Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easter Day 2016

The Lord is Risen, alleluia, alleluia.
He is Risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia.

Happy Easter everyone. Thank you for following our Lenten Blog.
This is the last entry for this year.
I finish with the sermon for Easter Day.

One of the great spiritual teachers of the 20th century, the monk Thomas Merton,
in one of his diaries wrote of a vision that he had in a busy shopping precinct.
He was caught up in the busyness and noise of the city
while travelling back to his monastery.
He was wishing he was home when suddenly, out of the blue,
he saw things in a new way.
He saw the secret beauty in the hearts of those around him;
he saw the secret beauty of the ugly buildings,
the noisy traffic, the rushing shoppers.
And he wrote in his diary:
How do you tell people that they are walking around shining like the sun?
What Thomas Merton discovered in that busy shopping district
was the wonder of Easter.

Our world is so much more than we think it is; we are more than we think we are.
Just beneath the surface of our daily existence is something extraordinary.
That is: the Risen Presence of Christ lighting up our world;
making each and every one of us shine like the sun; whether we realise it or not.

Jesus, through his death and resurrection,
revealed the true beauty and wonder of life; of our world;
of you, of me, and the whole of humanity.
We get so caught up in our basic human existence that we lose sight of the fact
that we also have a divine existence as well.
We simply do not realise that in God’s eyes
we are walking around shining like the sun.

Jesus did not just come to this world to reveal what God was like to us,
he came to reveal to us what it is like to be fully human,
to reveal to us the truth of who we truly are,
we need to be reminded of that over and over again.

Coming to worship week after week,
celebrating Easter and Christmas and the other major festivals year after year,
is all about reminding us of who we are.
It shines a light on us, on our deepest selves, on the wonder of our existence.
If we could only believe it, experience it, and know it to be true,
our lives and our world could be transformed.

When someone once asked Michelangelo how he created such beautiful sculptures,
he is said to have replied:
The beauty is already there, hidden in the stone,
all I have to do is chip away the excess material and reveal it.

Hidden deep within you, hidden deep within me, is our true nature –
the very risen life of Christ.
It shines like the sun, it calls out to be recognised, it waits to be revealed.
This Easter, will we surrender to the process
and allow God to complete the work he began?

Will we allow the Christ within us to burst from our tomb
and rise up in our lives, and in our world?
Then we too will see the secret beauty in ugly buildings, noisy traffic and chaotic life.
We too will see the secret beauty in each other’s hearts,
and our Easter celebration will be complete.

Sermon Lighting of Easter Fire

In my sermon yesterday for Good Friday
I spoke about how in the ritual of venerating the cross
we align ourselves with Christ and feed off his love, his strength, his very presence.
On Good Friday it is about aligning ourselves with his response to suffering and pain;
with the way he was willing to embrace it and surrender himself to it,
and thus transform it into a path of healing and growth.

This evening it is about aligning ourselves with the miracle of his resurrection,
which is a direct result of his surrendering to the cross.
Jesus trusted his Father with his pain and anguish, he trusted God with his death
and found it to be none other than the way to the fullness of life.

Our God is a God of miracles and transformation. Life is a miracle.
You and I are miracles of God.
This night is a celebration of miracles
and a reminder that God enters the deepest darkness and transforms it into light.
It is reminder that God is deeply embedded in our world.

God is deeply embedded in besieged war torn cities.
God is deeply embedded in the poverty of refugee camps.
God is deeply embedded in sickness, viruses, infections and tragedy.
God is deeply embedded in the midst of all the horror
that human kind is capable of creating.
Nothing can ever separate us from the loving Presence of God.

We can live life as if nothing is a miracle, wrote Albert Einstein,
or we can live life as if everything is a miracle.
This night calls us to believe in,
and align ourselves with, the miracle of God’s presence;
and to know that there is no situation that cannot be redeemed by God’s love.
God does not give up on his world,
and we should not give up on our hope in God.

