Wednesday, 28 July 2010

that's a rap, folks...

exploring different approaches to the sermon, session #1: the one-minute sermon...
Tamara Lowe rapping a sermon - oddly we were not taught this in our homiletics classes.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

a Sunday song

From the lectionary for today -
Colossians 2: 9-10
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 

The song is 'Chi Rho', by Iona.
The picture to the right is 'Christ Enthroned from the Book of Kells, the subject of the song.

Colour of green
Green for the vine
For the leaves and the branches
The tree of life

Colour of red
Red for the wounds
That are deeper than I can know
How deep the flow
By Him all things, were created
By Him all things, were created
And the fullness, of the Godhead
Is in Him

Colour of gold
Gold for a throne
For the light that is blazing
From His face
Colourless white
For purity
White as snow, the colours flow
The mystery of Chi-Rho
By Him all things, were created
By Him all things, were created
And the fullness, of the Godhead
Is in Him

By Him all things, were created
By Him all things, were created
And the fullness, of the Godhead
Is in Him, Chi-Rho
In Him, Chi-Rho
In Him, Chi-Rho
In Him, Chi-Rho

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

the other guy in my life...

Dear Dad,
yes, I know, if nothing I am not consistent with regard to forgetting your birthday.  The note to self I leave in my mental in-tray is tattered and worn, and the writing is quite faded now.  But...
I do remember eventually.
Us academic types can get a bit preoccupied down in dusty corridors filled with obscure and sometimes bizarre pieces of information.
Opening a book, or working on a manuscript is a dangerous thing: you take a big breath and then plunge headlong down a deep well, not knowing when you'll emerge dazed and blinking back in the present.  To use the line from L.P. Hartley's book, The Go-between, 'the past is a different country, they do things differently there.'
In the past, due to all sorts of different circumstances, there have been long periods of geographical separation; that's just the way of things and certainly the way we've managed our relationship has been done quite differently - and I say that with fondness.
In the present, while the geographical separation continues, even in spite of being forgetful about such things as birthdays [not sure why my friends still persevere; it is not just you, I'm afraid!] I'm aware that there is hardly a day in which you don't cross my thoughts.
Perhaps it's that odd way of thinking that we both share - someone will make a comment and I will automatically have a song lyric to hand as a response.
Or particular turns of phrase.
Or particular ways of 'seeing' a situation.
And I suspect that if you were here now and we were chatting, we would be finishing each other's sentences, or weird each other out just ever so slightly because whatever one of us would have said, the other would have just been thinking it.  I love that very odd connection with you and it helps me remember that no, I was not found in a cabbage patch - I belong.
Truly, I am my father's daughter.

In each of our own ways, we've muddled along, trying to figure out how to overcome the gaps.  I think that one of the greatest gifts that you gave me was handing me some of those missing pieces to the jigsaw of my early life, via conversation, but also through all those photographs you had copied and sent.

So, on this 'not your birthday' day, I think I want to say to you, even despite my seeming slackness as well as a tendency not to emote that much in public, that you are a gift in my life and I love you Dad.
Hope there are many more birthdays!!
from your head-in-dusty-history-books-distracted-and-often-forgetful...
Nik x

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

the plus-side to idolatry...

Knox, accustomed to preaching against idolatry, looked down at the objects of veneration left by his devotees and quietly reconsidered his theological position...

New College, 
now a 
film set

[with thanks to Crystal for the pic!]

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Martha and Mary, the chocolatey version

This is a story about M and M,
as well as M & M's...

