gently drop it into the water, and let it sink. It takes away with it those feelings, it’s toughness absorbs the tough things in your life, and the stream of living water which Jesus speaks of washes those feelings away.

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

A heart of flesh is a heart which beats to the rhythm of the world, a heart of flesh is one which is open to the needs of those it meets. A vulnerable heart is one that is open to the love of God.

Take up a sponge. It is soft and yielding, it is flexible, pliable, responsive. It moves with you, and it moves with life. It is a heart which is open for God.

I will take your heart of stone, and give you back a heart of flesh.

Ritual Two: Let my Prayers Rise Before You

Place sand in Balti Dishes, charcoal on sand. Set alight and when fully lit, add incense to charcoal.

In the beginning, there was nothing: nowt, zilch, nada. In the midst of the nothing there formed a breath.

The breath of God was moving in the nothing, and as it held, it formed, shaped.

The breath spoke, and there was shape and form and substance.

See as the incense hangs in this place. See how it forms and reforms. Uncapturable, unmastered: shape and form and yet so wonderfully complex that we cannot describe it fully. That is God. Beyond shape, beyond describable form, and just like the scent of holiness that now hangs in this space, it penetrates all that it touches.

When you leave this place, the smell will be absorbed into your clothes; deep into the fabric of our lives, this incense weaves the power of God.

What do you see in the ever changing column of smoke. Look and you might see faces, animals, clouds and figures. As the dancing smoke takes shape, breaks and reforms, so all of God’s creation is brought to mind. And further, deeper, you see something more: a shape which is God’s plans for you.

Just as this smoke rises into the air, so do your prayers, your wishes, your deepest desires. Let my prayers rise before you like incense writes the Pslamist. Let your prayers rise.

And as your prayers rise, become absorbed into this holy smoke, breathe deeply. Inhale the breath of life, the breath of creation, the breath which brought you into being.

And listen.

Listen to what God says to you. Feel in your soul.

Breathe on me, breath of God.

Ritual Three: Candles in the dark

Place sand in balti dishes. Place candles in sand.

My life used to be all dark. And because I couldn’t see anything, nothing really bothered me. Of course, I’d stumble and trip, and I had no idea where I was going, lumbering around without direction, or meaning, or hope.

Light a candle

And then a little light came into my life. It shone in the darkness. It gave me a sense of hope, a feeling that I had a purpose. I knew that I had to protect and care for this light. I didn’t care where it came from, I don’t even suppose I care about what it is. It. Just. Is. Light – accept it and treasure it, and believe.
But now there is a little light, I become aware that there is something else out there. It isn’t just nothingness, but there are others. They stumble past past me in the blindness and the desperation that I had known, and fleetingly I wonder if I might be able to share my light with them in order to give them a little of what I have.

But now I also occasionally glimpse the place we are in. Dimly, I can start to perceive that this place is not empty at all, but cluttered, messy, disordered, chaotic.

As I become aware of that, I see that there is the opportunity for more light.

Light another candle

More light shows me more of my reality. I can see those in need around me, and get more of an idea of what I can do to help them. As their light gutters and falters, so I am able to share my light so that they can relight theirs.

Light another

More light. More clutter to deal with. In the dark I was very content in this place, but now I can see the mess that is my life, I have to do something about it. I start to sift through the wreckage, perhaps a little afraid that all this activity will diminish my own light, but as I progress, I find more candles, more sources of light and inspiration. I can give a candle to others without worrying about my own light and they, too, start to share, to help others, to light more candles

Light another

And we see much clearer now.

In the dark it was the same place, but now, in the light I can look upon it differently.

Jesus told us that he was The Light that shines in the darkness and now I realise that all was dark until I let this light in. I could have continued in the dark, but now, now I have His light, I could not bear to return to that dark. That glimmer of hope grew into a blazing light of day, and through it I am transformed.

I could not keep my light hidden. I had to put it where it would help me, and help others, where it could grow and illuminate the darkness.

See what a difference your light can make in this whole.

END


Harvest for the World

So starts the avalanche of school Harvest services.

This version of “Harvest for the World” is by Paul Carrick, and is one of the clearer and better ones. Personally, I prefer the Isley Brothers, but the words on this version are quite distinct.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWY2o-n9xnk

Images drawn from t’internet and the public domain. I am using this to play on a loop as they come in and place their gifts in one of 12 baskets at the front.

Then the story of the feeding of the 5,000, followed by 12 responsorial prayers, one from each class:

Let us pray…

1. For your gift of air, without which we cannot breathe
We give you thanks, O Lord

2. For your gift of water, which refreshes us
We give you thanks, O Lord

3. For your gift of bread, which nourishes us
We give you thanks, O Lord

4. For your gifts of animals, in all their wonder and difference
We give you thanks, O Lord

5. For your gift of plants, to heal and to feed the world
We give you thanks, O Lord

6. For your gift of families, in which we share our lives
We give you thanks, O Lord

7. For your gift of friends, with whom we share our needs and hopes
We give you thanks, O Lord

8. For those who grow and catch our food, so that we might have enough
We give you thanks, O Lord

9. For those who deliver and prepare our food, so that it is fresh and tasty
We give you thanks, O Lord

10. For those who work to help those do not have enough to eat in this world
We give you thanks, O Lord

11. For those who seek to give people freedom, choice, and opportunity
We give you thanks, O Lord

12. For us, as we seek to make a difference in this world
We give you thanks, O Lord

Fr. S: For all you have given us, for all that you do for us, and for all that you ask us to do in this world
We give you thanks, O Lord

The Lord’s Prayer

Blessing

Use of this as you will, adopt, adapt and improve freely.

