Monthly Archives: March 2022

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 20

Day 20 21st March Teresa of Avila

Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite nun in the 16th century. She was a leader, a woman steeped in prayer, a visionary, an author, poet, teacher, and an extremely determined, formidable person. Although she was plagued by poor health for most of her life she lived to the age of 67. Like Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century (see day 14), and other women in the church throughout the middle ages, she made an important impact at a time when women were expected to follow rather than lead. Like Hildegard, she was not afraid to stand up to authority and to challenge injustice and hypocrisy. In her mid-life she began to have visions and mystical experiences, which she neither sought nor particularly wanted, but she was committed to live wholeheartedly with whatever God sent her – including her fragile health.
In one of her famous writings she speaks of the soul as an interior castle which contains many rooms; and says that our journey to the fullness of God takes us through each room at different stages. Those rooms included dark spaces within ourselves, which she believed to be important for our spiritual development. One thing she makes clear is that God is within each of these rooms, and it is by passing through them that we come to God’s fullness at the centre.
Teresa believed that true spiritual life was a balance between discipline, gentleness, kindness and love; and also a balance between contemplating Gods love and sharing that love in practical ways. She wrote that a soul to which God gives Himself in love cannot but give itself in love to others. True spirituality is not a private individual undertaking, but a shared journey with others.
I have loved reading the works of St Teresa over the years and there are so many things that stand out. If I have to choose one thing that has really stuck with me, it is her teaching about God’s presence in life. She said that most of our difficulties, in both prayer and everyday life, stems from the fact that too often pray and live as if God were absent. How true I have discovered that to be in my own life! It is one thing to say that I truly believe that God is present in everything (and I do), but so often in life I have found myself getting anxious and worked up about things as if God was not a part of them! Teresa encourages us to remind ourselves every day that there is no part of our life from which God is absent.

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From The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila

Consider the soul to be like a castle, made entirely out of diamond or a very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms; just as in heaven there are many mansions. The soul is nothing else but a paradise, where the Lord says he finds His delight.
I don’t know of anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of the soul and its marvellous capacity. He Himself says that He created us in His own image and likeness. In saying the soul is made in His own image makes it almost impossible for us to understand the sublime dignity of the soul.
It is a shame and unfortunate that we don’t understand ourselves or know who we are. We seldom consider the precious things that can be found in the soul, or who dwells within it, or its high value; consequently, little effort is made to unearth its beauty. In its centre is the place where the secret exchanges between the God and the soul take place.
There are many who remain in the outer courtyard and never think of entering the castle, nor do they know what lies within. The gate of entry to this castle is prayer and reflection.
We always hear what a good thing prayer is, yet only what we ourselves can do in prayer is explained to us. Little is explained about what the Lord does in the soul through prayer. So in prayer let us walk through these chambers which are up above, down below, and to the sides, since God has given it such great dignity.

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent

Lent always throws up some of the more strange Gospel readings. Somebody at some time obviously didn’t share my love of this holy season, and thought it was a good place to put in some of the Bible’s more complex passages.
Today’s Gospel is one of them. I will skip over the first part of the reading from Luke, except to say, that they were trying to catch Jesus out and get him to say something that could be used against him. But Jesus used it as an opportunity to make the point that sin and suffering where not necessarily linked. Painful experiences can happen to good people, he told them, we don’t always get what we deserve, life doesn’t work that way. He went on to warn them that instead of pointing the finger at others,
they would do well to take heed of their own lives and actions.
After saying that, he also reminded them of God’s faithfulness and patience. He used the story of a fig tree and an owner that wanted it cut down, because it wasn’t bearing any fruit. If it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do get rid of it, was his policy. The gardener was not so ruthless. “Give it time” he said “and a little tender loving care, and see what happens.”
We never do find out what happens because the story ends there. How frustrating. How typical of Jesus. He loved open ended stories. I think he was telling us that God likes an open ended story as well: Creations story is open ended – it is still taking twists and turns. The earth’s story is open ended. Our human story is open ended. God does not feel the need to bring it to a quick conclusion. Yes, at times we make a real pigs ear out of it all, we lust for power, we place progress ahead of compassion and gentleness, we want quick solutions and conclusions to wars, conflicts, injustices, problems – and in seeking quick solutions we have the habit of making them 10 times worse. What our God throws into the equation is patience and faithfulness. Like the gardener in Jesus’ story, God seems to go down the road of “let’s give it a bit longer, let’s try a little tender loving care, let’s see what loving kindness can do.”