I'm remembering an all-age chat by my friend D in her previous charge - I was having a day off from my regular Sunday space.
And the gospel reading of the day was the same as this coming Sunday's reading, namely, Luke 10: 38-42 which contains a story of Mary and Martha.
In this particular story, Jesus has popped in to visit his pals and is sitting talking with them.
Mary sits at his feet in rapt attention...
but meanwhile a hot cauldron of bubbling resentment is brewing in the kitchen.
Martha is cheesed off -
seriously cheesed off at slacker Mary, sitting about, doing nothing, not helping provide the required hospitality.
And so the reading has often been commented on by way of pitting the M and M's against each other:
the pious Mary, seemingly so heavenly-minded that she's of no earthly use
and the practical Martha, so busy doing that she forgets to actually hang out with Jesus.
And the point from the pulpit, when pitting the M and M's against each other, has often been to denigrate all those faithful hard-working Marthas without whom stuff just wouldn't get done.
Well that just seems a tad unfair...
so let us now turn to chocolate to tease out this passage a wee bit more.

And back to my friend D who, when doing her all-age address, handed around a few large bowls filled with M&M's... and as she did told the M and M story.
In the end, what she concluded was that you need both Mary and Martha:
it's not a case of either/ or here...
So, as we ate the M&M's, and thought of M and M, we were reminded that while M&M's are the same inside, they are different on the outside ...
leading to the rather torturous but amusing conclusion that while M and M both loved their pal Jesus, they just displayed that love in different ways.

Well the chocolate in church was good at least  *grins*

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Sacred space...

... at Linne Bheag.  

My friend Dorothy has just put up her Autumn programme of quiet days/ evenings.  She and Peter are fab.   The prog. looks excellent.  Check their web-site out here

Saturday, 10 July 2010

signs of the times...?

Given the ongoing CofE saga with Jeffrey John south of the border, as well as 'that which shall not be named' in the CofS, the following billboard perhaps puts things into a wee bit of perspective... we might want to add 'women' to that as well!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

and where are we in this picture...?

Luke 10: 30-36
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

Thinking towards Sunday:
let's imagine we're in this story...

Although your pace is steady
you already feel exhausted.
Wiping sweat away,
you keep walking.

A stony road,
a scorching day,
a long but necessary journey.
White sunlight splitting the rocks by the roadside;
Heat shimmers and dances in the distance
under a hard, blue sky.
All is quiet,
yet not a peaceful quiet.
The air crackles with expectation.
An almost imperceptible sound as a pebble falls onto sand.
Your hair prickles at the back of your neck
as you feel eyes watch your every move.
Picking up the pace
you curse yourself for travelling alone.
It had seemed important at the time:
to make this trip...
but now you wonder if it was such a good idea.
The road twists and turns and the journey feels unforgiving.
Around a bend people stand,
watching, waiting.
You hold down your fear and keep moving.
No use.
Mocking laughter as they block your way.
Four of them -
and you lick your lips nervously
waiting for what you know instinctively 
will be a bad outcome.

It begins.
Harsh words.
Pushing, shoving.
Fists and feet connecting with flesh;
pain raining down upon your fallen body
until you just can't move.
Blood and agony.
Stripped, robbed.
Left for dead.

Time drifts.
In the distance, footsteps.
you groan,
waiting for them to finish off the job.
But these footsteps quicken and are gone.
The shadows stretch.
Someone else passes
and is gone.
Later - much later -
cool water pressed to your lips.
Wounds being washed and dressed amidst kind words.
You feel the hot tears falling down your face.
And then, just as everything swims out of focus and into blackness, you see a donkey....

Waking up several days later on a comfortable bed,
the innkeeper's wife tells you the story
of the one who didn't pass by.
your world-view is challenged
as you realise that 'those' kinds of people are...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

'I just want some peace!' A sermon for Sunday 4th July, 2010 Yr C

Isaiah 66: 10-14
Galatians 6:1-10
Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight o Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

A friend of mine was telling me a story about her older sister.
She’d had a hard day at work:
everybody wanting her attention,
all their needs terribly urgent and needing sorted immediately.
Her own work had suffered as a result.
So, she was very grumpy and frustrated by the end of the day.
She got back home and immediately had to get dinner organised for the family,
put a load of washing on,
feed the cat,
make sure the kids weren’t strangling each other.
And after dinner, sitting down:
more questions, more tasks,
no space to breathe or be...
Finally she snapped and yelled
‘I just want some peace!’
Utter silence filled the house.
A minute or so later, her 2 year old came up, looked at her with his big blue eyes full of care and love,
and in his desire to help his mummy,
he handed her a bag of frozen peas...
And in his doing it, she both got her peas, her perspective, and her peace back.

