Monthly Archives: March 2015

Monday 23rd March                

Kindness

1 Peter 1:7
Add goodness to your faith; understanding to your goodness;
self control to your understanding;
patience to your self control;
true devotion to your patience;
kindness to your devotion; and to this kindness, love.

“The best portion of a good person’s life
is their little, nameless, unremembered, acts of kindness and love.”
– William Wordsworth

Imagine the impact on our world
if today each person went out of their way to show small acts of kindness
to those we came into contact with.
Like ripples in the pond, one small act of kindness
can have far reaching effects that we will never see.
……………………………………………….
It is amazing the impact that random acts of kindness have on life.
There is, in fact, an organisation now called: Random Acts of Kindness,
that encourages people to carry out random acts of kindness in the course of the day.
The idea is that you do not just do something kind for someone you know,
or when a situation touches your heart, but you just show kindness randomly.
It can be anything from giving some coins to someone begging on the street,
letting someone out of a turning when you are driving the car,
to sending a card to someone to let them know you are thinking of them.

There is a tradition at certain cafés in Naples called “Caffé Sospesso”,
where people pay for two coffees when they will only drink one
so that the second one can be given to someone else
who does not have the money to pay.
I have experienced in my own life the joyful, uplifting, feeling
of being on the receiving end of small acts of kindness.
It doesn’t have to be anything major, just a small act that says “you matter”.

In New York recently, during the cold snap, someone had given out
woollen socks and gloves to the homeless people that they passed.
I saw a photo of some homeless people showing off their new clothing,
with big smiles on their faces.
I’m sure the smiles where not just for the socks and gloves,
but for the fact that someone noticed them.
They mattered to someone that day.

True acts kindness do not need to be recognised; should not expect gratitude in return;
and is not merely shown to those we feel deserve it.
A true act of kindness is simply a small offering dropped in the ocean of life,
where God can use it without us even knowing how.
A small act of kindness is never wasted.

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Sermon For Lent 5 Passion Sunday

A woman coming towards the end of her life
began to wonder about heaven and hell.
One night she had a dream and an angel appeared and beckoned her to follow.
She was taken into a large hall beautifully decorated
and furnished with seats and tables of the finest quality.
The guests at the tables were being served a delicious smelling soup,
But all they had to eat their soup where long-handled spoons,
the handles were so long that they could not get the delicious soup into their mouths.
The woman felt sorry for them for they all looked ill, pale, sad and wretched.
The angel then led the woman back out of the room turned to her and said:
“That was hell”.

The next night she had another dream
and again the angel appeared and beckoned her to follow.
She was taken to a hall almost identical to the one in the previous night’s dream;
it was beautifully decorated and furnished with the finest tables and chairs.
Again a delicious smelling soup was being served to guests at the tables.
Again all they had was long-handled spoons,
but here the guests were healthy, joyful and full of life.
The woman noticed that the guests were not trying to feed themselves with the spoons,
they were each feeding each other.
The angel looked at the woman and said “this is heaven!”

This Sunday is traditionally the beginning of Passiontide
It marks a shift on our devotions as we move into the final week of lent
and into Holy Week itself.
The readings at our worship begin to draw us closer to that moment
when Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the Passover and the final days of his life.

Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for the events to come.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”
he tells them in this morning’s Gospel reading,
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain;
but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

Jesus was teaching his disciples that life in all its fullness comes
not through grasping; not through holding on; not through self-preservation;
but through giving, through letting go, through serving.
Or in the words of Francis of Assisi in the hymn we have just sang:

It is in consoling that we are consoled; in understanding that we are understood;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; in giving to all that we receive;
and in loving with all our soul that we open ourselves to love.
The woman in her dream discovered this.
Heaven and hell are not waiting in the future, we live them here and now.
If we seek only to feed ourselves we will not be nourished,
but if we seek to feed others we will discover that we are fed ourselves also.

In all the events that led up to Good Friday and Easter,
Jesus prepared his disciples by teaching them to both give and receive;
To forgive and receive forgiveness; to love and be open to being loved;
To be emptied that they may to be filled; to die that they may truly live.