When we pray about this current conflict in the Ukraine, I expect we all try and wrap those who are suffering in God’s gentle loving care. But I wonder how many of us are spending time holding Vladimir Putin in God’s gentle love and care? I must admit, it didn’t occur to me until I began to write this sermon. Yet maybe, just maybe, with a prayer wave of love heading his way – a little holy tender loving care – Putin’s heart may change, and a shift may begin to take place. Like the owner of the fig tree it is easy to think chop it down and get rid of it, but maybe a little tender love and prayer could yet be the best solution. God seems to rate it as a plan.

In our Lenten Booklet I wrote about how Nelson Mandela learned that the long walk was the best way to end apartheid, rather than a violent revolution. Both he, and Desmond Tutu, learned to trust in the slow work of God – and allow love, compassion, gentleness, repentance and forgiveness, to take the place of wanting things our own way, now.
What is happening in the Ukraine is horrendous – we all want it to stop – but in the end only love, repentance, and a change of heart will bring a lasting solution. That doesn’t mean we do nothing – but it does means that we should truly test our motives before acting. Some things in life cannot be resolved with quick solutions, or by hasty knee-jerk reactions. Some things need a lot of prayer and a lot of love; some things need God’s patience and faithfulness.
In the mean time we must allow our hearts to be broken, and through that, allow love and compassion to flow to everyone involved in the conflict – both victim and aggressor alike. Let our hearts break, our love flow, and let’s trust in the slow work of God.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 19

Day 19 20th March Simone Weil

Simone Weil was born in Paris, of Jewish descent, in 1909. She was a philosopher and political activist, and although she came from an affluent background chose to live alongside those without privilege. Simone chose early in life to commit her time to improving conditions for the disadvantaged in life. She worked for a time as a labourer in factories and got involved in the trades union movement. As her life progressed she became attracted to, and lived by, the teachings of Jesus. Simone wrote, and was published, on various subjects but mainly on the spiritual life. Her writings on a whole though did not come to prominence until after her death, at the young age of 34, in Ashford, Kent, from tuberculosis.
Influenced by Jesus, whom she based her life around, she lived on the edge of things and refused to be hemmed in by any boundaries. She called herself a Christian, but still remained loyal to her Jewish heritage. She always refused to be baptised, or receive holy communion because she believed that she belonged on the edge. Along with staying loyal to her own heritage, she also freely explored and adopted practices from other spiritual traditions. “True religion is not a closed door, but an open one” she wrote, “which we are constantly called to pass through and beyond.”
Like Jesus, she was an activist on behalf of the poor, she championed worker’s rights, and stood alongside those whose voice was not heard or simply ignored. She wanted her life to be a bridge that brought people together, not a wall that divided. Her choice to live on the edge of things included living on the edge of life itself. When she was ill with tuberculosis she was sent to a sanitorium in Ashford, but despite her illness and the advice of her doctors, she refused to eat beyond the rations that her neighbours in German-occupied France would be able to get hold of. Even away from them and seriously ill, she kept to her principles of solidarity with those who were oppressed.
I have always loved that St Augustine’s is a church on the boundary: on the boundary of Lewisham, of the deanery, of the diocese of Southwark. It is symbolic of where the church belongs, where all true faith belongs. Jesus did not believe in religious institutions where some people felt they did not belong, or were told they did not belong. He constantly challenged those who lived by religious rules which left no room for compassion, and called his followers to do the same. Simone Weil reminds us of that calling.

