Growing closer to God?

21st May 2017 Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21 6th Sunday After Easter

Earlier this year you may recall me speaking about attending a licensing of my friend in Somerset. As I read through the readings for today I was reminded of the words from the Bishop on that evening. She spoke about the congregation, their worship and their hope of growing closer to God. More

Short talk for Family service

Mark 6:1-13

May I speak in the name of the Father, the son and the holy spirit.

Have you ever tried juggling?  (Juggles 3 balls)I know that’s not a question you would normally expect to hear on t Sunday morning but let me explain.  You see, to be able to juggle does take a certain amount of skill, patience and faith.  Skill, because the eyes and hands need to work together. Patience because keeping three balls or more in the air does not happen in five minute.  But faith, why would you need faith? Well there two sort of faiths happening. One is faith in yourself that you can learn to juggle and two faith in gravity.  Both types of faith are a little tricky to fully believe.  Faith in yourself is down to confidence and positive experience gained from overcoming past  failures.  Whereas as faith in gravity you would think is a bit of a no brainer. (drops a ball) See, there I proved gravity exists…  but I cannot as easily prove the cause of gravity.  If we think for a moment that we are on a planet that is spinning so fast that we literally being pulled down on it. Well it does boggle the brain somewhat!  Yet, thankfully, here we are firmly attached to the ground and not floating off somewhere.

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BAP – presentation v2

Another draft!

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The Second Sunday of Epiphany. Fladbury 15th Jan 11am HC

Philip said ‘Come and see’.

I do not watch much TV but one of my little guilty pleasures in life is watching You’ve Been Framed. Most of you may not have seen the TV show as it is, I am sure, quite beneath you and so I will explain what happens on the programme.  Basically the TV presenter, Harry Hill, presents various short films sent in by the general public. These are mostly considered to be humorous.  A few months ago, there was one film clip which starred a little, 4yr old girl who had been filmed in the garden by her Dad. It went a little something like this:

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The Magi and their gifts

May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

Ah Christmas! What is this time for you?  A time for families? A time of endless present buying? A time of endless church services? Of endless food, films, sitting?! Or is it a time for meeting God as Man?

These were some of the questions I mulled over while enjoying another family tradition. The family Christmas jigsaw puzzle.  Most years we buy a jigsaw and then together we work at it instead of watching the TV.  It is a time of laughter, success and frustration. Family life in a nutshell you could say. As I watched my Mother and sister busily work way at their chosen section, I marvelled at the different approaches to completing the puzzle.  We all start from the same point by finding the edges and making the rectangle framework.  Then the working into the middle begins.  I myself tend to come in late to the puzzle completing party. Preferring to wait until all the puzzle bits have been sorted into similar colour shades and patterns. Then I look at the section to be completed, search for the right bit and pop it in first time, mostly. Much to the annoyance of my sister who often says “How did you find that?!” Now my sister also carefully looks at her section but then gets fed up with guessing which bit fits where and so methodically tries each bit in turn to see if it ‘fits’.  Her’s is the try it and see way. Compared to mine swoop and fit guarantee! Now my mum, she’s a clump maker. By which I mean she will carefully find bits that all fit together away from the puzzle. So, in this case, a group of flowers or a window. Then she’ll add her bit to the puzzle.  My Dad helps occasionally too but not for long as it wasn’t the largest of puzzles and so not much room to work!  Yet none of us stick to just one part fo the puzzle either. We all share in moving from place to place as we see parts that fit in.

Eventually though, our methods come about the completion of the puzzle and our time of intimacy of ones with each other.  My sister has gone back to her home the other side Leamington, my Mother and Father back to their daily things that retired people do and I’m back to work on Tuesday.

The Magi, the three wise men were, I guess, also good at solving puzzles. For it was the puzzle of the appearance of a new star that led them to search out the New King of the Jews.  This new star foretold a new era had begun. A coming of One that would, in time, become the guiding light for all lost in darkness. A guide that would be broken and transformed so that all of us broken by life can be transformed and made whole. A saviour who by His sacrifice would reclaim our rightful inheritance as the children of God.  The gifts of the Magi illustrate. Well more than illustrate, They shout of this miraculous story! Gold for a king! Symbol of power, yet Christ’s power as King is not of the world but still is over all. Frankincense – the gift for a priest, a holy man. Christ intercedes on behalf of the people, raising prayers to God like the smoke drifting up from the charcoals. And Myrrh, perhaps the most disturbing gift of the three. Symbolizing both healing and death.  Myrrh represents the bitter cup that Christ has to drink in suffering for us. Yet it is His death that ultimately brings healing to us as now we can once again be loved by God our Father.

 

These gifts are costly. Costly to the Magi and symbolically costly to Christ.  To us they represent the cost we must share in too.  For, like the magi, our cost needs to be complete surrender to God. The sacrifice of ourselves for then we will truly find ourselves transformed.  If we just let go of our little bit of life’s puzzle, if we just let go of trying to figure it all out for ourselves. Then God can come in and show us the complete picture.  Where He is waiting with open arms and saying come, rest in me. I love you just as you are.

Amen

Advent two: john the Baptist

Short talk (ok VERY short talk) for tomorrow’s informal service. Its being followed up by a led christmastide mediation by Revd Sue Wallace. So i shouldn’t talk too long.

John the Baptist has always struck me as a peculiar character.  And I wonder if the gospel writer also thought that as described John as wearing a camel hair tunic, a wide leather belt and eating locusts with honey. At first glance John does not appear to be someone who is on an even keel, who is in fact, dare I say, a bit wacko.?!

