Our churches…for Easter

28 03 2016

Thank you to EVERYONE who made our two churches in our villages of Burton Leonard and Bishop Monkton look SO beautiful!

Burton Leonard:

Easter Candle BL

Easter Nave BL

Easter flowers BL

At Bishop Monkton:

Easter Flowers BM

Easter Nave BM

Easter Candle BM

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An Easter Sermon

28 03 2016

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Even two thousand years on, the news is still remarkable. It‘s still cause for exclamation. Throughout our services for the next fifty days of the Easter season, we repeat this refrain many times. It’s no coincidence that there are 31 exclamation marks in this morning’s order of service! The final and most important holy days of Holy Week have been moving and powerful.

More than 40 people shared in a Passover supper at St John’s from our three churches in our two villages. 30 people gathered in the bareness and starkness of Good Friday to reflect on Jesus sacrifice of himself on the cross.

In many churches, Easter Eve is an event of great celebration in the darkness. I remember as a curate keeping the Easter vigil, and the Easter fire late one Easter Eve.

It is an ancient tradition. I vividly remember this one particular Easter Eve. The fire was lit outside the great west doors of Spalding parish church. The wind blew and the flames leapt high. Eventually, with singed eyebrows and burnt fingers, we got the Paschal candle lit, and began the procession into church. But soon, against my one tone singing, were the two-tones of the local fire engine, called out by a concerned passer-by.

The Vicar, my boss, ran to the fire crew and assured them that ‘everything was under control’. The fire officers were gracious but much less enthused by our news of resurrection. The miracle we proclaimed was for them a false alarm. The Roman authorities, too, had thought everything was under control. Jesus was finally destroyed and out of the way. End of the story.

At dawn this morning, following the emptiness of Holy Saturday, we went out to light our new fire at Burton Leonard, to proclaim the truth that it was NOT the end – and, following ancient tradition, we renewed our baptismal promises – reminding ourselves that no matter what we face, we are Easter people, in a Good Friday world – and alleluia is our song.

Our Gospel reading this morning tells of the first Easter person – Mary Magdalen. It is a profoundly moving and beautiful story. Just when she thinks everything is lost, suddenly and miraculously, everything is well again. Here in a garden, on the first day of the week, we find a man and a woman, and creation is made new – reminding us, perhaps, of that first garden – in Eden.

In this garden encounter there is a monumental transformation and change, not in Jesus’ re-appearance, but chiefly in Mary. It’s told in close-up, intimate detail. So often with both tragedy and joy, we can cope much more easily on a one-to-one basis. When there’s a terrible disaster in which many are killed, we comprehend best, not by the numbers, but by the story and experiences of individual figures, by understanding the profound and personal impact on them and their lives. We’ve seen it on the news in recent days as the stories have surface from Brussels.

And so John relates this remarkable, miraculous story through the eyes of Mary. Mary, whose life was once-before turned around by Jesus, who has faithfully followed him throughout his life, who kept vigil at the foot of the cross with the other women when nearly all of the male disciples were nowhere to be seen; Mary, who here in John’s Gospel has come alone to his tomb before the dawn; Mary, who now for a few brief hours, is the only person in the world who can say, hand on heart and no doubt heart in mouth, “I have seen the Lord!”

Jesus hasn’t changed – he still meets us where we are; for Mary, it is in the midst of grief. He doesn’t leap out from behind a bush and shout “Ta-dah! It’s me. I’m back!” He meets her, as before, gently – in her anguish and distress, asking simply “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” and in his simple, profound and earth-shattering speaking of her name, her question is answered, her whole world transformed and her faith confirmed.

Mary is transformed by this garden experience. Transformed lives are what makes Easter real. It is the profound effect of their encounters with the risen Christ that turns the disciples from terrified individuals to exuberant evangelists. As we heard in our reading from Acts today, previously shy fishermen become bold, passionate preachers. They become Easter people. They don’t become immune from all suffering – far from it, but they become people of hope, whose song is Alleluia. But even for Easter People our lives rarely fit neatly into the liturgical seasons of the church’s year. For some, it is still Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Some are still living with the horror of the crucifixion; others are immersed in tomb time – bereaved and bereft, wandering how on earth they can move forward. We all, I’m sure, know people who are in the midst of personal trials and tribulations, people who are sick, anxious, bereaved, betrayed, in debt, in addiction. That may be where you are today. This is Easter Day but we know that our news will still bring us stories of terrible ongoing suffering around the world. In my ministry, I’ve encountered terrible tragedies. Lives cut short before they’ve even begun. Long lives but with unfinished business, unforgiven hurts. Tragedies almost unspeakable. I’ve also encountered those whose stories are nothing short of miraculous – coming through surgery against all the odds.  The arrival of a baby so longed for that hearts were filled to bursting with love and expectation. Easter people are those for whom their faith is their cornerstone in times of trouble. Easter people are those who come through some of the hardest, most painful experiences in life knowing that it is our faith, our relationship with God, which has somehow sustained us. We can’t always explain it, but we simply know, at a level too deep for words, that somehow, even if we only recognise it looking back, God has been present with us – not always in a tangible sense, and often through the presence and witness of others. God can be present even through a seeming absence. Easter people are those who have a longer-term perspective, who know, in ways they cannot explain, that this is not all there is; that death is not the last word on life. Easter people are those who know that all our experiences – the best and the worst, the most painful and the most joyous, are held in the palm of the one whom death could not contain. Easter people are those who recognise that there can be no empty tomb without the cross. We are Easter people!