Ever since my friend told me that story, I’ve just loved it:
Loved it for its sweetness
Loved it for the misunderstanding gesture kindly meant:
Getting it wrong and yet, in the end,
through that risk-taking gesture,
actually getting it very right.

What does it mean to be a bringer of peace to a world full of restless disquiet?
It is a small word that carries an enormous weight of meanings on its back.
It’s a word packed with yearning and longing –
a yearning and longing that has echoed down through all the centuries of human existence...

In our Old Testament reading this morning,
that yearning is expressed by the prophet in terms of a new heaven and a new earth.
We heard about the city of Jerusalem portrayed as a mother in labour... with God as midwife...
And then a child is born:
a child that grows and flourishes,
is nourished and nurtured and comforted by God...
there is prosperity and national peace.
And yet...
It is an odd peace,
a tenuous peace –
The writer talks of God’s indignation against his enemies...
Peace is dearly bought
and in order to preserve it
there is the possibility that it may only be
done through struggle...
and, sadly, we are all only too well aware that the struggle for peace in and around Jerusalem continues even now.

In our New Testament reading in Galatians, peace is also being sought:
Paul calls upon the Galatians to live peacefully amongst one another:
When people have transgressed –
when they’ve ‘crossed the line’,
Paul urges the Galatians to use gentleness in the way they go about restoring the relationships that have been damaged;
They are to bear one another’s burdens;
To ask tough questions of themselves not just each other...
To work for the good of all
and to never weary in doing what is right.
It’s a blueprint for harmonious living –
a way to demonstrate the peaceable,
the peaceful kindom of God.

And what of our gospel reading?
Jesus sends out the 70/ 72 on a mission and they are given detailed instructions...
and the one instruction that really has stuck with me this week concerns words –
the words Jesus tells his followers to use:
the message of the Prince of Peace is that his disciples use words of peace.
The 70 are told that whenever they come to a house, the very first thing they’re to say is:
‘peace be to this house’...
The mission is to go into unchartered territories,
carrying little else than a staff,
and to clothe themselves in words of peace.
To be peace-speakers,
Peace bringers to the places they go.
And to accept the hospitality they find when they go to these places, armed only with their peaceful words.

Now apparently, the root word from which hospitality comes from, takes in both host and hostile:
So in ancient near eastern cultures –
where hospitality was a sacred duty –
it was also a risky business:
Was the host entertaining someone who was hostile... or friendly?
So in that context, it seems to have made enormous sense that Jesus instructed his followers to state their peaceful intentions immediately upon arrival – to allay the fears of their hosts.
Because I strongly suspect that it’s not war which is the opposite of peace, but fear.
Fear of the unknown,
Fear of the different:
Fear of attack which drives people to make a pre-emptive strike...
and hurtle down the path to counter-strike and escalating conflict.
Peace be to this house...

Two thousand years on -
here and now
as followers of Jesus in a post 9/11 time which seems to be so fear-filled, so fearful...
What does it mean for us, to be bringers of peace to a world full of restless disquiet?

If we listen to, and watch, the news from around the world
it can feel like the mission of peace is hopeless in the face of such overwhelming conflict and human tragedy.
The media visually bombards us with the
sights and sounds and effects of war
on a daily basis.
In order to cope with the horror of it all
we can become... numb to what seems almost the inevitability and normality of it.
We can find ourselves asking:
What’s the point?
How can I, one little person, possibly make a difference in the face of all of that?
There’s a fear that we can’t do anything at all
and that fear can paralyse us from even entertaining thoughts of trying to do something, anything that might make a difference.
On the other hand....
I believe it was Anita Roddick who once said:
If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room!