So who really, in their right mind, would be attracted to such a character, even less go up to him and accept the receiving of baptism?!  Would you?

Jesus did.  He saw something in John that was right and true. He saw a man speaking the truth, passionately.  As did people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and the whole region of The Jordan.  They sought John out and after confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

However, we do not get to hear John’s story.  All we know is that he fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of being a messenger of God in the wilderness. But what did John do to get to this point? Why did he dress so? How did John end up in the wilderness?  Was he lost?

These are familiar questions to us because all of us at some time or another have found ourselves in places we didn’t plan for. Perhaps they are physical, spiritual or emotional places that, perhaps, would have been better avoided if possible.  And we ask ourselves, what have I done? How did I end up here and even, how do I get out?

Perhaps John asked himself these questions too in times of doubt.  How thrilled he must have been to finally see Jesus walking up to him!

And so it is with our journey with Christ.  This Holy time of Advent when we reflect on who we are with Christ can give new life to our questions. New hope, that we are not alone.  New light, that our darkness will come to an end.

Amen

Final sermon for Advent Theme is The Church Holy

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Phil 2.14-16

 

Advent is traditionally a time of looking forward to the birth of Christ.  A time when we wait, reflect and take stock of where we are in our journey with Christ.  Over the next four Sundays we are going to explore the Nicene creed by looking closely at what we mean when we say I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and apostolic church.  Today, I am going to talk about the Church Holy.

 

What is holiness?  This was the question that first came to me while thinking about this sermon. Throughout our worship and our prayers we use the word Holy, time and time again.  We talk of places being Holy, Holy people and having a holy experiences. But do we truly understand this word that can be taken for granted?

 

The word holy is from the Greek word hagios, meaning separated.  Some words used to further define holy are set apart, sanctified, and consecrated, along with pure and morally blameless. The fundamental qualities of holiness are separation, consecration and devotion to the service of God, sharing in His purity and abstaining from worldly defilement.

 

So, now we can see how the church is Holy because she is set apart by God for himself from the world, consecrated, and devoted to the service of God through the Holy Spirit.

 

But what do we mean by Church?  Do we mean the buildings, the institution of the Church of England?  Well no, as being a church is more than the buildings we use.  Each one of us here, gathered together to worship God, create the church and so become the body of Christ.  In fact, the word church is partly derived from another Greek word kuriakos, meaning belonging to the Lord.  And if we belong to God then He has join us together by the power of the Holy Spirit with His Love.

 

Therefore, if we are God’s church, if indeed we do belong to Him then we are in fact Holy.  Now this point may come as a shock to you or perhaps not. For how many of us here feel we are holy?  How many of us know ourselves to be good, pure and untouched by the world’s temptations?!  How many of us can honestly say we have only done and said good things?!

 

Let me tell you about a God botherer from the 16 hundreds called Thomas Goodwin whom at the aged 20, seriously found religion.  I mean really seriously religious which is not fun as I guess many of us have experienced over the years. For 7 years, he scratched around inside his own heart to see if he was holy enough, to see if he was feeling pious enough.  This guy was seriously obsessed with himself and how well he was doing with God.  Ultimately this searching, this obsessing did not help but led to desperation.   Thomas continued like this until he met a wise pastor who told him “look out.  Do not trust to your feelings, your behaviour for your security with God, rest on Christ alone”.  And with that Thomas was set free.

 

You see we can, like Thomas, take God’s command to Be Holy as He is Holy, as something we should do only by ourselves without needing any help from others.  Yet, when faced with something we do not want to do but know we should, who among us has not grumbled? Who has not muttered under our breath resenting the truth. Seethed with anger at being inconvenienced from our oh so important lives! Or maybe even argued the toss with impeccable, logical reasoning as to why it’s ok to do what we want to do?

 

We think that we alone must work hard at being holy, disciplining ourselves against worldly things that cause us to sin.  This is just not true. By looking so inwardly all the time, we forget to look out. We forget to look up. We forget to look to the cross, to Christ who is there waiting patiently, ready to help us become more holy because ALL are called to be holy.  Though we are sinners, the church offers space for forgiveness and grace. That’s why God sent the Holy Spirit. So He could be in us, strengthening and guiding us towards holiness setting us apart from this dark world for Himself.

 

And we can look out to the needs of others too. We can help others grow in their holiness by building up the church. Giving our time, our talents and financial support.  Do you enjoy praying? Then show others how you pray? Are you musical? Then find others and start a band! Do you enjoy studying the Bible, then why not create a study club?  Are you unsure about your faith or how to go about talking to others about it? Then why not form a group where everyone feels safe to share their journey? Perhaps you are already doing something quite amazing but in a behind the scenes, quiet kind of way.

 

If your sat there thinking what can I do? I’m no good at anything like that.  Why not ask God? Why not ask Him to show you what you can do?  I heard someone say once that God likes to show off! He likes to make the impossible possible! But no one dares to think BIG enough! And if we don’t ask, how can God answer?

 

A few weeks ago, I went to Apple Day at the community orchard in Fladbury.  The fayre was buzzing with people from many villages in this area. There, the people were picking apples choosing which ones they wanted, looking for the good ones and throwing away the bad. Even the apples used for juice pressing, what was left over were thrown back under the trees. I thought how much like the world this is. We live in the world where people are discarded for not living up to expectations perhaps they are too poor, too uneducated, too ugly, too sick to be thought of as worthwhile. Yet God is not like the world. He is present within the world, but not affected by it. He chooses the bad apples, those whom the world rejects, and loves them. For we are His children, His Holy church, chosen to shine like stars in the dark world. Amen

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