We know the resurrection because of the transformation it brought about in Mary, that first Easter person, and in all those who came to recognise the truth of which she and the disciples spoke, down through the ages. We may see it in the faces of those who have been shining examples of faith to us, and we will shortly see it in the faces of one another as we gather around the altar to share in this Communion. Today, simply by our presence here, we are opening ourselves to the truth of the resurrection. We are opening ourselves to new possibilities of peace and justice in our world. We are opening ourselves to the possibility of change and transformation in our own lives too.

Resurrection has no meaning, no purpose, no place, unless like Mary Magdalene we go and tell it to a world living in Good Friday! Resurrection has no meaning unless we are willing to live as Easter people.

The resurrection isn’t an event it is an experience. We are called to go and tell not only with our lips but also with our lives – the experience of triumphs over life’s most difficult stuff. This is resurrection. Your presence here confirms it!

 

We are an Easter people & alleluia is our song.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 





Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

21 11 2015

christ-the-king

Someone once said:

It is easy to see a Kingdom marked by a flag; by a border; by force of arms. It is easy to discern who has power in the kingdoms of this world.

It is not easy to see the realm of God. There are no borders, flags, armies or powers. There is only The Realm of God bounded by you and me and God.

Monarchies today are usually tightly constrained institutions –absolute monarchical control is more and more a thing of the past; as is also, it may seem, obedience, self-control and self-discipline: concepts hated by many in our day and age. Few of us like to obey, and we certainly don’t like the idea of anyone having authority over us.

Today is the last Sunday of the old church year….we have one last chance to look back on all that we’ve done and achieved, to celebrate and then, as we enter Advent, to watch, wait and hope for what is to come – looking forward, with Christ, to ever more clear signs of his Kingdom, which is both here – within you and me if we wish to acknowledge it – and yet still to come in its fulness and completeness.

Our reading today from Revelation was written in Greek. The Greek word for revelation is apocalypse, which means ‘unveiling’. So today is all about unveiling who Jesus really is, and unveiling who we really are. Jesus says, I am the Alpha and the Omega. Literally the beginning and the end, the be all and end all, our A-Z, as it were. Is he that to you?

As we come to the end of another Church Year, hopefully having grown just a little, we look back on what has been celebrated: remembering how God became a human being in Jesus, born as a vulnerable little baby, how he grew in holiness, how he called an unlikely band of people to share his work with him, how he taught and challenged (mostly the religiously pious people of his day) and of how he opened up faith to those who did not ‘belong’. And to top it all off, out of his great love for people, people saw only the negative, despite his love, and pinned him to a cross – a most humiliating and disgusting way to die. And we together have celebrated that that hate and destruction did not have the last word. We have listened to Jesus’ teaching through the year and now everything is complete before we begin a new cycle in the Church year.

The real issue behind the church’s teaching today on this Christ the King Sunday is: ‘Do I want someone other than myself to be Lord of my life?

It will of course depend on what sort of image you have of Christ. If he was just a nice man, then his presence in your life may well seem to come to nothing, for you may expect nothing more. If he, as St Thomas declared, is your Lord and your God, he calls you today to enthrone him in your heart and be changed.

If God is a vengeful God, who meets out punishment and pain to those who deserve it, your image of Christ today will be different again.

So who is Christ for you? Who was the Jesus of history; who is the Christ of faith today, for you and me?

What we worship, we become. We worship a God of love and humility, the suffering servant, the God who emptied himself and became like a servant. His values were those of inclusiveness, and true self-emptying service. If this is the God we worship, these are values our daily life will embody.

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the kingdom of which he is sovereign 176 times. It’s a message he doesn’t want us to miss. This kingdom is not defined by armies, flags, and borders. It is defined by a quality of living – living that allows other people to live and become whole people in God too.

Note, by contrast, Jesus uses the word ‘church’ only twice. The word for church, ekklesia, simply means gathering. Kingdom, however, is more to do with the glory and reign of God – which is, in fact, not always easy to see in the church, where so many other things can crowd the kingdom out.

