Monthly Archives: February 2018

Wednesday 29th February 2018

Ephesians 4:2  With humility, gentleness and patience bear one another in love

The Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, writes of the word Ego
as being an acronym for Edging God Out.
When we are too egocentric, are full of our own self-importance,
or place too much value on our own opinions and judgements,
we leave less and less space for God and slowly edge God out.
The practice of humility on the other hand;
recognising our vulnerability and becoming aware of our limitations,
makes space for God – edges God in.
Lent is a good time to rejoice in our imperfections,
to not take our ourselves and our particular views quite so seriously.
It is a time to make space for God to surprise us and grow in us.
……………………………..
 
More from Richard Rohr:

If there is such a thing as human perfection,
it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle
the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own.
What a clever place for God to hide holiness,
so that only the humble and earnest will find it.

Tuesday 27th February 2018

Ephesians 4:23-24 Be renewed in the spirit and put on a new self

One way to bring freshness back to our faith and spiritual routines
is to practise what our Buddhist friends call Shoshin.
Shoshin means Beginners Mind.
The practise of Shoshin is to do whatever we do
as if we were doing it for the very first time – with beginners Mind.
When we have practised our faith over many years
it can all become a bit stale.
What we once loved to do, what once fed us and inspired us,
we suddenly find we are doing out of habit.
We begin to take our faith for granted
and wonder why it no longer moves us in the way that it used to do.
Lent is an opportunity to practise Shoshin;
to pray, read our Bible, go to church, receive holy communion,
as if we were doing it for the very first time.
Try it this lent and see what difference it makes to you.
…………………………….

John O’Donohue wrote:

So much depends on how we see things.
More often than not the style of gaze determines what we see.
There are many things near us that we never notice
simply because of the way we see.
The way we look at things has a huge influence on what becomes visible for us.
 
May we learn to look through the eyes of the soul,
and continuously experience things as if for the very first time.

Monday 26th February 2018

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart; a new spirit I will put within you

This season is an opportunity for a spiritual tune-up.
We are all at different stages on our journey of faith.
For some exploring the spiritual life is quite a recent change in life,
it is all still new and we are discovering new aspects to it all the time;
this whole season of Lent, Holy Week and Easter may be new to us.
Some may be returning to the practice of their faith after many years.
For others it has been a part of their life from childhood,
and the danger for them is that it can all become a bit dry;
their worship, prayer and spiritual routine has become a habit
and may no longer seem as fresh and inspiring as it once was.
Lent is an opportunity for us to explore how we can bring freshness
back to our spiritual journey so it all speaks to us anew.
…………………………………

The Benedictine monk John Main wrote:

Returning to our own centre, discovering our own centre,
is the first task and responsibility of every life that is to become fully human.
To be at one with our centre, means that we are at one with every centre.
To be in our centre is to be in God…..
The art of living is the art of living out of the eternal newness of our origin,
and living fully from our centre as it springs from the creative hand of God.

Returning to our centre on a regular basis,
returning to God who dwells at the centre of our soul,
is how we keep our faith and spiritual life fresh and alive.
It is about making our prayer, worship, and times of reflection
a priority in our busy lives.
That is not always easy and we can easily slip away from that spiritual source.
Lent is an opportunity to return to our centre,
and allow that returning to renew and refresh us.
Think of one change you can make in your life that will allow that to happen.

Sunday 25th February 2018

Psalm 42:8  At night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life

Ending the day with a few moments of prayer,
allows the day to flow into God and rest in God’s love.
During Lent we meet in church for the prayers of compline each week.
The prayers of Compline are a way to end the day as we began it;
embraced in God’s presence, strength and love.
Compline means: “To make the day complete.”
A day that begins and ends with us conscious of God’s Presence in life,
is a day that is complete and holy.
No matter what has happened during the day, painful or joyful,
whether it has felt productive or frustrating,
we simply allow it to find its completion in God.
we place the day’s events and experiences into God’s hands,
and let them go.
The next day we will find the strength and inspiration to start again.
……………………..

Sermon for Second Sunday of Lent

Falling is one of the most common and recurring facts of life.
Each and every one of us have experience of what it is like to fall.
Our granddaughter has begun to walk now with a vengeance,
but she learned to walk by learning to fall.
Falling was a vital part of her learning to walk.

We encouraged her to walk, knowing she would fall.
We watched her begin to climb things, knowing she would fall.
We watch and we cringe at every bump and graze she picks up,
but we cannot prevent her from falling again and again.
Falling is part of the process.
To stop her from falling would be to stop her from living and developing.

