Following Jesus brings conflict!

25th June 2017 2nd Sunday after Trinity.   Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39

During this past week, someone checked with me that the gospel reading they had for today was the correct one.  On my reply that it was, their response was, I think, with a bit of a sigh and an ugh! I don’t like that one, it’s not nice having to say setting a man against his Father or daughter against her mother!

Listen along!

More

Advertisements

Sermon July 5th Philippians 2:1-11

Do Christians think they are better than other people? This was the question once posed to Archbishop Michael Ramsey. He replied, “No, not better but they ought to know that they’re not better”!

Now, this was a long time ago but I hear the same question today. In fact a while back I was asked if I thought I was above other people because I was a Christian. I can remember feeling a little shocked and even embarrassed at the thought of possibly coming over as arrogant or smug.

And yet, following Christ does call us to live our lives differently to others and so perhaps that’s where the perception of being better than others comes from.

In the reading we heard, Paul speaks about taking on the mind-set of Christ. What Paul is hoping for the church in Phillipi is that they will grow in authentic holiness. A holiness which is not smug, arrogant or belittles others But a holiness akin to that illustrated by Christ.

Paul explains that God through Christ showed what it really meant to be divine. Christ, Paul says, “made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance of man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross”.

There is such rich poetry in this passage that it would take hours to unpick and discuss. However suffice to say Christ never lost his divinity while being in human form. That’s the key. He could have exploited His equality with God and taken advantage of all that entails. But to do so would not have showed the truth of God’s love for use. God, through Christ, abandoned his rights for the sake of all people, reconciling the world to himself. This is the meaning of the cross – for Christ’s death was an expression of God’s self-giving love. Christ abandoned His privileges by self-emptying himself and through being humiliated. Because such actions revealed the truth about what God is really like.

So what does this passage have to say for us today? Well, let’s go back for a moment and think about the comment “Do Christians think they are better than the others”?

What is it that makes people think that? Could it be that through learning to live as Christ, we understand how, like Christ, we belong to someone else. Christ took on the nature of a servant, that is, a slave. Christ was a slave to God because he knew he belonged to God. And through that humility Christ is greatly patient, deeply kind, had no personal agenda and profoundly loved all he met. He was gracious enough to accept all that God had in store for Him.

And so it is with us. If we live in God and try to follow the life pattern set out by Christ and learn Christ’s mindset, then we too can grow in love, patience, kindness and put aside our own personal agendas for the sake of the needs in person before us, even if they are difficult to live with! The importance of such humility is that it breaks the cycle of viciousness and revenge. Humility is something I hope you all agree that the world needs right now. People will think we are better because of the way we deal with challenges in our lives. They will look and see, and think, why are they so different. What is going on with them to make them react so differently, not with anger but with peace? We know we are not better than others because we know we are not important. Christ is.

And, as I have said before, we do not do all this work, this striving to be more Christlike, alone. In fact you would fail if you did because you can’t do it. We are all too broken. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us to change our minds into the mind of Christ. Through our worship and prayers we steadily grow into the mindset of Christ if we listen to God and allow Him to transform us.

The other day I heard a lovely simple prayer that we can pray day and night. We can pray it without even thinking about it. In fact we are all praying it right now but we are not conscious of it.

An old Rabbi was on the radio and he said the name of God is not uttered because it is so holy. The name of God we know can be written in Hebrew as Yahweh spelt Y A H W E H. But there are vowels we are not written but just said in the speaking of God’s name. And so if the name is truly said correctly then it sounds like this.

Yes, it sounds like breathing.

We creatures, created by God, speak the name of God from the moment we are born.

So the simplest prayer we can say is that of being still and consciously listening to our breathing and let God work within us.

Lets have a go now.

In all that we do, say, and sing we pray God’s name. So, this evening let us worship God and invite the Holy Spirit in us again and again.

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:

More

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