Simon+


Sermon Notes: Ordinary 25 – Labourers in the Vineyard

Text: Matthew 20:1-16

[caption id=”attachment_465″ align=”aligncenter” width=”300″ caption=”Ian Pollock (2000) Labourers in the Vineyard”Ian Pollock (2000) Labourers in the Vineyard[/caption

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

It was the Annual Fun run – there were all kinds of competitors – elite runners in training for big events, people who had been training all year, with all the gear on, people in silly costumes running for charity, grandparents desperate to prove they were still fit, and children eager to show they were fitter still.

Off went the gun and they ran forth, graceful and lumbering, fleet of foot and clumsy. Over the 10 mile course, they put in all their effort and saw the fruits of their long hours of training: the loneliness of the long distance runner.

And then, in the last mile, a small boy, Jonny, joined with them. Dressed in a T-Shirt and Tracksuit bottoms, he wasn’t very fast, or particularly co-ordinated, and all the runners passed him, but as he hit the finishing line, he was laughing and celebrating like all the rest.

When they came to hand out the medals, the organiser went to hand a medal to the boy.
“But he only ran the last mile” they murmured, “It’s not fair. Why does he deserve a medal, when we ran all this way…”

Sensing their disquiet, the organiser called the boy forward and rolled up one of his trouser legs to reveal a prosthetic, false foot.

“This was the first race that Jonny has undertaken since he lost his foot in an accident. For many of you it was just 10 miles, but for Jonny it was a whole marathon.”

We run the race set before us, with Christ as our goal, as our trainer, as our starting point, and we run for the reward of eternal life. One person can’t have more eternal life than another: the reward is the same for all.

The race, the work in the vineyard is not of our choosing. It is not us who sets the rules, the boundaries, the workload.

It is not up to us who will be paid, this is not a parable about OUR hard work, OUR effort, OUR reward, but it is about the graciousness, the benevolence, the kindness and the generosity of God – a God who gives the best thing he has – himself – and the only reward any of us could ever hope or pray for – the gift of eternal life.

Grace – freely given, thoroughly undeserved and outrageously unwarranted is distributed widely and to all. When we are gathered in God’s glorious presence, we may be very surprised by those whom we are sharing the banquet with – colour and nation, lifestyle and sexuality, rich, poor, pious and profane and only then will we truly begin to appreciate the outrageous possibilities that this Gospel parable has to offer the whole world – a world which will be saved long before it is condemned by the loving, ever-living God.

Whereever, my dear friends, you start your race; whatever time you begin in God’s vineyard, and whatever fruit you produce on your watch, have the faith to see that your reward is for you, and let others fret about theirs. All is fair. All is good. All is right in God’s wonderful, all-embracing, all-transforming love.
Amen.


Friday's – full and yet still empty

Last night was the second Friday’s of the term. There were 46 young people, around 20 of which were new registrants. A number of familiar faces were also missing because of family or other social reasons.

I was also told of others who after several seasons with us have now decided to stop coming. This is a little disappointing as they were the ones with whom we have developed relationships with. However, each year it will reform, reshape and provide new opportunities.

My throat is still in very bad shape, and so I was not in the mood for shouting: 46 is a big crowd to engage with, but after a mapcap game involving balloons tied to ankles for a game of stompsies, Lou did a marvellous job of the notices (you can tell she is going to be a scary teacher!) and I could begin my tale of awe and wonder.

I spoke of the feeling of being surrounded, drowned even by people after your balloon, of having nowhere to escape to. I started on the tale of Jesus on the water; but for me it’s not about Jesus or the miracle: it is about Peter, who following Christ leaps over the side and feeled bouyed up, and trusting in Jesus begins to walk on water also, but then gets a little over-confident, a little too much convinced by his own abilities; then the water starts to lap over him until he fears for his own life and begins to drown.

At that point, Christ is by his side, pulling him up and rescuing him, embracing him.

We think we can do it on our own, and we quickly find ourselves washed over by the cares of this life, and then we find he is there to rescue us.

I then began my blessing (I decided to begin properly each week with “In the name of the Father…” and to close with a blessing) and 3 lads saw that as the opportunity to run for the computers. They were stopped.

I told them all that after a heavy week, of teachers, of playground insults and grinding, dull work, this might be the nicest thing an adult would do for them this weekend.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge of God and of his son, Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you, this day and ever more. Amen

It was a good night, tiring and rewarding; filled with young people and yet not as crowded or as chaotic. God was spoken of, and his love shared. Amen.