This Passiontide is a call to walk into hell and transform it into heaven;
not so much by what we say but more by how we live.
Again to quote St Francis:
“to preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”

Saturday 21st March              

Simplicity

Hebrews 13:5
Put greed out of your lives and be content with whatever you have.
God himself has said: I will not fail you or desert you.
With the Lord to help us we need fear nothing.

“To know how to be satisfied is to hold a treasure in the palm of one’s hand.”
– Tibetan proverb

We always long for just a little bit more.
A little more money, a little more help,
a little more time, a little more attention,
a little more quiet, a little more company,
a little more sympathy, a little more…
Simplicity calls us to be satisfied with what we have
and discover treasure in the palm of our hand.
………………………………………….
A monk, while on a journey found a precious stone lying by the banks of a river.
He knew straight away that the stone was valuable,
and would save his monastery from financial ruin.
Another traveller saw the monk pick up the stone and demanded to see it.
“Why should you be the one to have the stone”, he said to the monk,
“I have as much right to it as you.”
The monk, without hesitation gave him the precious stone. The man left.
A few miles later on the man returned with the stone, and gave it back to the monk.
“Please” he said, “give me something even more precious than the stone;
give me that which enabled you to give it to me.”

In yesterday’s reflection I wrote of contentedness.
Contentedness comes through knowing how to be satisfied with what we have,
and to not be constantly yearning for more.
To know how to be satisfied, says a Tibetan proverb,
is to hold a treasure in the palm of one’s hand.

The man who took the precious stone form the monk knew instinctively
that the monks willingness to give up the precious stone without a thought,
was a jewel more precious than anything money could buy.
Simplicity and contentment are priceless jewels, pearls of great price;
that bring happiness that goes way beyond riches.
May we have the grace, the wisdom, and the courage,
to cultivate these values in our lives.

Friday 20th March          

Contentedness

Isaiah: 47:1
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.

“Be content, be content!
We are the Body of Christ!
We have found Him because He has sought us;
God has come to take up his abode in us.
There is nothing further to do except to turn to Him completely,
where He is already present.
Be quiet and see that He is God.”
– Thomas Merton

God is with us in every moment of every day.
Let’s be content, let’s be content.
………………………………………………….
My Dad is one of the most contented people I have ever met.
I have never known him to be phased in life by any changing circumstances.
He has the capacity to be content in whatever life sends his way.
When I was a child he was content in his life working on a farm as a shepherd.
He was content to go out in all weathers at all times of the day,
and do what needed to be done in the caring of his sheep.
Later when he was suddenly made redundant and could not find any farm work,
he went to work in the cold store of a factory.
For a man who had worked in the outdoors all his life this was a massive change,
but he took it in his stride, adapted, and was content.
In his retirement he was content in his garden and doing some gardening for others.
Now his health is failing him and he can no longer work his garden,
he is content with a less active and more confined life.

When I was a teenager I could not understand his contentedness:
How could anyone be content to be trapped in the same village all their lives?
Why would he not want something different, something more?
Now in my mid 50’s I have come to understand and yearn for his gift of contentedness,
and, looking back, I can see how rich his life has been just living whatever came his way.
I am so grateful for what he has taught me.
We can spend our lives seeking out and searching for the Pearl of Great Price;
or we can truly open our eyes look at what we have,
realise that we already have what we seek…….
and recognise God’s presence in this moment and be content.

Thursday 19th March              

Centering

Ephesians 3:16
This is my prayer for you:
May the Father in his infinite glory
give you power through his Spirit
for your hidden self to grow strong.

“Beneath all our feelings, beneath our reasoning,
beneath all our limitations, there is a deep centre;
the centre and ground of our being.
And we can pass through that centre into the very centre of God.
Indeed the two centres are one, constituting the very centre of all that is.”

– Basil Pennington.

Take time to be still and to make contact with your deepest self.
…………………………………………
I speak and write a lot about our Spiritual Journey. What is the journey? Where is to?
For me it is a journey to the centre; to the centre of who we are.
All the spiritual values that we are exploring this Lent are part of that journey;
each value is a spoke in the wheel that takes us to the centre.
It is a journey to our soul, which in turn is the journey to God –
“the centre and ground of our being.”
Of all the journey’s we will ever make in life, this journey is the most important.
And yet, in a strange way, it is not a journey that we make at all;
we do not find the centre, the centre finds us.
Through our spiritual practise we are drawn into it, like a whirlpool,
and our job is merely to learn how to surrender to its current
and allow ourselves to be carried by these holy tides.

