Blesséd Lenten Journey

jof_mainNEW FOR LENT!

Blesséd will be offering FREE a daily meditation and prayer in Lent direct to your mobile phone. Starting on Ash Weds 25th Feb, you will receive daily a free text with prayers, meditations, web links and other devotions to help you through your Lent journey.

There is no charge for receiving this text, it is a gift from Blesséd.

Some texts may contain meditations, prayer, scriptures or links to web pages to stimulate your faith and help your prayer in Lent.

The texts are not generated by an automated system but by a human being. All you have to do is sign up on the Blesséd webpage and texts will arrive from Ash Weds through to Easter Day!


Against Temptation

Cardinal Tettamanzi’s Decalogue Against Temptation (with my reflections)

1. Do not forget that the devil exists.

devilNo matter what the Devil looks like in your head, “the best thing he ever managed was to convince us that he didn’t exist” (CS Lewis). The Devil, and the evil in this world that surrounds such a construct, is wiley enough to take many forms, and many temptations. Temptation to draw away from God is real, and so therefore is the temptation of the Devil. He doesn’t need horns and a tail, but rather is more alluring than that. The most frightening Satan on screen was the one where he was a smartly-dressed, beautiful businessman – for money and beauty are completely tempting…

2. Do not forget that the devil is a tempter.

The purpose of evil is to draw you from the sacred, to supplant your relationship with God with, well, anything. If anything gets in the way of your relationship with God (family, friends, facebook, sex, drugs or rock’n’roll) then you have been lured away by the Tempter. All is not lost, for the God of love and forgiveness will always embrace you

3. Do not forget that the devil is very intelligent and astute.

We have so many weaknesses that evil will find a million ways to subvert you. Be strong. Be wise. Have faith.

4. Be vigilant concerning your eyes and heart. Be strong in spirit and virtue.

Temptation is almost always emotional rather than intellectual, sensuous rather than logical. It is easy to resist things by your intellect, by knowing the difference between right and wrong; but where we are weakest is with our emotional contact with the spiritual. Our response to God is emotive rather than intellectual and that is where the Tempter can start to drive a wedge in. Faith is a response of the heart.

The world, and the internet in particular is filled with opportunities for evil, and plenty of opportunities for good, and the building of the Kingdom. You know which is the right one.

5. Believe firmly in the victory of Christ over the tempter.ixoye_s

“It is completed” was not a cry of defeat, but of triumph. By the Victory of the Cross, Christ has purchased, bought, redeemed us from the slavery of sin. Resurrection is the payback, and eternal life the bonus cheque. It might look like a close call at some times, but in reality, the game is already in the bag, thanks to Jesus Christ, God and Man and Saviour (Icthus)

6. Remember that Christ makes you a participant in His victory.

You are not passive in this. You are called to build the Kingdom in this place. Now. He leads, and you are doing his work here now. Make it good.

7. Listen carefully to the word of God.

Because that way you will understand his plans for you. Read the Scriptures, and apply them, but don’t swallow them whole. The Tempter loves to twist words and ideas and get us hung up on punctuation and meaning that isn’t there (Luke 4:9-12). God is bigger than words in a book. Read. Pray. Listen. Learn and Meditate and the word of God will be like a beacon inside you.

8. Be humble and love mortification yourself

Guilt is the major tool of the Devil. The Tempter will use guilt to chip away at your self-esteem and your knowledge that you are a loved child of God. Churches have in the past let the devil in by playing too heavily on the guilt-thing. God loves you. Do not love yourself more than God, for that is sinful. Put Him first, and you will see your worth. You don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Do not be guilty for anything, for that is one of the snares he sets for you. Face up to your actions, deal with them and know that you will be forgiven if you really want to be.

9. Pray without flagging.

…for that is how you will know you are loved. Prayer is not a one-way diatribe, or a shopping list. It is a dialogue between lovers. God loves you, and prayer is a rich vein of comfort and joy. There are times when it might be hard, but all relationships that are worth it requires a bit of effort at times.

