We haven’t earned anything

August 1, 2016

Luke 12.13-21; Colossians 3.1-11; Psalm 49;  Ecclesiastes 1.2,12-14;2.18-23

 

How many of you watch  Made in Chelsea?  We seem to have a fascination with the super  rich.  There was an article last week in the ES magazine as well as programmes on the TV. about the Instagram generation.  One enthusiastic Instagram user is a son of a clothing tycoon in India who doesn’t understand why one would sit in traffic if one has a perfectly good helicopter, unless it is to show off a golden Rolls Royce in the streets of Knightsbridge.

We are fascinated by this lavish and over the top lifestyle.  But doesn’t part of us want them them to be unhappy.  Surely there is a certain justice in the super rich not having everything. a level of unhappiness sort of redresses the balance.

And isn’t there a judgement that we make? What if I had that money? What sort of person would I be?

Money should be a lubrirator – it should flow and liberate and enhance and enrich.  Where it gets stuck  it begins to fester and rot like stagnant water.

Again look at the recent news – wealth does seems to get stuck – and is surrounded by need and misery.  We juxtapose Phillip Green’s muliti million pound yacht  with 12k  people about to lose their jobs in BHS.  We marvel at Mike Ashley’s  £50million divorce settlement, lavish football club extravagances compared to thousands of workers in Sports Direct working in “Victorian” conditions. The wealth gets stuck in log jams and the rest of the land gets smelly.

And isn’t it a natural, human response to wealth – to accumulate it and also to develop a lifestyle that grows in proportion to what we earn.

For example when I was a student I survived on a grant, I had somewhere to live and I did not starve.  I earned my first salary, I did not starve, I had somewhere to live; my salary got bigger, I did not starve, I had somewhere to live. But strangely and inexorably my tastes and requirements seemed to get more expensive to fill the space, to grow alongside the salary increase.

There was never a point for me that I said anything above this amount is a bonus – I can give this away I do not need it!  There are super saints in this world who do just that. They reverse tithe – 10% is enough I will give away 90%. Wow, that is not me but I have deep admiration for them!

Matthew 6.24  ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

And the thing is this if wealth if not mastered becomes our master.

So let’s talk for a moment about tithing. Tithing helps us to get our wealth in perspective – we are masters of our wealth – our wealth does not say to us: you cannot afford to give me away , you need to worry about the future, you deserve to have a little luxury,. We are very good and justifying why we cannot be more generous to God.

And we need to learn to be generous to God in the way that God is generous to us.

And the starting point to this is a really difficult lesson and it is this: all of our benefits and privileges are undeserved and unearned – they are gratuitous blessings – accidents of birth and upbringing. Our ability to work hard is a gift.  Our courage to search for work is a gift. Our resilience  is a gift, our intelligence is a gift.  My father told me that if it hadn’t been for Harold Wilson, I wold not have a degree.  If it wasn’t for God’s gifting I would have nothing.

This is such a hard lesson because we like to think that our lifestyle and possessions are the result of hard work and thriftiness.  No they are undeserved and unearned.  They are accidents of birth, upbringing and inheritance.  They are gifts from God’s bounty.

And if we get that we get the next lesson which is that we are given these gifts so that we can learn how to be generous – how to develop the heart of God.  Not because I deserved them.  This is so important I have to repeat it.  I was given gifts by God so that I could learn how to be generous – to develop God’s heart.  The more gifted I am the more generous he expects me to be – the more opportunity he is giving me to develop his heart.

Let’s take a look at another difficult passage:

Matthew 20.13-16 – the bit after the vineyard owner has paid the workers who have worked for one hour the same as the workers who have worked all day .  The latter are complaining: this is unfair!

But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Are you envious because  I am generous?  The great mastery that wealth has over us is that we deserve our wealth.  The next is that we need to hoard it because we live in a world of lack and disappointment rather than abundance and gratitude.

A world view of lack and disappointment allows no room or possibility for satisfaction, a sense of enough. We end up chasing after wind and smoke and illusion.  There is no enough, so there is none left over.  If we live with a sense of abundance and gratitude the little we have will be enough and more than enough for us to have a sense of extra and give some of the extra away.

I wonder what kind of conditions the clothing magnate provides for his workers – I wonder whether he provides schooling, medical aid, decent housing and living wages to his workforce.   Who knows?  God knows.  If the super  rich are in that place because of their exploitation of others, God will judge, not me. The state of their hearts are only known to God.

Interestingly there is a post script. Mike Ashley has gone back to his wife – love was more important in the end than the luxury villa or  judicial settlement.  The couple realised that that was a Pyrrhic victory where no one wins.  There is hope!

But the point is that it is easy to look at the super rich and judge, but that distracts us from looking at our own attitudes to our own wealth

The man in our gospel reading with all his barns and buildings and who knows what else lost his opportunity to use the gifts that God had given him.

Luke 12: 20 But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.

God says , you fool, I gave you the opportunity to be greater, to be happier, to be my child in the world and you blew it.  it is too late now to learn to know my heart and live with satisfaction, abundance and joy.

Luke 12 15 And Jesus says to his listeners, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’

The abundance of God is all around us if we choose to see.  His generosity towards us is infinite if we choose to ask him. He wants us to have the generous heart that he has.

Malachi 3.10

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

We do not give away from abundance because the recipient needs it , we give because we need to give.  As we get closer to God and know his heart, we become more like him: abundant in attitude, overflowing in generosity and reckless in love.  My  giving is a sign of my maturing in the heart of God.  And the more of his heart I have the more I will master wealth.

Colossians 3,1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

We will be revealed in him in glory because we will be living with his heart in the world. We can only develop his heart if we stop chasing after wind, and smoke and illusion.