We are followers of the Prince of Peace,
who bids us, as he did the 70 so long ago
to be peace bringers...
it is our prophetic task:
to speak the words of peace in a world crying out
‘I just want some peace!’
And fumbling and falteringly,
armed with nothing more than peace words,
somehow we must take the risk and bring peace into the world.

And I wonder how we even begin to get our heads around this task -
this overwhelming, awesome task that Jesus entrusts us with.
And my own sense is, that we can only start from where we are and who we are.
There’s an old song that goes:
‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’

Peace be to this house... 
The process of peace starts with ourselves: 
Paul asks the Galatians to examine themselves, before pointing fingers or expecting too much of their neighbours,
or puffing themselves up with thoughts about how utterly excellent they are....
The process of peace starts with ourselves as we ask hard questions about what it is that causes the disquiet that we might have within us...
can we be people of peace if we are not at peace with ourselves?
I wonder if peace is like ripples in a pond:
Jesus at the centre as Prince of Peace
saying to each one of us:
Peace be with you...
And as we find the peace of the Prince of Peace,
the ripples spreading out, touching our households as peaceful and harmonious ways of living together are found
and spreading further to ...
our street –
our neighbours, our local area,
our church community gathered here...
eventually spreading until the words of peace touch the very edges of the world.

Or perhaps the process of peace is a little like a domino effect:
as each one of us determines to never grow weary of doing right, and follows the path of the Prince of Peace...
and speaks words of peace...
perhaps it causes all the little dominoes of fear to begin to topple?

I don’t know.
But what I do know is that each one of us, whether we like it or not,
is not utterly independent:
as John Donne put it:
‘No man is an island... ‘
We are each of us part of the whole of humanity:
Whatever we do
whatever choices we make affects others.
How each one of us chooses to deal with the fears that attack our own peace,
impacts upon not just ourselves but others.
So, do we set up a spiral of violence when we choose to lash out and attack - when our fears get the better of us?
Do we snap at someone and take offence where there is none,
because underneath our own fear of our inadequacy has been getting to us?
Do we condemn others for not doing something in a way that we think is the ‘right’ way,
because underneath,
we are fearful that our own way is being challenged?
Do we dehumanise people who are ‘different’ to us by giving them labels such as
‘asylum seeker’, ‘druggie’, ‘ned’, ‘feminist’ or ‘homo’,
because underneath, we are afraid of that which we cannot understand
and afraid that in some indefinable way these people threaten our very way of life?...

What are the fears that lurk deep within which bring us disquiet and disturb our peace...
Do our own undealt with fears set up a storehouse of potential conflict?

Or, do we choose instead, to test our fears, grounded in the peace that is given to us by the Prince of Peace?
And having tested ourselves do we choose instead to be counter-cultural –
to reverse the spiral of violence with words of peace?

Peace be to this house...
On that first Easter day, words of peace were uttered in the garden by the angel of the Lord to the women: ‘Do not be afraid’...
Later, in an upper room, appearing to his disciples, Jesus’ first words were: ‘peace be with you’

The Prince of Peace speaks words of peace to us,
and to our ‘houses’ –
both internal and external.
And as we accept those words of peace into our own lives we begin a life-long task of speaking peace,
bringing hope and bringing peace into our world full of restless disquiet.

Of this lifelong task, Brazilian theologian and poet, Ruben Alves says:
‘Let us plant dates even though those who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
It is a ...stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
Such disciplined love is what has given prophets, revolutionaries, and saints the courage to die for the future they envisaged. They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.’
Peace be to each one of us
And peace be to this house...

Let us pray:
Peace-giving God
Take away the fears that hold us paralysed,
Unable to be about the mission of peace that you have given to us.
Teach us to be your people of peace –
In our homes, in our neighbourhoods,
in our town... in your world
We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace