Friday, 28 March 2014

prayer for today

lord we come as we are,
imperfect and hurting
rebellious and fearful,
and yet we are met by your boundless love and mercy.
wash us therefore with your grace,
like new morning dew on scented grass.
may we rise refreshed.
wash us from the outside to our innermost being, let your grace ongulf our soul.
awaken us to your presence that we
may rise and worship you in spirit, truth words and action
help us to become signposts to your son jesus.
may those we encounter today see jesus instead of us.
help us go forth and preach the gospel with our lives!

in jesus' name

amen

Friday, 14 March 2014

A lenten Journey

Here is my sermon for this coming sunday, I hope that if you read it you may be blessed in some way, and that the Holy Spirit will male him/herself known to you.

When we think about going on a journey somewhere, most of us will probably look at a map, consult the ultimate oracle of today – Google – check sites such as “ trip advisor”.  Well being the arch type rebel, I didn’t do that bit before a trip to Grenoble in South- east France.  I’ll let Carol fill you in with the details.  Sufficient to say. I am most definitely NOT allowed to book hotels on the continent any more.  It was a slightly odd experience.  I wouldn’t want to go there again, that’s for sure; however I am glad that we did as it opened our eyes to the fact that people actually have to live in those conditions

We tend to try and be prepared don’t we.  We pack suitcases, hopefully check Passports, even learn some simple phrases.  If all else fails, speak slowly and wave your arms – it seems to work.

But somehow, scripture and this period of Lent seems to call us on a journey that we just can’t plan for.  In face, we are specifically called not to rely on our own devices – simply because they are not sufficient, they are just not up to the task.  If we risk doing so we will end up losing our way

The Psalm we heard from at the beginning of the service told us that only God can protect and sustain us.  It really won’t do to rely on any sense of power or present circumstance.  This at first glance seems a bit topsy-turvy, don’t we teach our children to become more independent?  Don’t we value responsibility?  At work I value the idea of self-management.  A lot a research papers suggest that the more control we have over our lives, there is a better chance that we will live happier more fulfilled lives.  But consider for a moment how fragile our tailor made existence is.  If we look at the damage wrought by the recent floods, or the whims of the stock market, unscrupulous bankers or even dare I say Governments.  It seems to me that if we trust in worldly things we risk building our house on unreliable foundations seeing our Faith disappear down a sink hole.  If we take what Jesus said in Matthew 7 vv 24-26 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”  What is really interesting here is that this is clearly not a promise of uneventful success but a promise of strength to withstand all that life can throw at us.  It is quite simply, a measure of who we are called to rely on, God or Man.

Abraham is called by God to go on a journey with God as his guide.  Some of God’s promises to Abraham must have seemed a bit outlandish from Abraham’s perspective.  (He was 75 years old according to the writer of Genesis and first of all he was going to father a son!)  Abraham was also settled in Haran.  This meant he had roots there, status and had become wealthy.  Genesis 12.5 tells us that they left Haran with people that they had acquired.  In other words  - they had Staff!  And yet, for all that, for all the reasons of comfort and stability to stay put, he risked leaving Haran choosing instead, in his own words to risk becoming a stranger and an alien in a foreign land.

Finally we come to this intriguing meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus.  Nicodemus is given a bit of a hard time by Jesus, but since Nicodemus is eventually seen to become a disciple of Jesus, it seems likely that there was a healthy respect.  Especially as Jesus doesn’t hold back here – he effectively gives Nicodemus the whole unexpurgated truth of who he is.  Not a parable in sight!  Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, sharing with him that it is foolish if we only rely on our own resources and understanding.  He highlights this by contrasting Nicodemus’ viewpoint with his own which is effectively eternally wider.  Jesus has seen the Father and is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Three things are clarified; if we become rigid in our thinking, we will miss, and won’t be able to appreciate, the free flowing nature of the Holy Spirit.  If we only see status and Power, we will miss the gift of Jesus – who came as an itinerant travelling teacher, outside of the temple hierarchy and pretty intolerant of the ideas of patronage that were so commonplace within the Roman Empire of the 1st Century.  If we focus on God solely as a Father figure, wrongly affording God a sexual identity, and exclude the feminine nature within God, we run the danger of seeing God as a disciplinarian, a rule maker, a target setter.  We miss the vision of God who is a source of love, of forgiveness and of outrageous Grace.

Jesus invites Nicodemus to change his perspective from the purely human viewpoint to one that is shared with God.  For in Jesus’ death on the cross, we are invited into a relationship with God such that we can be one with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Which brings us to the here and now.  Here we are in the 21st Century, on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, all in our different ways on some sort of Lenten journey.  Where is Jesus asking you to go to?  What are you being asked to leave behind?  What sort of habits, what sort of behaviours that perhaps you have been tied to, maybe for years?   It may seem risky and even frightening to turn our backs on what makes our lives comfortable. But in case we forget, Jesus shared the perspectives of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In the journeys that he calls us on, he is already waiting for us at the finish line, and he walks with us along the way, even though we might not always think he is there.  This is the miracle of the resurrection.