And the final lesson is this.  The poor are vital.  If we know that our wealth is unearned and undeserved and we live with an attitude of abundance and gratitude the poor become an opportunity to grow into the heart of God.

When we have the heart of God, the next time we  meet a brother and sister in need, we do not think: what did they do to deserve that?  We think, my wealth is undeserved, it is a gift, what I do in this situation is a development of my spiritual maturity.  This person is my equal. No judgement, no fear, just abundant, grateful, reckless love.

So let’s allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with God’s abundant, reckless love for us so that out of our gratitude we can be his generous heart in the world.  This is the kingdom of glory that we are called to be for the world. Amen

Remembrance Sunday: Poppies in the mess we create

November 9, 2015

Jonah 3.1-5;Psalm 62.5-end; Romans 8.31-39; James; John 15.9-17

Why do we wear a poppy?

Because in the devastated and broken ground of Flanders, poppies sprang up in their innocent beauty to honour the blood of the dead but also to bring a sign of life and hope.

War and bloodshed are one of the most difficult things to grapple with in the Bible. We would like to argue them away in metaphor and allegory but I do not think that is what God intended.

The Old Testament is full of battle and violence as the people of God alternately rebel and turn back to God.

In fact the world has never been without war. It is part of the landscape of humanity.

In the film 2001 Space Odyssey, the Ape stroke Neanderthal man discovers that a bone from an animal he has just eaten can be used as weapon. And the weapon gives him power over others.

The point being that from the beginning of time, or at least from the Garden of Eden, war has been used to claim territory, wreak revenge, protect scarce resources (for ME), oppress people I don’t agree with or like, s and so on.

And after the Garden: Cain and Abel – Cain shed Abel’s blood because he was jealous that God favoured the meat sacrifice of the nomadic herdsman rather than the land owning agriculturalist.

Genesis 4.10

10And the Lord said (to Cain), ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

The New Testament does not specifically mention war but we know that, during the time of Jesus, the Roman occupiers were sending troops to the borders of their Empire to protect and expand them. And 70 years after the death of Christ the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed again. And after Christ’s death the Jews and the church was persecuted with much bloodshed and violence

Consider the reality of a recent situation: a bomb is placed on a Russian holiday aircraft . The more belligerent of our politicians will speak of this as an act of war and retaliation will be the order of the day.

Human beings at their worst are a destructive and self-seeking lot. We live in fear of our rights and privileges being taken away or destroyed by others – so we often attack first.. But how do we cope with this conundrum of a loving God and the blood thirstiness of the bible?.

And as we approach the period of Advent we will be reading the Apocalyptic – end time – passages which are increasingly disturbing.:Take a look at Matthew’s gospel:

Matthew 24: 7-8

7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines* and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The world is pregnant with the promise of a new kingdom.

But for now war is inevitable, it is part of our DNA. It is not going to get any more peaceful until there is a radical end to the destructive practices of the human race.

It feels somehow disrespectful to talk about this on Remembrance Sunday when we honour those who bravely fight and die in wars. And my words are not in any way designed to diminish their courage and sacrifice, but to try to understand what we can learn and how we can grow.

As we have said, it is difficult to argue war out of the Scriptures by saying it is allegory or metaphor rather than literal. And we only need to look around the world with the benefit of modern communication to see the devastation of warfare on our planet. If it is happening now, why wouldn’t it have been happening then?

God is angry throughout the Old Testament about his people turning away from him and worshipping poor and dead substitutes, the exploitation of the poor and the shedding of innocent blood.

In the reading from Jonah, what was Ninevah’s crime?

Jonah 3 All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

And that is exactly what they do – for now at least!

All through the Old Testament God appears to use the destructive nature of human beings to teach nations about His ways – to turn them from their idol worship and violence and exploitation of the innocent, to the worship of the one true God and follow his ways of justice and peace.

But the people of Ninevah repent The great capital city of Samaria gets the message and turns to God and the battle does not happen.

And in all the battles and bloodshed God places signs of hope. There is a remnant, a book, a prophet.

And in the wars we have suffered more recently there is the poppy is one, but there are others.

At the end of World War II on August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the Americans. Some of the plants and trees in the area around the epicentre survived, in particular six Ginkgo biloba trees They were at the very centre of the blast and were budding afterwards; they are still alive today. The Ginkgo is regarded as the ‘bearer of hope’.

After 9/11 a Callery pear tree became known as the Survivor Tree after sustaining extensive damage, but living through the September 11, 2001, terror attacks at the World Trade Centre. It was rescued and revided and is now 30 foot and replanted on the memorial site.

God sews the seeds of Hope on this planet – whatever happens. However destructive we are, Creation will find a way to show God’s glory and hope.

The hope is in the quiet glory of nature – and it is also in the acts of kindness and dignity.that blossom out of the devastation of cities and lives, for example food and shelter for a refugee; protection and rescue for a wounded colleague. These things restore the balance of love in the world

In John’s gospel we read of Jesus’ command to us to love one another, and bear fruit in the world – fruit of repentance and forgiveness, fruit of reconciliation and honour.

War arises from fear and jealousy – there is no love in war.

The ape killed his competitor for the waterhole with the bone from his dinner; Cain killed Able out of jealousy for God’s favour.

What might have happened if those two actions had been forgiven? What might have happened if human beings were able to settle their differences through reconciliation and cooperation?

But quite obviously they don’t and they can’t – not without the grace and love of God.

We will have war and we will have love. And in the end Love will overcome. In the end nothing will separate us from the love of God – and nothing does separate us from the love of God now.

In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And we need to take that message into the world this Remembrance Sunday.