10. Love the Lord your God and offer worship to Him only.

There are so many distractions in the world, and they seek to pull you away from God. Your work in this world, from President of the US to sweeping the streets must always be done as an act of worship offered to him. Whatever you do, do for Him, to build the Kingdom of God in this place, to proclaim liberty and vision, freedom and comfort and to show the way of the Lord (Luke 4:18-20).


Blesséd Lenten Journey

jof_mainNEW FOR LENT!

Blesséd will be offering FREE a daily meditation and prayer in Lent direct to your mobile phone. Starting on Ash Weds 25th Feb, you will receive daily a free text with prayers, meditations, web links and other devotions to help you through your Lent journey.

There is no charge for receiving this text, it is a gift from Blesséd.

Some texts may contain meditations, prayer, scriptures or links to web pages to stimulate your faith and help your prayer in Lent.

The texts are not generated by an automated system but by a human being. All you have to do is sign up on the Blesséd webpage and texts will arrive from Ash Weds through to Easter Day!


Blesséd Lenten Journey

jof_mainNEW FOR LENT!

Blesséd will be offering FREE a daily meditation and prayer in Lent direct to your mobile phone. Starting on Ash Weds 25th Feb, you will receive daily a free text with prayers, meditations, web links and other devotions to help you through your Lent journey.

There is no charge for receiving this text, it is a gift from Blesséd.

Some texts may contain meditations, prayer, scriptures or links to web pages to stimulate your faith and help your prayer in Lent.

The texts are not generated by an automated system but by a human being. All you have to do is sign up on the Blesséd webpage and texts will arrive from Ash Weds through to Easter Day!


Hurrah!

…for the Rev Ed Bacon, of All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California (fierce collar!) for saying what I believe, saying it well (something I am incapable of) and saying it in a very public space – how much more public can the Oprah Winfrey show get?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKiue4c2Fjw

This is good stuff.

Discussions today with someone included inclusion and exclusion, both physical (as we were speaking of disability) and spiritual and how Scripture has in the past tended to view disability as something to be healed, as though it was wrong; and yet, just like LGBT people, they are complete as they are, and God loves them/us for it.

“I came that you may have life, life in all its fullness” ( John 10:10 )

Mother Elizabeth Kaeton quotes this story:

[Speaking about Homosexuality and the Bible… At one point, someone asked the question about St. Paul’s writing about the sin of men lying with men as if with women, and women lying with women as if with men, which St. Paul named and framed as the sin of ‘acting against your nature’.

I pointed out that I had struggled long and hard with that piece of scripture and had come to understand that my ‘nature’ is to be lesbian; that, in fact, to go against my God-given nature was the sin.

One man stood up. He took a few moments to try to compose himself. When he opened his mouth, his voice started to crack, but he pushed himself to say, “You mean to say, all these years, all the times I read and studied that verse, I was reading it wrong?”

He started to weep uncontrollably, which set off a wave of emotion and tears in the room.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered, hoarsely. “Oh, my God, you have no idea. Something has been unleashed in me.”  He finally got his composure and croaked out, “Thank you, and I’ll take you up on that, but I just want to say this: I think I have finally found a spot in my soul and in my heart where I can begin to heal.”

and this is why those who condemn have got it so wrong, and why they have misinterpreted their Scriptures and drive so many out of the church and away from God’s care and love, because they have failed to see that we are as we are and almost complete, and all of us need God to complete us. I suspect this is just about as far away from Calvin as you can possibly get, and I am comfortable with that; nay, I celebrate that.


Fr. Simon's Electric Ordo 2009 – Free download as PRAYERWARE

This post refers to last year’s edition, see http://frsimon.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/electronic-lectionary-ordo-2010-released/ for the latest version

I am pleased to be able to release the 2009 edition of my ever-popular and ever-growing Digital / Electric Ordo. This is just a posh way of putting together a lot of Saints Days and Mass Readings and importing them into your favourite Calendar program.

You can download it freely from the Parish Website here at http://www.saintthomaselson.org.uk/resources/software/liturgical_calendar.htmlhttp://www.saintthomaselson.org.uk/143/

All I ask is that you pray for me, and my ministry at St.Thomas the Apostle, Elson: call it “prayerware” if you like!