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Some Quotes from Simone Weil

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Just as the power of the sun is the only force in the natural universe
that causes a plant to grow against gravity,
so the grace of God is the only force in the spiritual universe
that causes a person to grow against that gravity of their own ego.

We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles
but the grace to transform them.

There are only two things that pierce the human heart.
One is beauty.
The other is affliction.

Whenever one tries to suppress doubt, there is tyranny.

God’s love for us is not the reason we should love him.
God’s love for us is the reason for us to love ourselves.

Fortunately the sky is beautiful everywhere.

The world is God’s language to us.

Love of God is pure
when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude.

God is rich in mercy.
I know this wealth of his with the certainty of experience,
I have touched it.

Everything which originates from pure love
is lit with the radiance of beauty.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 18

Day 18 19th March Abraham Heschel

Abraham Heschel was a Jewish Rabbi born in Warsaw in 1907, and was the youngest of 6 children. He was an Orthodox Jew and a theologian and philosopher. Despite being from the Orthodox tradition, he was extremely open in his religious outlook and taught that no one tradition of religion could lay claim to the absolute truth, that we should respect and honour each other’s spiritual traditions. In 1938 when he was living in Frankfurt he was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Poland. Many of his family underwent greater sufferings; his mother was murdered by the Nazi regime, a sister was killed in a bombing raid, and 2 other sisters died in a concentration camp. When Poland was invaded Abraham Heschel was helped to escape to London, and then to New York where he settled and worked. He was greatly affected by what happened to his family and, like many others, carried the scars throughout his life. In America he became involved in the civil rights movement and openly spoke out against the war in Vietnam. He believed that at the heart of the Hebrew Scriptures was the call to work for justice for those who were oppressed. Martin Luther King Jr. called him a truly great prophet. He was asked to represent his tradition at the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s, and he influenced the Roman Catholic church to modify parts of its liturgy that was demeaning to the Jewish tradition, or which called for the conversion of all Jews to Christianity. He was also a prolific writer of books, many of which are highly acclaimed. He died in 1972 aged 65.
In one of his writings he says that when there is injustice and wrongs in our world that “some are guilty, but all are responsible.” He made it very clear that we are all part of each other, and that we all in some way share in both the worlds good and evil. We all have to take responsibility and work together to bring true peace and justice to our world.
It is very easy to become detached from what is happening in our society, either through denying that its problems have anything to do with us, or feeling so helpless in the face of them that we hide away from their reality. Abraham Heschel teaches us that small changes in our attitude can have a huge impact on our world. Simply by accepting that our own thinking, words and actions impact upon our world, we can make a difference; and seeking to understand, rather than just condemn and criticise, can open the door to change.

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Some Quotes from Abraham Heschel

When religion speaks only in the name of authority
rather than with the voice of compassion,
its message becomes meaningless.

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.

Faith is not a clinging to a shrine,
but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.

When I was young I admired clever people.
Now I am old I admire kind people.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.
Get up in the morning and look at the world
in a way that takes nothing for granted.
Everything is phenomenal;
everything is incredible;
never treat life casually.
To be spiritual is to be amazed.

The opposite of good is not evil;
the opposite of good is indifference.

Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity.
Know that every deed counts, that every word is power.
Above all,
remember that you must build your life
as if it were a work of art.

It is gratefulness that makes the soul great.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 17