If we cannot stop wars, we can at least show God’s love and blessing to each other just like a poppy blooming from the mess we have created. Amen

All Saints 2015: It’s all about Mary

November 9, 2015

Isaiah 25.6-9;  Psalm 24.1-6; Revelation 21.1-6a; John 11.32-44

A few years ago at a Christian Festival a young girl of around 8 said this in response to a question “What do you understand about eternal life? She said “eternal life is living forever with Jesus in my heart”.. Yesterday I was talking to a young member of the congregation about eternal life and we spoke about the difficulty we have as people of this planet understanding a place that is not bound by time.

So to meld those two concepts together, I would like to suggest this: “eternal life is living forever in the presence of God. “

Each word in this definition has meaning and importance. Living –there is a living that is particular to being in the presence of God – a way of living – of being fully alive. Forever is forever in the present – this moment for ever – outside and beyond the constraints of time. In the presence of God – so wherever we are, fully alive and present in the company of our Father – and where is our Father – in heaven of course – outside time and space in eternity.

And of course if that is a working understanding then it means that we can live now fully in the presence of God. God can be present to us. We can live in heaven and on earth at the same time because heaven is outside time. Tricky – but let’s sit with it with our being – our whole being – body, mind and especially spirit – rather than get a headache trying to make sense of it with our head alone.

This is why children understand concepts and mysteries that evade adult minds – you only have to try to get a 5 year old ready for school to realise that children, especially small children have no concept of time and no interest in it either!.

So if we can sit with these Apocalyptic – Revelation Scriptures – sit with the mystery – God will reveal something of his wisdom into our hearts and minds and spirits. For isn’t that what wisdom is – a combination of all those elements: mind, body,spirit, revelation.

As one of the people at the Revival service said last evening – if we try to understand God we make him too small. So when we are faced with Scriptures that seem to jump from the future to the present, from the heavenly to the earthly – we just need to imagine that they are all happening now and always – even if we do not understand it..

And if that is true – and this is important – we are not waiting for a future time where all will be changed and somehow we will be exonerated for our good work and suffering. We are called to walk in the heavenly realms right now. Waiting for justice at some future time and from someone else is avoiding our responsibility as saints in God’s kingdom.

And that I think is what it means to be a saint.- living in the world, living in time, as if we were living in heaven – outside the constraints of the world, away from its delusions and distractions – including the passage of time. Then time becomes a tool in our salvation – it is in time and space that we work out our relationship with God – ironically to become detached from time and space in order to live in his presence..

Jesus reaches into the place of death and lifts Lazarus back to the world. Jesus goes into the world of death at his crucifixion and God lifts him back into the world to be among his disciples for a while and then rise up to heaven.

And in raising Lazarus Jesus redefined time by reunited Lazarus with his spirit – for a bit longer – to show that death ultimately has no power to destroy us, in fact no meaning at all outside time.

And this is the great work that Jesus did. The book of the prophet Isaiah that holds the secrets of Messiah says:. Isaiah 25

9It will be said on that day:

Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

On that day – what is that day? The day is now – the resurrection has happened – the blood has been shed by the Son of God for forgiveness for the world. The shroud of deception that is cast over all peoples, the sheet of delusion that is spread over all nations will be destroyed and the light of God will shine with truth.

Jesus delays the rising of Lazarus so that he is not sick but definitely dead.

39Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’

And we remember from our study of Mark’s gospel that the writer is very keen that we should know that Jesus is not sick but definitely dead – he uses the word 4 times! Mark 15

44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.

Why did Jesus raise Lazarus and not someone else? I think this is more to do with our sisters Martha and Mary. Isn’t it nteresting it is that Martha means “lady of the house”; Mary means “wise woman”.

And this is where the bible gets exciting – bear with me on this journey!!

We meet Martha and Mary in Luke 10.38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary,

who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing.* Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

And this is important – Jesus reveals the same truth in John’s gospel – Martha rushes for meaning, desperate to do the right thing,to demonstrate that she “gets it” , that she understands..

Mary sits and waits for understanding.- she waits for wisdom and then wisdom leads to worship – for what else could it do?.

We meet Mary again in John 12.1-8

3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them* with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii* and the money given to the poor?’ 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it* so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

Judas rushes to criticise Mary – he talks a good story: “this money should have been given to the poor!”. On the surface he is speaking the teaching of Jesus – but he doesn’t really get it – and betrays Jesus because he believes that he, Judas, is right.

But Mary sits in the presence of Jesus amongst all the noise of life around her – all the clever discussions at the dinner table and all the criticism – and she worships Jesus – she is in his presence – she is not concerned about what is going on in the world – she is living in the presence of God.

“Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She accepts the reality – she sits with the mystery – she and Jesus weep together. In a moment of eternity – outside time – outside the noise of the wailing mourners, outside the confusion of Martha, outside the panic and grief – Mary and Jesus, together in each other’s presence.

John 11 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35Jesus began to weep.

Saints are prepared to sit with Jesus beyond the distractions of the world and be in his presence. And of course that is why they are able to perform the miraculous – bringing heavenly healing and reconciliation to earth bound problems.

“Unbind him and let him go” says Jesus.

And Jesus says that to the people for themselves as well. Stop being trapped and distracted by the noise and demands of the world. Let yourselves go and trust me – trust God your heavenly Father who has always only had the best intentions towards you and wants you to thrive in his love.

So on this Saints’ day let us carry that meaning of what it means to be a Saint:: living forever in the presence of God, sitting with the mystery, and let it lead us into faith and worship, bring the heavenly realms right here on earth. Amen

3 After Trinity – Set me free!

July 9, 2014

Zechariah 9.9-12; Psalm 145.8-15; Romans 7.15-25a; Matthew 11.16-19,25-end

Next week we celebrate another anniversary of the Narcotics Anonymous group that meets in the Lower Hall every Thursday evening.  It has been going for 4 years and in that time there are people who have become clean through of the support of that group; set free from their addiction.  But NA is not just about cleaning up an addiction; it is also a place to rediscover who we are without addiction, rebuild our personality, make friends and gain the confidence to live a life awake and in reality.