We can over think our journey into God;
sometimes what we have to do is simply let go of the thinking
and allow God’s presence to draw us into itself.
That is what prayer is about. It is not about us seeking God and reeling God in.
It is, in fact, the other way around.
In prayer we have to allow God to seek us and reel us in.
It is not so much about us bringing God into our situation,
but of becoming aware that God is already there
and allowing that holy presence to draw us to our centre, to carry us home.

The joys, the pains, the pleasures and the sorrows of life
are the means God uses to reel us in.
Instead of getting caught up in whether or not we want or like each situation,
let us just open ourselves to God’s whirlpool and trust where it takes us.

Wednesday 18th March          

Humility

Micah 6:8
For what else is required of us but to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God?

“When we can laugh at our own foolishness,
then we will have made a start on the first wrung of the ladder of humility.
– Christopher Jamison

Humility is not about seeing ourselves as worthless,
nor seeing ourselves as wonderful.
It is simply about seeing ourselves as we are,
without judging ourselves good or bad.
Considering ourselves worthless or wonderful is foolish.
Today let’s laugh at our foolishness!
…………………………………………………….
What does it mean to be humble?
There is a story about a former Bishop interviewing a young ordinand.
He reminded the young man
that one of the necessary qualities needed for ordained ministry was that of humility.
“Without humility” the Bishop told him, “you can never truly serve God.”
The young man was very moved by what the Bishop said
and asked him if he could recommend a good book on humility.
“As a matter of fact I can” said the Bishop. “Mine!”

I think we often make the mistake of equating humility with putting ourselves down.
For example, we can’t acknowledge our gifts
because to say that we are good at something is pride.
Or we can’t accept compliments gracefully, because that’s not being humble either.

This is not what humility is about.
Humility is simply seeing ourselves as we are.
Not being afraid to own our faults and inadequacies,
but neither being afraid to own our gifts and strengths.
If the Bishop in the story had not told the young ordinand of his book on humility,
it would not have been an act of humility, simply an act of foolishness.

Humility is being willing to own all aspects of who we are;
the good bits, the not so good bits.
It’s about being able to accept gracefully both praise and criticism.
And, most importantly, being able to laugh at our own foolishness.

 

Tuesday 17th March

Sacrifice

2 Corinthians 3:18
We are called to be like mirrors,
reflecting the brightness of the Lord;
growing brighter and brighter
until we are turned into the image that we reflect.

“Be prepared at any moment to sacrifice what you are,
for what you can become”
– David Gemmell

Life requires sacrifice.
If we are for ever looking back, we are prevented from moving forward.
If we continually hold on to life as we think it should be,
we can miss out on the wonder of how it is.
What do you need to let go of this lent? What grasping is holding you back?
………………………………………………………………………………..
Sacrifice is not a particularly popular word today.
When it is used it tends to have negative connotations.
Sacrifice is often associated with depriving ourselves of things
that we did not really want to give up; depriving ourselves of the joys in life.
But in its deepest sense sacrifice is not about being deprived of joy,
but about making space for true joy to unfold in our lives.
Often, by hanging on to things we need to let of, by clinging on to the old,
we are merely depriving ourselves of new things that are waiting to open in our lives.
At its deepest level sacrifice means to “make sacred”;
it is an offering that we make to God to allow God to give it new purpose.

During Lent many give up some of their pleasures in life for a short period.
This is not merely to deprive ourselves and make Lent miserable,
but to offer these things to God, that God may make them holy.
When we receive them back at the end of Lent we receive them back in a new way.
We have made space for God to work in our lives
and we receive back what we have sacrificed as a gift.
By receiving it back as a gift from God we can experience it in a whole new way;
we have released our control and clinging,
and allowed God to gift us a new relationship with it.

What are we afraid to let go of through fear of losing joy?
Maybe if we let go and allow God to “make them sacred”
we can open the door to joy, without the worry of losing it.