The data can be imported to any number of ICalendar compatible programs, including:

  • Google Calendar (my current tool, which integrates seemlessly with my Blackberry)
  • Microsoft Outlook (but not Outlook Express, which has no Calendar!)
  • Palm Desktop

…and through these to many many PDAs, iPaqs, Blackberries and Smartphones

I create this calendar to suit my own needs, and I freely share it with you, but recognise that it suits me first.

  • You might find it too Roman but this is because we use the Roman Missal and the Roman Lectionary at St Thomas. We say the Breviary or Divine Office as our Daily Prayer. If you don’t like that, sorry.
  • You might find it too Anglican, as it contains commemorations of Non-Romans, and includes some of the Anglican Liturgical Variations as well as details drawn from the now-out-of-print first edition of Exciting Holiness, which is an Anglican text. I am an Anglocatholic and we are an Anglican parish. If you don’t like that, sorry.
  • You might find it contains errors and mistakes. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. I nearly always have to issue a subsequent release with corrections in, as there is bound to be something messed up. For little issues, like stray formatting – change it yourself, for major problems and cock-ups, let me know.

Still, enjoy it, and make use of it, as I know many of you do. Praise God, and Pray without ceasing! This is the Opus Dei.


Sermon: Ordinary 27, Year B

Sermon: Ordinary 27, Year B
Text: Genesis 2:18-24 Mark 10:2-16

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

Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.

I  promise…until death do us part. This is my solemn vow.

How many of us have repeated these words? They seemed so true, so beautiful, so eternal, so right, didn’t they, when we first said them? Yet for some of us, they have become bittersweet. With near half of all marriages in this country ending in divorce, there is scarcely a family that remains untouched by the pain of separation and divorce.

Let’s look at this challenging text from Mark’s Gospel…

Jesus has moved on from Capernaum to the land across the Jordan River, continuing to teach the growing crowds of people who congregated wherever they discovered Jesus to be. Word had spread. Jesus had healed the blind, deaf, and lame; he had cast out demons and had been transfigured by his Abba in the presence of Peter, James, and John.

And Jesus had taught. And taught. And taught some more. He had spoken with passion and authority about the Kingdom of God, about the nature of sin, about the cost of discipleship. He had spoken with love and joy and welcome to sinners, to all who recognized that they had fallen short of their Creator’s ideals, with a message of hope, of redemption, of repentance and new life. Again and again, Jesus had taught those who came to hear the lessons of God’s love for them, about God’s desire that men, women, and children learn to live without fear, God’s desire that they become lamps through which the divine love might shed light on all who knew them.

Over and over, as word of his teachings and his miracles spread, those in the ” religious establishment” of his time stepped forward out of the crowds to do their best to trip this Jesus up. They were the ones who were knowledgeable about the will of God. They were the experts. They knew. After all, God’s will had been revealed in Holy Scripture, once and for all. They knew the Law. This Jesus was such a know-it-all young radical; what did he know? What kind of education did he have, after all? He was just a carpenter’s son from a backwater town in Galilee.

Here they are at Jesus again. “We’ll get him this time,” they thought. “This time we’ll trick him into saying something we can nail him on.”

“Teacher,” they asked, chuckling behind their hands, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Well, of course it was lawful; they knew Moses had said it was, but they asked anyway.

Jesus turned the question back on them: “What did Moses command you?” “Well, Moses said it was okay, that a man could divorce his wife anytime he wanted to, just be deciding to do it and drawing up the necessary paperwork.”

“Why?” asked Jesus. “Why would Moses do this, knowing that in the creation stories God had created Adam and Eve as equals, bone of each other’s bone, flesh of each other’s flesh, for eternity? Why?”