For those of you who do not know, there are twelve steps to the  NA clean up process.  The first three are these: firstly I have to admit that I have a need;  my need being to be free from an addiction,  and that I have no power in myself to satisfy that need.  The second is that I accept that there is a higher power than I and that entity does have the power to set me free.  Thirdly that I surrender to that power and allow it to work in my life, to redeem and transform me.

Now you will notice that the wording I have used is not exactly NA language to make a not so subtle connection to our readings this morning!

We live in a world of addiction – addiction to sound, and fear of silence, to money and fear of lack, to status and celebrity and fear of failure.  We link up on social media and make friends all over the world; virtual friends whom we can turn off at will.  But we walk through a crowded street or sit on a crowded bus, or a busy Pub – alone, and detached from human contact. 

Human beings are social animals.  We suffer if we are alone for too long – we yearn to belong to something – somebody.  And we are also creatures of God – restless until we find our rest in Him.

But we hold on to the idol of individuality, the god of personal achievement, the deity of celebrity and success.  If only, if only I could be a RAP star, have a better job, a prettier wife, a nicer house, more obedient children, better education – and so on and so on – then I would be happy.

We complain that it the fault is out there.  You are not giving me what I want; I didn’t get the right breaks; you have let me down.

Well of course the truth is that we are all precious children of God and God loves us just as we are and sees our true potential and human beings: the best we can be.

Our restlessness comes from our need of God – we were created to be his people on earth – to love him.  We can fill our lives with other stuff but it will not satisfy – it will not set us free.

And when we admit our need of God, we open ourselves to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit and the deep friendship and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  Only God has the power to set us free from our isolation, our sense of disappointment, our frustration and lack of self-esteem.

The hardest step is the surrender bit.  Children do not have this problem as much as adults.  Children are used to people telling them what to do and demanding obedience.  They know too well that there are higher powers than themselves.

But as we get older we want to achieve things in our own right, by our own skills and cleverness.  The hole in our heart gets bigger and darker as we move away from God. 

But thank God, God is still there.

God’s love for us is true and real and trustworthy and unconditional.  God longs for us to recognise him – to see him for who he truly is – our loving, forgiving, generous Father.  And then all he asks us to do is surrender to his love like a child being enfolded in the arms of a loving parent.

And when we surrender.   We begin to become all that we were always meant to be – free from the addictions that trap us, the empty distractions that fail to nourish our soul, the loveless connections that leave us more lonely than before.

God is waiting for us to surrender to his love – a love that will never let us down – complete and perfect and unconditional.

Are you ready to lay your burdens down this morning and believe that God has the power to transform your life?

And when we do, we will become a light and a path for those who desperately need God but do not realise it!

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, help me to come to you with the openness and innocence of a child – trusting in your power to save me from all that prevents me being the person that you know I could be.  Amen.

 

First Sunday after Trinity – What have you got to lose?

July 9, 2014

Jeremiah 20.7-13; Psalm 69.8-17; Romans 6.1b-11; Matthew 10.24-39

Do you know people who are full of good advice?  People who are experts in your life and your future?  People who know what is best for you?  Of course you do and some of them have your best interests at heart – and sadly some of them don’t.  Anyone who listens to your heartfelt complaints about your husband or wife and then says – “all men” or women are like that dump him or her – has probably not grasped the subtleties and challenges about being married or might even be jealous.  Anyone who tells you to walk out of a job is probably suspect too.  In any event advice should be listened to with discerning ears – judging where it is coming from and with what motivation and sifting this with your own wisdom and conscience.

It is similar in our Christian lives;  there will be people who have very good advice – some of it trustworthy and true, and some of it quite frankly to knock you off your course of devotion and obedience to God.  Some advice will be painful and we might not want to listen – but someone may very courageously bringing something to our attention that could change our lives.

Jeremiah begins his prophetic career as a young man: “Ah Lord God, truly I do not know how to speak. for I I am only a boy”  Ch 1 v 6.

7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. 
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,  says the Lord.’ 

Jeremiah uses the language of temptation to talk about his relationship with God – Lord you have enticed me – seduced me – you compel me to speak the words: Violence and Destruction – impending doom for Judah.

And of course Jeremiah’s words are true – Judah is about to be decimated – Jerusalem destroyed by the great Empire of Babylon – and the officials and intelligentsia exiled to Babylon.

The people do not want to hear this message at all – they want to destroy Jeremiah.  He has lost his closest friends because of his prophesying. He is making them uncomfortable.  Their motives for shutting him up are selfish and inward looking – they do not want to hear that their lives are about to change, and particularly they do not want to hear that they have brought this upon themselves.

6.13 For from the least to the greatest of them,
   everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
   everyone deals falsely. 
14 They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
   saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
   when there is no peace. 
15 They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
   yet they were not ashamed,
   they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
   at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,  says the Lord. 

Who wants to hear that they are responsible for their actions and that there will be consequences?

I do not know when you felt the calling of the Lord – the hand of God on your life.  But I am sure that when you gave your life to Christ there were people who tried to entice you away.  And some of those who genuinely but misguidedly thought you were throwing your life away on this religion nonsense.

There are those who come to Christ and face not just ridicule but real danger to their lives and livelihood. The Disciples of Jesus would soon be in that place.

But the warning in today’s readings is not about real persecution and danger, that is easier to understand.  Make no mistake – the warning is about being half hearted.  It is about not really being sure whether to give our lives to Christ or not – holding a bit back for safety – not committing everything.