Lent 2016 Appreciating What We Have

Holy Saturday 26th March

Daniel 6:10
He got down on his knees three times a day and gave thanks before his God.

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

In an episode of the American TV sitcom ‘Frasier’,
Frasier and his brother Niles are sat in a coffee bar
discussing whether or not they are happy.
Niles describes to Frasier a documentary he saw on TV about the Great Depression.
He describes old footage of the Salvation Army giving out food and clothes,
and of one small child who received a pair of second hand shoes.
“The look on that child’s face” says Niles “was one of pure happiness.”
He then added:
“I have never felt that kind of happiness in my entire life,
even when I bought these $400 handmade Italian shoes.”

When we have nothing we are grateful for whatever we are given,
and we think we have been given the world.
When we can afford $400 shoes we so easily take it for granted
and thus become immune to true happiness.
Happiness does not come from being able to have what we want,
but in learning to appreciate and be truly thankful for what we have.

Sermon for Good Friday

One of the most incredible things about this day
is the way Jesus accepted and embraced his pain, his torment, and his death.
He was not dragged through the courts kicking and screaming,
he was not beaten and humiliated begging for mercy,
he was not nailed to the cross shouting and struggling.
He embraced and accepted each moment
and surrendered himself to the path that he had been called to take.

It is not that he felt no fear or did not experience any anguish, he certainly did –
On the evening of his arrest he was in the garden of Gethsemane
praying to his Father, asking that this cup might be taken from him;
that the moment may pass him by;
even then he hoped and dreamed that there might yet be another way.

But when it became clear that there was no other way,
he accepted his path and embraced the journey he had been called to make.
And in doing so he opened the door to healing and resurrection,
not just for himself but for the world he loved.

From that moment all suffering and pain became a potential path to healing.
From that moment on the world’s pain and suffering took on new meaning.
From that moment on, death was no longer merely an end,
but an explosion into new life, an opened gate to glory.

Because of this day suffering and death have a depth and purpose
that goes way beyond what we merely perceive at the surface.
Your suffering, my suffering, our worlds suffering, is not meaningless –
but has become a divine means by which God can bring healing
to our world and to our lives.

Our suffering and pain is not in vain – because of this day it is a stairway to God.
Like Jesus, and through his strength,
we can allow God to use our pain to reach out and love.
Life often breaks us, but because of Jesus,
we have the opportunity to grow and be transformed through that brokenness.

In a few moments time
we will have the opportunity to come forward and venerate the cross.
Why do we do that on Good Friday?
Well, firstly, we are offering our gratitude to Jesus
acknowledging all that all he has given us and done for us.

Secondly, we are saying “yes” to God,
And, like Jesus, surrendering ourselves to everything
that God will ask us to live in our lives.
We may not always be able to immediately accept all that comes along,
but venerating the cross is an acknowledgment of our willingness
to trust God with our lives.

And thirdly, by venerating the cross we draw on our Lord’s strength,
we are aligning ourselves with the love, the strength and the faith of Christ.
For it is by his strength alone
that we can follow the path that God calls us to take in life.

May our Lord’s incredible acceptance and embracing of his path,
inspire and empower us as we seek to follow God’s call in our lives.

Lent 2016 Whatever is, Just is

Good Friday 25th March

Luke 1:46
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.

Take the mental attitude that whatever is, just is, and don’t fight it…..
everything that happens just is.
Calling something bad increases the suffering and prolongs the experience.
So find the good in the situation, and be thankful for it.
This shifts the energy.
– Wes Hopper

It is our natural tendency to label things.
Some things we label as good, some as bad;
some things as beautiful and others as ugly;
a person as kind or thoughtful, or as selfish or thoughtless.
Labels, labels, labels.
Perhaps we need to adopt the attitude that everything “just is”
and teach ourselves not to hang a label on everything.
Once we have labelled something, our attitude towards it changes,
especially if we have put a negative label on it.
We then find it difficult to see the good, the beautiful, the gift,
because we have already begun to look through the blinkered vision of our label.
If we can learn to accept that everything is ‘just as it is’, without judgement,
we leave open the opportunity to see the good and the gift, and be thankful.
If we can learn to be thankful for simply what is,
there is a good chance we will discover its value and worth.

Maundy Service Sermon

God has a remarkable sense of humour, especially when dealing with clergy.
I am sure God sits up there on a Sunday
listening to the stuff being preached down here,
and then mischievously begins to make plans
designed to make preachers eat their own words.

A couple of Sunday’s ago I preached on Jesus being anointed by Mary
when she lavishly poured expensive perfume over his feet, drying them with her hair.
I said how Jesus graciously received this bizarre offering,
and allowed her to minister to him in her own way.
I also said that we too need to learn to receive as well as give,
and receive the service others give to us with generosity and humility.

That was when God began to grin and make plans.
That very week I visited a lady in hospital;
at the end of my visit I gave her a blessing, and was beginning to leave.
But I was stopped in my tracks as this lady said:
“Father, you are so kind giving me blessings and they make such a difference.
But God is telling me to give you a blessing today.”

In order for me her to bless me,
I had to kneel at her feet in the middle of a hospital ward.
But was the blessing quick? No, it was not.
It was a lavish blessing that felt like it lasted for ten minutes
though it was probably only two.
I felt all eyes in the ward fixed on us,
as she blessed me in what seemed like rather a loud voice.

In the midst of my acute embarrassment
I remembered my sermon from the previous Sunday.
I remembered Jesus allowing Mary to kiss his feet, and lavish him with perfume.
At that moment I knew God was saying to me – practice what you preach.
And so I began to focus on receiving the blessing
rather than the embarrassment I was feeling.

You know what? It was a special holy moment that I shall treasure for ever.
I left that hospital knowing I was truly blessed and loved.

Peter was also embarrassed and reluctant to allow Jesus to wash his feet.
I am sure he, too, later treasured the moment.
God reaches out to bless us through many people and through many ways.
As we receive the washing of hands in our worship this evening,
may we open our lives to receive God’s blessing
and love in whatever form he sends it.

Lent 2016 Gratitude for the Ordinary

Maundy Thursday 24th March

Psalm 35:18
I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.

The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity
to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively,
the basic goods of life,
with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.
– Abraham Maslow

Isn’t it easy to save our biggest response of gratitude
for so called special and unusual gifts of life?
We so easily take for granted the ordinary and everyday gifts,
and save our enthusiasm for that which is a bit different.
Someone can serve us, help us, visit us on a regular basis
and we offer perfunctory thanks to them.
Then someone comes along one day and does something a bit extra, a bit different,
a bit more unusual which we like and our gratitude knows no bounds:
“How lovely! How thoughtful! How kind!”
If we could learn “to appreciate again and again the basic goods of life, with awe, with pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy” says Abraham Maslow,
“then we would be fortunate indeed.”
Let’s not save our exuberant thanks for the new and unexpected,
but teach ourselves once again
to be truly thankful and excited about the ordinary everyday gifts that come our way.
When we begin to take life, people, and circumstances for granted
we lose something very special.
It is often only when it is no longer there that we realise again its true value.
Let’s not wait that long.
Let’s remind ourselves each and every day just how blessed we are –
and be enthusiastic in our gratitude. Life will then find a new vibrancy.

Holy Wednesday Compline Reflection

There is a story of a young priest
who was asked to lead a retreat for a group of nuns.
He had never led a retreat before and was a bit daunted by thought of it.
His instinct was to say that he wasn’t sure if it was his thing;
but he was an ambitious young priest
and he thought this would look good on his CV,
so he ignored his instinct and said “yes”.

Half way through the retreat he realised he should have said “No”.
It wasn’t going very well. His talks didn’t flow.
And the nuns were obviously struggling to stay awake.
He took the mother superior to one side and said: “This isn’t going well is it?”
“Well”, she said, “Let’s just say you’re not the most natural retreat conductor”.
“I knew it” he said. “It’s a complete disaster.”

“Oh, no” said the Mother Superior, “I wouldn’t say that.”
“No?, said the young priest, feeling a little more hopeful.
“No”, said the Mother Superior. “You see, nuns are like cockroaches,
they can get sustenance from the most unlikely sources.”

These next few days are the most unlikely sources by which to find sustenance.
Betrayal; desertion; cruelty; injustice; torture; death…..
and yet these few days are the very sustenance of our Christian lives.
Love turns the world on its head.
Love triumphs in the darkest of places, at the darkest of times.
Through love God transforms a seemingly hopeless situation
into a means of grace.
Through love, God takes the things that we fear and dread
and makes them the very things through which heaven and earth are united.

All the things that Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane; at his trial;
on his journey to the cross; and at his moment of death were meant to break him.
They were meant to break his impact on the world;
demean his message and influence;
and make his life and vocation a complete waste of time.
Through these events the world was meant to forget he ever existed.

And yet, through his love, they are the very foundations of faith
and the means by which God’s holy presence touches our world and our lives.

Yes, like the nuns in the story
we can find sustenance from the most unlikely sources;
because love will always triumph
and make all our darkest moments a means of grace.

Lent 2016 Roses Need Their Thorns

Wednesday 23rd March

I Chronicles 23:30
And they stood there every morning, thanking and praising the Lord,
and likewise in the evening.

I am thankful, that sometimes…..
I am the black sky for you stars to shine against;
I am the desert where your oasis lives;
I am the thorn where your rose blossoms;
I am the oyster where your pearls form;
I am the mine where your diamonds take shape.
– Avantika

Wouldn’t it be great if life always ran smoothly?
If there was no pain, no anxiety, no concerns in life?
Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning
and know for certain nothing would go wrong today?
Or would it? I wonder.
Maybe in such a so called perfect world everything would be just, well, bland.
We can never truly know the vibrancy of joy if we have not experienced sorrow.
We can never really appreciate peace and contentment
unless we have also experienced discontent or fear.
In William Horwood’s novels on Duncton Wood,
which are about a community of moles,
Rebecca, the healer mole, states:
“If everything tasted sweet, then nothing would taste sweet.”
And when you think about it, it is true.
We can only know the taste of sweetness
if we have tasted bitterness, and have something to compare it with.
Likewise, as Avantika says in today’s quote:
Stars need a black sky in order to shine;
Diamonds need a dark mine to take shape;
Roses need their thorns; and Oasis would have no meaning without a desert.
We need to be thankful for life’s adversities
because they give meaning and purpose to life’s wonder and beauty.

Lent 2016 Gratitude is Shown in Acts

Tuesday 22nd March

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given back to you in full measure.

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.
Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.
Thankfulness may consist merely of words.
Gratitude is shown in acts.
– Henri Amiel

Generosity is the natural gift flowing from gratitude.
Grateful people tend to be also generous people.
Grateful people experience life as a gift,
which is not there to be possessed but to be shared.
Possessions, time, love, compassion, forgiveness, money,
are all gifts given to be shared freely.
Wes Hopper writes about seeing everything we receive
as a flowing current and river of abundance.
Gratitude, he says, demonstrates confidence in that continuing abundance,
therefore there is no fear in sharing it because we are confident that more will come.
And it does appear to be the case
that the more we are willing to take the risk and give generously,
the more we also tend to receive – we open the gates to the river of abundance.
“Give and it will be given back to you” says Jesus,
“In good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
For what you give out will always be given back to you.” Luke 6:38
“Gratitude is shown in acts” writes Henri Amiel –
May we dare to be generous in response to the gifts in our life.