The Pharisees had no answer for Jesus. Jesus refused to be tricked into betraying the will, the dream, the desire and intent of God in favor of the letter of the Law. “I’ll tell you why,” he said. “Because of your hardness of heart; because God knew that your humanity would lead you away from one another. Human beings have hard hearts. That’s a fact. Human beings–even the best ones–fall short of God’s dreams for them, and they fall short. God’s dream is that each couple be divinely joined, joined with God as the “third partner” in the marriage, and that all who witness this divine union respect and uphold it, that no one dare to separate it.”

It was true then. It’s true now. Despite our strongest hopes, our best intentions, we humans have hard hearts. We fall short of God’s dreams for us, for our lives together. People change. We grow, sometimes in different directions. Sometimes we become cruel to each other; we forget that we are indeed “one bone and one flesh” and we begin to destroy one another, oblivious to the fact that we’re destroying ourselves in the process. Sometimes marriages have to end to keep this self-destruction from totally eradicating all possibility of a future life for one or both partners. Estrangement happens. We’re human.

However, marriages don’t exist in a vacuum. Christian marriages include the entire community. They’re not just about vows made between two individuals. We who witness these vows make our own promises: that we will do all in our power to uphold these two persons in their marriage. “We will!” we answer with enthusiasm.

There really is no way to take these difficult words and stuff them back into Jesus’ mouth, is there? There are churches that do not permit remarriage after divorce under any circumstances. There are those who do nothing to try to uphold two struggling persons in the vows they have made to one another. Mirroring the secular culture, for which everything is temporary, transient, we hear, “Oh, you’re divorcing? That’s too bad. Oh well. Better luck next time,” as though Jesus’ words had never been uttered.

And there are faith communities in which each couple finds support and guidance, through the good times and the rough. They share the struggles that take place in every long-lived marriage: problems with children; financial struggles; differing priorities for time and resources; the cyclic nature of sexual activity, with physical and romantic attractions to one who is not one’s spouse; destructive lifestyles of whatever kind; abuse, addiction, and plain and simple boredom. By walking as a community through the rollercoaster of life, they share a journey of life, a journey of faith which can be a support.

I know a story of one such community: When he was 54 years old, this man married his school sweetheart. They had been married for 30 years, and then he met a younger woman who seemed to be his “soulmate”: They thought the same way. They enjoyed the same activities, loved the same authors, the same music. They completed each other’s sentences. It was true love, he believed.

Through much struggling, and with support and counsel from his local priest and church, he turned away from this lovely woman who seemed to promise so much, but who threatened what God had joined together, and he returned to his wife. They have now been married for 51 years, and he has not regretted his decision. He explains it as a natural, human phenomenon, and states that the vows he made before God were all that kept him in his marriage 20 years ago. But he and his wife prayed together through the crisis, which lasted three, almost four, years. They have offered this to others for many years now, and their experience has “upheld” many in their promises.

I am sure by now, you can see what kind of community I seek to foster in this Church: a church which seeks to uphold the sacrament of marriage and yet is realistic about our human frailty and not condemnatory when things do, unfortunately, go pear-shaped.

For the ideal can’t always happen. It doesn’t always work. There are times when we must divorce.

Christ has given us the ideal. He has spoken to us the living Word of our Creator. When Christians divorce, it may never be in a cavalier, casual way. Divorce must be accompanied by repentance, even if it is perceived to have been the “fault” of only one party. The two are one bone, one flesh. Ideally, both partners can repent, can do that 180-degree turn back toward God and toward God’s hopes and dreams for them. But if not, then one can do it alone for the two. In addition, the community must repent as well of their failure (our failure) to “do everything in [our power to uphold these two persons in their vows.” Repent, and begin anew, as we do with any of the myriad ways we fall short of God’s ideals.

And here’s the good news. What happens when we repent, when we “turn around” once again to face our God? We are redeemed, washed clean by the love of God in Christ, by the face of Christ in one another, and by the grace that surprises us with new life, with new possibilities, with new hopes. We can claim again God’s dreams for us, claim again the unique image of God in which each of us is created, and as we allow ourselves to be healed, we can once again become the lamps through which the love of Christ is made known in the world. Stronger, wiser, we continue the rich and complicated and joyous journey toward the Kingdom. Together. And that’s good news!

Amen.