Where are you heading this Easter?  Are you heading for the temple in Jerusalem – destined for destruction; or are you heading instead for a small garden with an empty tomb.  A Birthplace of new life and new experiences.  The priceless gift of walking your life accompanied by none other than Jesus himself.

May the Lord lift your hearts and minds towards Heaven this morning, and may the Holy Spirit fill this place and full us all so that we overfill with the love and joy enjoyed by the Trinity.

In Jesus Name

Amen


prayer of thanksgiving

Lord Jesus, we want to thank you for coming into humanity.  For showing us what your Father is like.  For showing us where we have got it all so very, very wrong.

For loving us enough to open heaven’s door to us.  For loving us so much that you don’t turn away when we show our ugly side.  For loving us enough to die for us in order that we might be saved from ourselves.

For loving us again and again as you bring to us a resurrection life.

Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit; breathing new life into dry bones.  Breathing warm fire into cold hearts, piercing our hearts and minds with the light of heaven.

Thank you for opening for us the way to a lasting relationship with you, the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the way that you intended at the beginning of time.

We come to you today Lord, offering all that we are.  We know if falls short, but we also know that you are so full of Grace that you turn our paltry thanks into a gift as bright as the brightest sun in the heavens.

In your Holy Name


Amen

prayer of adoration

Father, we approach you today in humble adoration,
We come as we are, with all our faults and fears, all our hangups and frustrations to meet the one who holds creation together.

You created the universe with the wild beauty of black holes and exploding stars; you produced the weirdness of quantum mechanics and space time, where gravity alters time itself.
We look outside the window and see your handiwork in the beauty of flowers, blossom and the grandeur of trees.

We see the diversity of life on this small planet, and wonder awestruck by the strength of a polar bear to the intricacy of a butterfly’s wing.

We are rendered speechless by the complexity inside life.  The wonders of the human brain; the miracle of breathing.  And in the delicacy of a baby’s hand, we see your wonder and delight in your love, trying to love you back.

Father, as we turn to you this morning and continue on our Lenten journey, hold us up in your hands, those same hands that created all that is seen and unseen, the same hands that healed creation by being nailed to a cross.

Free us from our fears, faults and frustrations, that we may once again be born again in you, born again because of the miracle at the Empty tomb; birthplace of new life, new experiences and the priceless gift of walking our life accompanied by Jesus himself.

May the Lord lift our hearts and minds towards heaven this morning and May the Holy Spirit fill this place and full us so that we spill over with the love and joy enjoyed by the trinity.



Amen

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

a call for assistance to readers of my blog

I met with someone today who is terminally ill and has decided to stop their chemo to enjoy life rather than to exist while feeling ill. I promised to pray for her when she left the clinic today, and would ask that all who read this blog, since you are part of a worldwidechurch to join me.  We embraced as she left the clinic.  A moment of deep emotion.

Thank you all in advance

I can't think of anything else to say but to ask for God's blessing

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

is it just me?

Recent events in Ukraine have reminded me of my teenage years in the midst of the cold war, with regular tit for tat diplomatic expulsions by the various members of the security council, political gamesmanship and populations routinely suffering low levels of fear for the future.

The current media circus in Kiev with the USA ramping up the political rhetoric, visits by Kerry and Hague in as many days, and the equally obtuse behaviour of Putin wouldn't look out of place on a 1970s newsfeed.  How odd that Russia tried and somehow failed with a charm offensive that was the Winter Olympics, and is now on a less than charming offensive winding up elements in Ukraine that are sensitive to their own political leanings.

This political nationalistic posturing is of course reminiscent of the Middle East in many ways, where lasting peace has proved to be somewhat elusive, partly admittedly due to the artificial nature of the creation of the state of Israel in the first place, and the use of the middle east as a pawn by the global super powers.  Consider the current state of trauma that is engulfing Syria, where behind the scenes there is the US on one side and Russia stubbornly protecting their long term ally on the other.

What idea can rise above this never ending impasse that exists in the world that is ruled by national interests.

I think the only way out of this is to subsume our own individual thoughts and feelings, and consider that the teachings of an itinerant Jewish teacher some 2000 years ago have more merit than they are sometimes given.  We are all each others neighbour.  We need therefore to love one another, including our so called enemy - who is our neighbour - otherwise we will hate them and in the end wish to kill them.

It is only by love, that the lie of national interests can by overcome.  It is only by love that ethnic tensions in Ukraine, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the middle East, central Europe, even the UK (with the longstanding antagonism between Scots and English) can be overcome.

It is only love that can truly conquer all.

May God grant us the grace we need to forgive and love our neighbour, just as He has forgiven and loved us.