Paul in Romans uses really strong language about this: our old selves must be crucified with Christ.  This is not a paddle in the sea this is plunging in to the current without looking back.  And crucifixion has a flavour of humiliation about it – the public death of the criminal for all to see.  That is how we should see our death to the old life – complete, irreversible and out there.

There is no way back from crucifixion.  Or is there?  Well of course there is!  There is new life in Christ – new beginnings and new possibilities. 

But of course it doesn’t quite work like that in reality.  In reality we give up a bit of ourselves at a time; holding a bit back just in case.  Perhaps listening to those who caution against too enthusiastic a plunge into a new life – burning our bridges.

And that little bit that we keep back causes us to say – well of course if you push me I would say I’m a Christian – I am not religious – I try to live a good life – I come to church and so on.

But that is not good enough.  That is not crucifixion. 

32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in Heaven. 

O, dear!  So every time we make a life choice that denies that we are Christians – we run the risk of his denial of us!

We have to let go and let God.  The words of Matthew are as strong as Paul’s: if we are to follow Christ completely and truly we have to let go of those who would try to entice us with words of ridicule or warning – whoever they are!

Have you noticed that before we take another step on our journey with God, we are in a state of discontent, a frustration that builds up in us that makes us really uncomfortable with where we are: dissatisfied and discontent. 

And that, my friends is a great place to be, a really powerful place to be!  That is God nagging us to give up some more – to take the next step – to plunge a little deeper and crucify a bit more of ourselves.  And God does not give up on us however long it takes!

And of course here is the good news: 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Well, you might say, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like very good news to me,.

God said to Jeremiah

5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ 

‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. 
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,  says the Lord.’ 

God does not promise that our life in him will be comfortable or easy – not at all!  But it will be real and true and good and completely alive.

If we keep holding a little bit back from Christ we will never know the life we could have had in Him.  If we do not pick up our Cross we will never do the work that we uniquely need to do for His Kingdom.

If we listen to those who would stop us giving ourselves to His service we will miss the greatest moments of our lives – our lives lived in Him.

If you are feeling frustrated this morning – you re in a great place!  Surrender to His love, let go of the past and find the life that he has for you to live.

What have you got to lose?  What have you got to gain?!

Pentecost – shall I get the buckets and close the windows?

July 9, 2014

Numbers 11.24-30; Acts 2.1-21; Psalm 104.26-end; John 20.19-23

Last week we read in our Gospel that Jesus told his disciples to remain, to wait for power from on high. And they did. And while they were waiting they were worshiping and praising God in anticipation for the blessing that would come to them at Pentecost.

They of course did not know what that blessing would be. They were waiting for the Holy Spirit but had no idea what was about to hit them.

And when the day of Pentecost did come the Holy Spirit came with a rush of wind and tongues of fires.

Now that was scary – or perhaps more awesome than scary – and it was certainly transformational.

We come to church for many reasons, don’t we? We come out of habit, to have our baby baptised (and we welcome our baptism family this morning with all our heart), to meet with God, to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. To be transformed by the Holy Spirit – is that true?

The people in that one place 2 thousand years ago could have shut the window and got out the buckets of water – to keep out the wind and douse the flames. And that is what we can do now – metaphorically. We can shut ourselves off from the Holy Spirit – and ignore the power – there are no real tongues of flame or violent wind to intrude, unless we allow it.

So on this day of Pentecost we can shut the windows of our hearts – we can douse any stirring of the Holy Spirit in our souls – or we can open up and take what the Lord has to give us.

And when we do we will see such a revival in this place that we will not recognise it. Of course the important bits will be the same but the nonsense, selfishness, critical hearts, gossip, unkindness and other sin will be blown away with the great wind of the Holy Spirit and burnt away with the fire of the Holy spirit.

And we will be left with hearts waiting and ready for the fullness of the love of God – generous, humble, forgiven, ready to receive – ready to hear the voice of God – ready to do the will of God.

There will be no more talk of fund-raising – because there will be a spirit of generosity and gratitude. There will be no talk of evangelism because you and I will be people of the living Word – living the gospel amongst the people. There will be no talk of problems with the building – for God will build the tabernacle for his people.

We just have to open up to the Holy Spirit, trust in God’s love for us, and believe that God wants his church to thrive. This is not just this church in Hither Green but the CHURCH throughout the world, and God needs us to be on fire with the Spirit. God needs us to be alive with the wind of the Spirit and God needs us to be full of love and peace with the breath of the Spirit.

Does that sound easy? Well if it was it would have happened already. But we are where we are and it cannot be otherwise and today is full of potential. We will remember 8 June 2014! This is the day that the Lord has made; this is the day that the Spirit comes upon the church.

Are we going to be part of it – or are we going to shut the windows and get the buckets?

Brothers and sisters – all we have to do is open our hearts to the possibility of transformation and God will do the rest.

Are we ready?

Sunday after Ascension – People of the living Word in a world of Quotation Marks

June 5, 2014

Easter 7- Ezekiel 36.24-28; Acts 1.6-14; Luke 24.44-53

Returning from a walk with Angel this week I spotted a person going into the front garden of the church with a dog.  This was a woman, wearing a track suit and having the look of a person from the hostel.  Do you know what I did?  I followed her in to check if the dog had pooed in the garden – and meeting her coming out I looked at her not in fellowship but with my killer stare which says – what do you think you are doing in the church garden?

How quick you and I are to make judgements!

Jesus would have been very disappointed.  Why?  Because the only response to that woman should have been to say “good morning – what a lovely day – how are you – what is your dog’s name?”  And then possibly “why don’t you join us later – we are very inclusive, friendly and loving people who would welcome you with love into our church fellowship.

My failure to exemplify a Christian in the community might help us all to reflect on who Jesus wants us to be in the Community.