When our own children were young
we seemed to be regular visitors to Lewisham casualty.
Fractured shoulder, bumps, and cuts.
As parents you feel awful, embarrassed, careless………
But you know deep down you can’t stop them falling
without stopping them living.

I can remember my own falls very clearly, I expect you can remember yours.
Getting a closed black eye playing British Bulldog;
A broken collarbone trying to doing wheelies on my bike;
Crashing my motorbike driving too fast.
More embarrassingly, a more recent fall when tripping up while jogging.

And they are just the physical falls.
Other kinds of falls have been much more numerous.
Mistakes I have made; poor decisions I have taken; giving in to temptation;
deliberately breaking rules, arrogance, thoughtlessness, weakness –
these are all contributory factors to the regular falls from grace in my life.

Do I regret my falls?   Yes and no.
I regret the pain I have caused others who I have hurt when I fell.
But my falls have been a necessary part of my life.
They have been a part of my growth process in becoming who I am created to be;
a journey I am still on, with no doubt more falls to come.
My falling is important and necessary – and so is yours.

The reason I mention all this is because in my sermon last week on temptation,
I mentioned the creation story in Genesis,
and how God set up Adam and Eve for a fall
by planting a particular tree and then telling them not to eat its fruit.
One or two people have asked me to elaborate on that and so I will.

That story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit
and being thrown out of the garden of Eden is known as The Fall.
The trouble is, it tends to get called The Fall in a negative sense –
in that they messed up, spoilt paradise, introduced sin into the world;
and everything that has gone wrong in the world since
is a result of that Fall.

I’m sorry but I can’t buy into that kind of thinking.
Yes, they fell. But they were meant to fall.
It was part of God’s plan that they should fall, part of the creative process.

If they had not been meant to fall,
God need never have planted the tree of knowledge,
or draw their attention to it.
If God did not want them to eat the fruit
God could have placed angels by the tree guarding it,
making absolutely sure they did not go near it.

But God did plant the tree, God did draw attention to it,
and made absolutely no attempt to guard it. Why?
It seems to me that God knew they had to disobey him,
and eat the fruit, in order to become fully human.

Part of God did not want them to fall, to eat the fruit, and leave the garden;
in the same way that we do not want anything bad or hurtful
to happen to our children.
But God knew it was necessary for them, and necessary for creation,
and for God’s relationship with creation to deepen and be made real.

The Fall was not the worst thing that has happened to humanity,
but it was the most important and most necessary.
It was the beginning of our wonderful journey to become fully human,
and towards a beautiful and complete relationship with our creator.
A journey that we are still on.       Falling is a vital part of life.

There is a story that says
we are all attached to God by long lengths of thread.
Each time we sin, mess up, each time we fall,
it is like we have cut the thread and fallen to the ground.
But, the story goes,
each time we cut the thread God picks it up and ties a knot in it.
We cut it again, and again,
and God picks it up each time and ties another knot.
The more we clip the thread, the more we fall, the more knots God ties,
and the thread becomes shorter, and the closer we grow to God.

That is why it is important we fall.
So God can pick us up and help us grow. So we can grow closer to God.
Remember that the next time you fall.

Saturday 24th February

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer

The season of Lent is a season of prayer.
It is season for renewing our life of prayer, which is the heartbeat of life.
I do not think any of us truly grasp the power and significance of prayer.
Prayer is our connection with the holy, our connection with God.
Prayer does not have to be complicated or fancy;
prayer does not have to be pious or long.
A moments lifting of our awareness to God’s Presence in life will suffice.
Prayer at the beginning of each day can truly enrich the day’s quality.
It is like sending out supplies into the day to aid us as it unfolds.
It creates a refuge when we need strength and comfort;
a signpost when we need guidance and wisdom;
a watering hole when we need renewal and inspiration.
A few moments lifting our heart to God, especially at the start of day,
will make the day richer, will make the day holy.
……………………..

Kallistos Ware writes:

Like a drop of ink that falls on the blotting paper,
the act of prayer should spread steadily outwards
from the consciousness and reasoning centre of the brain,
until it embraces every part of ourselves.

Friday 23rd February

Ecclesiastes 3  God has made everything beautiful in its own time

Purple is also the colour of fasting and simplicity.
How many of us get ourselves in a frenzy over Lents call to fast?
We give things up, and then feel guilty when we indulge in them.
We often make fasting into a battle, so it becomes a negative discipline.
But if we link our fasting with our creativity and things we enjoy doing,
it actually makes much more sense.
Fasting is not just about food and drink, it is about use of time.
Fasting from television, social media, social demands,
can free up time to be creative and enter our purple patch.
How often do we consider doing something creative on an evening,
but end up just watching the telly instead because it’s easier?
Why not fast from instant, cheap, and often dull entertainment this lent,
and make space for that neglected creative gift?
Or simply to try something different.
…………………………………….

Things in life that are supposed to help make it richer and more interesting,
often become the very things that eventually dull our intellect
and become a kind of prison that limits us
and prevents us from doing the things that would truly enrich us.
There is nothing wrong with television, phones, social media,
or enjoying social engagements –
but they are there for us to use and not be used by.
Fasting from them every now and again puts them in perspective
and helps to stop them taking control of our time and lives.
We can then return to them in a more positive way.

Thursday 22nd February

Song of Solomon 1:11 We will make ornaments of gold and silver

The colour purple is also a colour we tend to connect with creativity.
We often hear the phrase “a purple patch”
Describing someone going through a particularly fruitful creative period.
A footballer who is scoring a lot of goals is often described as
“going through a purple patch”.
Likewise authors with a string of successful books,
or anyone who is “on a roll” with their particular gifts.
Lent, I have always found, is a good time for creativity.
It comes at the springtime of the year
when new life and new possibility is springing up all around us.
Why not use Lent as an opportunity to revive your own creative gifts?
What do you enjoy that you have neglected?
What creative side of you is waiting to be recognised?
Why not allow Lent to bring you into a purple patch?
………………………

We do things for all sorts of daft reasons.
Out of habit, false sense of loyalty, because we don’t want to feel excluded,
because we are concerned about what others will think,
because it gives us a sense of self-importance,
even because we can’t bear the thought of someone else doing it,
or because deep down we like to play the martyr.
When we look at the things we do, and reflect upon them,
we need to be honest with ourselves about our motives.
Most things we do out of mixed motives,
but to do things for the wrong reason when we don’t enjoy it, is madness.
For creativity to grow, for new or old loves to begin and flourish;
to enter a purple patch;
we have to create space in our lives and be reflective, discerning, and honest
about the things that we do and why we do them.
May this Lent be a time when we reflect on what we do, and do not do;
a time to find the wisdom to make the changes that we need to make,
and allow our creative gifts to flourish

Wednesday 21st February

Mark 1:3 Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight

The colour purple is prominent in church throughout the season of Lent.
The altar and pulpit frontals are purple, as are the priest’s vestments.
Purple is the colour of preparation;
it reminds us that we are preparing our hearts and lives
for the most important week in the Christian year
– for Holy Week and Easter.
The other time that purple is worn is during Advent,
when we prepare for the great Feast of Christmas.
Lent is a season of preparation; of reflection and inner renewal.
It is the time when we reflect on the roots of our Christian faith,
and the effect those roots have upon our lives.
It is a time when we are called to stop, slow down, take stock,
and renew our commitment to the faith journey on which we are called.
Is there an aspect of your own faith that needs renewal?
…………………………….

A poem by Susan Coolidge

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

Reflections for 19th and 20th February

Monday 19th February

Luke 7:48   And he said to her: “Your sins are forgiven.”

If Lent begins with an emphasis upon confessing and repenting of sin;
the underlying theme of the season and of Holy Week
is God’s compassionate mercy and forgiveness.
We enter into this process of repentance not to earn God’s forgiveness,
but in response to the forgiveness that is already ours.
God does not need our repentance in order to forgive, God forgives simply because God is God, and it is God’s nature to forgive.
Our repentance and saying sorry is to receive the gift that is already ours.
Mercy is at the heart of God, and our relationship with God.
The reason we can face confidently the darker side of our nature
is because we can be confident that we are understood and forgiven.
Because of that forgiveness we can grow through our mistakes,
and learn to love because of our vulnerability and weakness.
May this Lenten journey teach us to love ourselves as God loves us.
………………………………….

The Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton once described God as:
“Mercy, within Mercy, within Mercy”.
A beautiful description of God, but one we so easily forget
and need to remind ourselves of time and time again.

 

Tuesday 20th February

Luke 11:4 Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Yesterday’s reflection on knowing ourselves to be forgiven,
Brings with it the responsibility to share that gift with others,
especially those we find it difficult to forgive.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Forgiving those who hurt us is not easy, but it is what we are called to do.
Forgiveness is not something we can turn on like a tap,
and often it is a process that we have to work hard at.
We begin with a willingness to forgive, even if we still feel resentment;
we then spend time slowly working to soften that resentment we feel,
seeking to find sympathy and understanding for those who have hurt us.
It can be a long hard journey, but a worthwhile one;
one from which we benefit more than anyone else.
As we make this holy journey to Easter, and embrace God’s forgiveness,
is there someone that we need to begin this process with?

……………………………………….

I remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu once saying
that forgiveness is God’s business.
We may find it hard to forgive sometimes but God never does.
We probably need to stop trying so hard to forgive from our own strength alone
and align ourselves with God’s forgiveness,
and allow that to loosen the grip of our resentment.
To place ourselves in that stream of mercy, within mercy, within mercy,
and allow it to sooth and heal our resentment
and make it possible for mercy and forgiveness to flow through us.

Reflection + Sermon: 1st Sunday of Lent

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

Saturday’s reflection was about us admitting to, and owning,
The potentially destructive part of our human nature.
We are reminded very early on in Lent that Jesus was not immune to this.
The first Sunday of Lent is about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
He was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread;
to seek power and control; to impress people with great feats.
Like us he had to come to terms with potentially destructive forces,
and desires that threatened to overwhelm him.
So as we face these elements within ourselves we can rest assured
that we are not alone and we find our strength in one
who took upon him our nature in all its beauty and in all its difficulty.
Jesus had to confront his inner demons just as we do.
It is in him we find the strength to discover who God has called us to be.

………………………..

Sermon for Lent 1

Since last Advent Sunday the Catholic Church in France
began using a new version of the Lord’s Prayer.
With the Pope’s permission they have changed one line in the prayer;
instead of praying: Lead us not into temptation,
they now pray: Do not let us enter temptation.

The reason this change has been made is to get around a theological problem,
of whether or not God can lead us into temptation;
whether God can tempt us to sin.
Personally I have never had a problem with this line in the Lord’s Prayer,
but apparently for some it is a big issue.
There is a big push for more churches to follow the French lead and use the new version.

So do they have point?
Is there a problem with the idea of God leading us into temptation?
Does God really tempt us to sin?

Now some argue that it does not really mean that at all,
and it is merely a prayer to God to help us and strengthen us when we are tempted.
So it is just a matter of translation or interpretation.
In which case, many would say, it does not need changing.
But others would argue, if that is the case, we may as well join the French and say:
Do not let us enter temptation and save the confusion.

But for me, the simple truth is, God does actually lead us into temptation,
and the original version works very nicely thank you very much!
Going right back to the story of Genesis in the Garden of Eden,
God is leading poor Adam and Eve into temptation, isn’t he?

They are getting along very nicely in paradise until God comes along and says:
You see that tree over there? Well that tree is a bit different to all the rest….
that there tree is the tree of knowledge and it is a no go area,
so stay well away and do not under any circumstances eat its fruit.
If you do there will be consequences.

Now, correct me if I am wrong
but if you don’t want someone to eat from a particular tree,
would it not be best to not draw attention to it in the first place?
And anyway, if you do not want your creation eating from the tree,
then why put it there?   If that is not God leading us into temptation, what is?

And then we have todays Gospel reading where we are told that
Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
In other words, God set him up.
No wonder Jesus taught his disciples to pray: Lead us not into Temptation,
he knew what it was like.

Of course God leads us into temptation.
It is how we grow, how we learn, how we develop.
Without temptation we would be mere robots or automatons, not fully human at all.
So I really do not see the problem with God leading us into temptation,
for without it I would not be who I am.

If we are to truly live we have to have temptation in life.
If God gives us a gift, it automatically carries with it the temptation to misuse it.
Doesn’t it?   How could it be different?

Sex, wine, food, abundance, ambition, passion and the like,
these are all wonderful gifts given us by our creator.
But with each comes the temptation to misuse it;
it is the nature of the gift, it is the nature of life.
without the temptation there would be no gift;
and life, frankly, would be very limited – it would also be very dull!

Not only would life be dull, but we would never grow as human beings,
we would never develop, we would never learn, we would never thrive.
Of course God leads us into temptation,
it is the process of life, the process of creation.

So, if temptation is such a necessary part of the gifts that God gives,
why in the Lord’s Prayer do we ask God not to lead us into temptation?
Well, maybe it is because we are human,
and given the choice would always go for the easy option.

But I would think that the more likely interpretation is
that we are asking God to help us and strengthen us for the temptations in life;
asking God for the wisdom to be sensible and disciplined with the gifts that God gives.
Either way it seems a very reasonable prayer to me. Jesus obviously thought so.

Personally, I simply wish that people would stop messing with the Lord’s Prayer;
because I happen to love it just the way it is.