So when we pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven’ we must question ourselves. We must ask ourselves, is Christ King of my life? And if he is, how will I work with Christ to enable his Kingdom to be made real, right here, right now, in these final days of 2015?

I’d like to share a short story with you about a young boy who wanted to meet God. He thought it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his backpack with Jaffa cakes, several cans of juice and set off to meet God.

After a while he saw an elderly lady sitting on a park bench watching pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his backpack. He was about to take a drink of juice when he noticed that the lady looked hungry. So he offered her a Jaffa cake. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so wonderful that he wanted to see it again. So he offered her some juice as well. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling without saying a word. As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and decided to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old lady, giving her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, “What has made you so happy today?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” Before his mother could respond he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile in the whole world!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face. He asked, “Mother, what has made you so happy today?” She replied, “I shared a picnic in the park with God.” And before her son could reply, she added, “You know, he is much younger than I expected.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around, all have the potential to reveal something of the Kingly rule of Christ. Jesus came with the power of loving service, he came without a jewelled crown or elaborate robes, to turn our lives around, so as we come to the end of a year in which there is much to celebrate and much to weep for, we must resolve to hold fast more than ever to the principles which He has shown us….

May Christ our King rule in your hearts, and not only that, may others know that he rules in your hearts too, by the love you show, the compassion with which you speak, and the humility with which you respond. People will have no doubt then who is on the throne of your heart. May your love for the Christ of faith be a seal upon your hearts and a crown upon your heads.

O God, help us to work for your kingdom:
help us to pray that we might align our will with yours.
Help us become a people of faithful prayer and humble service,
not to our wills, but to your will.
Come and live in our hearts by faith
– and transform us in all we think and say and do,
and reign in our hearts in Jesus Christ our true King.
Amen.





Ce soir nous sommes tous Francais

14 11 2015

French flag





Paris attacks

14 11 2015

The atrocities in Paris are shocking and deeply disturbing.

We pray for all those whose lives have been affected by the acts of terror:

French flag

Gracious God, we pray for peace in our communities.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
and those who seek to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear, violence, and hatred.
We pray for comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
that people may go about their lives in peace and safety.
We make our prayer in the name of the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.





Be kind: Proper 14, Year B

8 08 2015

Ephesians 4:25 to 5:2

Kindness Card 1

Kindness Card 2

I suspect we’ve all, at some point or another, lamented a breakdown in basic civility and courtesy. You know what I’m talking about: acting as if others don’t matter. The impatient and aggressive driver. People talking loudly in a restaurant as if they are the only ones there. Taking a mobile phone call in the middle of a movie or a concert. People dropping litter. Not holding a door open for others. Common courtesy. I’ll bet that self-centeredness has spoiled more friendships and destroyed more careers than we know. And, at the same time, probably, more than anything else, the one thing that has endeared people to others is thoughtfulness and simple kindness. We admire people who are smart and competent, but we love those who are kind!

Our reading from Ephesians this morning reminded us to imitate God – and the best example we have at God at work in our world, is God-in-the-flesh: the Jesus of history / the Christ of faith.

Kindness was so important to Jesus, in fact, that he made it the essential mark of authentic discipleship. He said, “This is how people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not if you believe all the right things. Not if you pray a lot. Not if you pay your dues to the Church. Not if you worship in the right way. Those are all good things, but they are not the most important thing. According to Jesus, the way we show that we belong to Him is that we love one another, and that we act out our love by being kind to one another.

As our text from Ephesians puts it:

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Clearly, if we do not act with kindness toward others, it is evidence that we have not received God’s kindness toward us.

I want to share with you a true story, I came across recently. It was written by the person who had the experience. He wrote: “Twenty years ago, I drove a taxi for a living. It was a life of freedom, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my taxi became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transport. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. “The passenger might be someone who needs my assistance,” I responded to myself. So, I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small suitcase. The flat looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks on the mantelpiece. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Will you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase to the taxi, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.” “O, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got to the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through the city centre?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.” I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as a receptionist. We drove through the area where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slowdown in front of a particular building or corner and she would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was peering over the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.” We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small care home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two carers came out to the taxi as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the boot and took the small suitcase to the door.

The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent over and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you”.

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had got an angry driver, or one who was impatient at the end of his shift? What if I had refused to take the job, or had honked once, then driven impatiently away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have ever done anything more important in my life.”

Is that what it’s about? At the end of the day, is it about kindness – first God’s and then ours?

Listen: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Or, as another poster I saw the other day put it:

be-kind-always

Father, help us to love as we have been loved by You.
Help us to reflect Your kindness to us simply by being kind.
In Jesus’ kind name we pray. Amen.

Why not visit http://www.giftofkindness.com

Or try this book:

conspiracyofkindness





Chaplaincy job anyone?

30 07 2015

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Candidate Information Pack (click to download pdf file)

Application Forms downloadable from the St Leonard’s Hospice Website