So let’s start with a definition.  Christians are not people of the Book, we are people of the Word.  Now that sounds a bit pedantic until we understand what happened in this glorious season that we call Easter – the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Son of God and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Word, Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come, is living and here with us.

And the first clue is here.  Jesus is killed by the people of the Book – the Law – God in awesome and redemptive power raises him from the dead.  The disciples are beginning to come to terms with this, when the next earth shattering event happens.  The resurrected Jesus then begins to explain to them who he is using the Scriptures – from the holy book of the Old Testament – and particularly the prophets.

And he gives them a mission. Then he tells them to wait.  They were not to go out into the world until they were clothed with power from on high.

The disciples were not to go out with a rational, well-argued case for the religion of Christianity.  They were to go out to proclaim the possibility of new life through repentance and forgiveness of sins: repentance and forgiveness the two most powerful forces in our world.

Jesus leaves the disciples with a promise of power to achieve this, and then they experience the next awesome, miraculous experience:  Jesus’ Ascension to the Father – the godhead is complete – human beings are elevated to the side of the Father.  Jesus came, redeemed humanity and returned to the Father.

(Luke 24)52And (the disciples) worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Christians are people of the living Word.  Going back to my opening story – we live in a world of people of the Quotation Marks – we are “these people” – or “those people”.

I could go around this church this morning and label almost all of you – in fact most of you already have been doing that from the moment you came in.  I could but that would be really offensive – so I will talk about me!  I am divorced – well you know what those people are like!  I am a female priest – well who do I think I am!  I am 60 this year so I am ten years into a SAGA person – so past it really.  I like a glass of wine – well that explains a lot doesn’t it!?  You see once we have done the labelling we can make assumptions and not bother to engage at all.

If you watch the programme Gogglebox you will see how much we are the people of the Quotation Marks – judging everyone who comes on – stereotyping and accusing.

But we are not people of the Book, we are not people of the Quotation Marks. We are not to sit in judgement about people.  We are people of the living Word, who bring new life.  We do not ask people to jump through hoops to get close to God or to pay a price to be in God’s presence.

Jesus asks us to walk through that world and not see the stereotype but the human light shining out of the eyes,  however dimly, however darkened by pain or sin.

And Jesus asks us to shine a light in that darkness – not in judgement but in fellowship and love

We are to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, to teach what he taught, to heal a broken world and release those who are imprisoned literally and spiritually, and challenge injustice and oppression.

This is a tough call.  Nobody is going to be able to do this in their own strength – just look around the world and see the damage that is being done by people convinced they are doing the work of God.  The work of God cannot be done by judgement and punishment;  there lies disillusionment and great damage.  The work of God is done by demonstration and teaching his wisdom and love.

In the face of disbelief, ridicule, cruelty and self -interest – the only thing that is powerful enough to stand against the world is love.

And that is why we need the Holy Spirit – the power that makes it possible to go out into a world that is not listening and live the Word of God.  Humanity working alongside the Father – part of the Godhead.  Perhaps It is the sheer awesomeness of this power that frightens us. 

But let’s put that fear aside and be adventurous people of the living Word.   Over the next week, let’s spend time in prayer and preparation, waiting with the disciples, ready to open our hearts once more to the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! Amen

 

June 5, 2014

6th Sunday of Easter: Genesis 8.20-9.17; Acts 17.22-31; John 14.15-21

This morning we are going to renew the marriage vows of a couple in our family here at St Swithuns.  I will try to make a connection with this and our readings this morning.

Happy Valley is a television series which explores the descent into sin that is predictable and almost inevitable in a world without God, and particularly marriage without the stability and redemptive power of God. 

Let me use a couple of examples from the first episode which relate to marriage and family.

The first is very much about a distorted focus on idols.  A man asks for a rise in salary to pay school fees for his daughters.  This is initially refused.  He allows envy and resentment to build up in his heart to the point where he contemplates the kidnapping and ransom of his bosses’ daughter.  He suggests to a local villain that he helps him in this venture. Meanwhile, the next day, our man is told by his boss that on reflection he has decided to pay the school fees in return for our man’s taking over the reins of the business while the boss travels with his wife who has cancer.  The boss tells our man that one of the reasons for his capitulation is the persuasion of his daughter – the one who is about to face the brutal ordeal of kidnap and violation.  The die is cast and sin is released.

In a world where the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.  A private school – a rise in status – is hugely important, or at least we think so.

The second example is more subtle. A divorced couple go out to dinner and end up in bed together.  The man is now married to someone else.  The reason they got divorced is because they did not work through the terrible experience of the rape and subsequent suicide of their daughter.  The child of this violent union reminded the husband so much of the incident that he left the marital home.  Don’t judge these people, just reflect on what is going on.  The woman’s sister asks her, “did it help” she says “no”.  But the next day calls her ex husband again to arrange a meeting so they can repeat their mistake. Very few men can refuse a booty call and so they meet. The die is cast and sin is released.

The first reason I mention these two incidents is because they illustrate with aweful clarity the descent into sin, one step at a time: a series of choices in a moral vacuum.  This is not because I want to bang the pulpit about the 10 commandments and judgement but because the descent into sin is a dark and despairing place to be and God sent Jesus to bring us light and love and hope.

John 14 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

And the second reason is to link to the place of marriage in the Christian church with these incidents.

Marriage has been distorted by sin; by our ancestors’ rejection of God in the Garden of Eden.  Going back in time we see the relationship between men and women distorted by mutual recrimination, their mutual attraction, a wonderful gift from God, their Creator, changed into a relationship of domination and lust.  And the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.  But in his covenantal relationship with his people God elevates the state of marriage again into a sacramental act – the example of God and his people, Christ and the Church.  And as the couple work together to build their relationship of love and trust – they are giving an example to the world of redemption and grace.

The tragedy of the two examples I have given from Happy Valley is that with our helicopter vision and detached wisdom can see how God might have worked in both situations to bring about a fruitful and richer and more abundant solution.

Had the divorced couple worked together through the pain of the tragedy of their daughter’s rape and suicide, their grandson might have been a source of joy and living proof of the power of forgiveness, their relationship deepened and enriched.

Had our weak and envious friend listened to his family and been open to the love and gratitude of his wife and children he would not have craved the idol of the status of private schooling.

The Athenians flocked to Paul for an intellectual argument – a piece of entertainment – what he did was hit them between the eyes with the possibility of repentance and new life.

Acts 17 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 

Marriage is an exemplar of Christ and the church precisely because it is difficult – it is difficult because of sin.  If that word offends you then think of ego – marriage is difficult because of our ego – demanding selfish satisfaction and instant gratification.

The trouble is the further we sink into sin, the more difficult it is to dig ourselves out.

But God has given us assurance to us that if we repent there is redemption and this assurance has been given by Jesus’ rising from the dead.  The world cannot receive this truth because it is dark and blind and deaf. 

John 14 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you

Marriage is one of the vehicles of the Good News of Jesus Christ – his Gospel.  The elevation of Marriage to a sacrament demonstrates God’s relationship with his people – Christ’s relationship with the Church: one of tenderness and fidelity, self-control and grace, saying sorry and I forgive you.  This all powerfully witnesses to the righteousness and grace of God.

And the ripple effect of a loving marriage, in the true robust sense of love, touches the children of that marriage.  Unfortunately children are completely deaf to what we say if our actions shout more loudly of a different truth and different morality.

And the influence of a loving marriage ripples out into society in generosity and hospitality – in stability and hope.

So what a privilege to carry out this ceremony for a couple who have been married for 15 years and demonstrated in the short time I have known them – compassionate and dedicated parenting, generosity and kindness to people around them.   

They are not perfect of course, but a pretty good example! And we are grateful for their contribution to our church family and honoured to perform this renewal of their wedding vows.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

In him we live and move and have our being – marriage as a vehicle of the Gospel

June 4, 2014

6th Sunday of Easter: Genesis 8.20-9.17; Acts 17.22-31; John 14.15-21

This morning we are going to renew the marriage vows of a couple in our family here at St Swithuns.  I will try to make a connection with this and our readings this morning.

Happy Valley is a television series which explores the descent into sin that is predictable and almost inevitable in a world without God, and particularly marriage without the stability and redemptive power of God. 

Let me use a couple of examples from the first episode which relate to marriage and family.

The first is very much about a distorted focus on idols.  A man asks for a rise in salary to pay school fees for his daughters.  This is initially refused.  He allows envy and resentment to build up in his heart to the point where he contemplates the kidnapping and ransom of his bosses’ daughter.  He suggests to a local villain that he helps him in this venture. Meanwhile, the next day, our man is told by his boss that on reflection he has decided to pay the school fees in return for our man’s taking over the reins of the business while the boss travels with his wife who has cancer.  The boss tells our man that one of the reasons for his capitulation is the persuasion of his daughter – the one who is about to face the brutal ordeal of kidnap and violation.  The die is cast and sin is released.

In a world where the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.  A private school – a rise in status – is hugely important, or at least we think so.

The second example is more subtle. A divorced couple go out to dinner and end up in bed together.  The man is now married to someone else.  The reason they got divorced is because they did not work through the terrible experience of the rape and subsequent suicide of their daughter.  The child of this violent union reminded the husband so much of the incident that he left the marital home.  Don’t judge these people, just reflect on what is going on.  The woman’s sister asks her, “did it help” she says “no”.  But the next day calls her ex husband again to arrange a meeting so they can repeat their mistake. Very few men can refuse a booty call and so they meet. The die is cast and sin is released.

The first reason I mention these two incidents is because they illustrate with aweful clarity the descent into sin, one step at a time: a series of choices in a moral vacuum.  This is not because I want to bang the pulpit about the 10 commandments and judgement but because the descent into sin is a dark and despairing place to be and God sent Jesus to bring us light and love and hope.

John 14 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

And the second reason is to link to the place of marriage in the Christian church with these incidents.

Marriage has been distorted by sin; by our ancestors’ rejection of God in the Garden of Eden.  Going back in time we see the relationship between men and women distorted by mutual recrimination, their mutual attraction, a wonderful gift from God, their Creator, changed into a relationship of domination and lust.  And the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.  But in his covenantal relationship with his people God elevates the state of marriage again into a sacramental act – the example of God and his people, Christ and the Church.  And as the couple work together to build their relationship of love and trust – they are giving an example to the world of redemption and grace.

The tragedy of the two examples I have given from Happy Valley is that with our helicopter vision and detached wisdom can see how God might have worked in both situations to bring about a fruitful and richer and more abundant solution.

Had the divorced couple worked together through the pain of the tragedy of their daughter’s rape and suicide, their grandson might have been a source of joy and living proof of the power of forgiveness, their relationship deepened and enriched.

Had our weak and envious friend listened to his family and been open to the love and gratitude of his wife and children he would not have craved the idol of the status of private schooling.

The Athenians flocked to Paul for an intellectual argument – a piece of entertainment – what he did was hit them between the eyes with the possibility of repentance and new life.

Acts 17 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 

Marriage is an exemplar of Christ and the church precisely because it is difficult – it is difficult because of sin.  If that word offends you then think of ego – marriage is difficult because of our ego – demanding selfish satisfaction and instant gratification.

The trouble is the further we sink into sin, the more difficult it is to dig ourselves out.

But God has given us assurance to us that if we repent there is redemption and this assurance has been given by Jesus’ rising from the dead.  The world cannot receive this truth because it is dark and blind and deaf. 

John 14 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you

Marriage is one of the vehicles of the Good News of Jesus Christ – his Gospel.  The elevation of Marriage to a sacrament demonstrates God’s relationship with his people – Christ’s relationship with the Church: one of tenderness and fidelity, self-control and grace, saying sorry and I forgive you.  This all powerfully witnesses to the righteousness and grace of God.

And the ripple effect of a loving marriage, in the true robust sense of love, touches the children of that marriage.  Unfortunately children are completely deaf to what we say if our actions shout more loudly of a different truth and different morality.

And the influence of a loving marriage ripples out into society in generosity and hospitality – in stability and hope.

So what a privilege to carry out this ceremony for a couple who have been married for 15 years and demonstrated in the short time I have known them – compassionate and dedicated parenting, generosity and kindness to people around them.   

They are not perfect of course, but a pretty good example! And we are grateful for their contribution to our church family and honoured to perform this renewal of their wedding vows.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life – are you ready for the adventure?

June 4, 2014

Genesis 8.1-19; Acts 7.55-end; John 14.1-14

Yesterday at Hither Green Festival Fayre a young man told me his story of a miracle.  He had been a heroin addict and so had his partner.  They had a little girl together.  He had kicked the habit – still on the alcohol but working with Narcotics Anonymous – as he said, you have to start somewhere.  But his partner left him and ignored his text messages, keeping the child with her.  One day he remembered God and sat in the big Roman Catholic church in South Kensington and with his rosary prayed for reconciliation or even just a return of his calls.  That week she ‘phoned him.  For him that was a miracle – an act of God – He said, God still works miracles.

This man’s relationship broke down when he stopped living the life of an addict.  His partner rejected him because he had made a bid for freedom – because his life was going to be different – he had escaped from the pit of drug abuse, and she did not like it.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, says Jesus

Show us the Father says Philip.  Jesus says, How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves

Let’s put the cards on the table right now.  Christianity is different to any other religion.  Christians believe that God came to earth himself to show us himself – to live amongst us full of grace and truth.

God was not revealed by man’s wisdom, or scholarship, God himself was revealed by himself – Jesus the wisdom, the Word the Logos of God – God himself in human form.

The Jews stood around Jesus’ disciple Stephen as he looked up to heaven and shared his vision of Jesus in heaven as the human being in the God head – divine and human – God and redeemed humankind.  And they stoned him for blasphemy.  They did not like it!

He brought them the truth and they couldn’t bear it so they destroyed him thinking that might stop the power of God!  And as they tried to destroy Stephen, their coats were laid at the feet of a man called Saul; Saul who would become the great apostle to the Gentiles – St Paul!

In our modern world there are those who would like to make Jesus just a man, just a prophet, just another way to God. But this is not what he said.

Jesus said when you look at me you see the Father because he and I are one.

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Young people are often told by their peers that becoming a Christian means losing your freedom – losing what the world has to offer you.

Well let’s take a look at that for a moment: what does the world have to offer a young person – in my day we talked about a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll?

Well let’s unpack this: anyone who has had the privilege and joy of experiencing sex within a committed loving relationship,  knows it is a lot more fun than in the car park with a stranger after a drunken night out. 

And drugs or obsessions or addictions; there are many people who are walking through our world like zombies – from the street drinker to the city whizz kids.  The financial crash probably had more to do with Cocaine than competence.  But everybody is doing it – don’t be scared man YOLO!

And rock and roll: yes you can try to be a PLAYA and a GANGSTA, but have you seen young people praising the Lord in the Spirit – or getting down and dirty working together in the community and learning to love and respect each other and their world?

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Augustine said – our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.

People search for satisfaction and meaning in reckless and selfish ways or they anaesthetize themselves from reality in television, drugs or noise

Jesus came to give us life.  And in this life, he says that we will do greater works than his.  Whatever you ask me in my name – I will do it.  Jesus is not offering us safety but an adventure.  So let’s get out there.

Noah and his family are in the Ark – they are saved and safe – but that is not the end of the story.

God wants them to go out into the world and make a difference. God wants them to take all that grace and blessing that they have received from God and influence a new world.

If I do a reality check this morning on my relationship with Jesus Christ – where am I on a scale of habit and love?  What if habitual attendance at church but no action is 1 and completely in love with God and fully alive with his work is 10..  How intimate is my relationship with my Lord?

If you look into my eyes do you see the love of Christ?  Do you sense the spirit moving in the life that I live?  No of course not always.  But we all have moments of greatness and moments of shame.

But where is our desire?  Do we want to stay in the boat and be safe?  Or do we want to open ourselves to a closer walk with Jesus Christ?  Do we want to be filled again with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to burn away our nonsense and purify our lives?

Do we want the heart of Christ?

Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.  I am the way – my path is straight and good and noble; I am the truth – I am God the true revelation of his love and being; I am the life – and I come to offer it to you so that you can be me in the world.

And God knows Noah made some mistakes and so will we – but rather step out and get it wrong because getting it wrong is so much closer to getting it right than doing nothing!

And over the next few weeks there are tremendous opportunities for being Christian – for being the Body of Christ in our Community: Hither Green Festival,  when many events are being held in this church and in the hall, Richard is organising stewards and helpers for those events.  The Crossing London event on Monday 26th May where we can worship with other Christians – maybe outside our comfort zone but live dangerously!  8 June when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the church at Pentecost at Lewisham Theatre.  After this there will be opportunities to demonstrate the love of God, the salvation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in our communities.  And of course there is our own revival service here on 21 June.

So this morning – am I going below decks to snuggle under the duvet of my habitual worship and the safety of quiet Christian life? Or am I going to open my heart and soul to possibilities of  power and adventure?

Jesus is holding out the olive branch of possibility this morning – are we going to grasp it and step out with him?  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!  Amen