Day 17 18th March Laurence of Rome

I love telling the story of St Laurence in school assemblies and the children love to hear it, especially the gruesome bits! And his story does have a gruesome conclusion. He was born in Valencia, Spain, in the third century, but moved to Rome when ordained and was chosen to be a deacon at the cathedral church. As deacon he was responsible for the treasury and the riches of the church, and also for the distribution of alms to the poor. In the year 258AD the emperor Valerian ordered that Bishops, priests and deacons should be put to death, and the Prefect of Rome demanded that that Laurence hand over all the riches and treasures of the church.
Lawrence agreed, but asked only that the prefect would take good care of those treasures, which the prefect agreed to. He then asked for three days grace in order to have time to gather all the wealth together and present it to the Prefect. In that three days Lawrence worked diligently to give away as much of the wealth as he possible could to the poor and needy in the community around him. When the days were up the Prefect arrived with a delegation to take possession of the church’s treasures and riches, and out of the Cathedral Laurence came with a procession of the needy, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and presented them to the Prefect saying: “These are the true treasures of the church, please take good care of them as agreed.”
As you can imagine, that did not go down too well with the Prefect who immediately had a fire lit in a pit and gridiron placed over the top. Laurence was secured to the gridiron and slowly roasted until he died. (Hope you are not reading this over breakfast!) And so Lawrence became one of the great martyrs of Rome.
I love the story, not because of the gruesome end, but because of what St Laurence teaches us about true wealth and treasure. We all enjoy visiting and worshipping in beautiful buildings that are built and used for the Glory of God, but Laurence reminds us that the true glory of God is not to be found in buildings and possessions but in those we are called to serve and love. This includes not just people, but also our wider community and the whole of creation. Laurence knew that a beautiful building meant nothing if it was not fulfilling the task it was built for, and he was willing to sacrifice his life to make that point. May we never forget where the true glory of God lies.

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Laurence of Rome did what he did because he knew that each and every one of us is made in the image of God and therefore are each treasures of God, containing divine wealth.
William of St Thierry, a 12th century monk, wrote:
“O Image of God, recognise your dignity, let the effigy of your Divine Creator shine forth in you. To yourself you may seem of little worth, but in reality you are precious. Be wholly present to yourself therefore, end employ yourself wholly in knowing your true self, and knowing whose image you are.”
A modern day Franciscan, Richard Rohr, writes:
“The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognise and recover the Divine Image in everyone. It is to mirror things correctly, deeply and fully. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there.”

Laurence of Rome did this in a most remarkable way and was willing to sacrifice his life to make known the true wealth in this world. This, as Richard Rohr says, is the essential work of all true religion.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 16

Day 16 17th March Pilgrim

Here is a saint that we do not know the name of, he has become known simply as Pilgrim. He lived in Russia in the middle of the 19th century. His parents died young and he was brought up by his grandparents, who ran a wayside Inn. As a result of an accident he had a withered arm, and his grandfather, fearful for his future, had him taught to read and write.
When he was in his early 20’s he took to the life as a pilgrim, and travelled to Holy Places. He scraped a small living here and there using his reading and writing skills; but mainly he begged for a few scraps of food to sustain him. This was not as difficult as it might be today because then pilgrims were held in high esteem. It was at this point in his life, that the pilgrim became struck by the verses from 1 Thessalonians 5, that we should pray without ceasing. It became his life long quest, if not obsession, to discover and understand what those words meant, and how they could be practiced.
He read a great deal, he listened to sermon after sermon on the subject of prayer, he sought the counsel of many, but all to no avail. Nothing gave him a satisfactory answer to his question. He began to become disillusioned with the whole thing, but that all changed when he met his Staretz. A Staretz is a monk who is steeped in prayer and has the wisdom to teach others. The pilgrim met his Staretz quite by chance while journeying along the road. The Staretz listened to his story and learned of his yearning to discover true depth in prayer. He invited him to his monastery to stay with him over night.
The Pilgrim accepted the invitation and the staretz introduced him to The Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”. He encouraged him to repeat the prayer over and over again until it became a part of him. He told him that once the prayer became entrenched in his heart, it would find a life of its own and would continue within him even when he was not conscious of it. Hence, if he was faithful to the prayer he would discover what it means to pray without ceasing. The Pilgrim did just that and taught it to others.
The Jesus Prayer is a Christian Mantra which has numerous variations. It can simply be the repetition of the name Jesus. My mantra is another version of it: “Jesus, Christe, Eleison”. This prayer can be repeated at any time, while walking, cleaning, sitting, or gardening for example. It is a wonderful simple prayer that can become an intimate part of our lives.

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From The Way of the Pilgrim

One day I was told that in a certain village a Staretz lived who spent his time in prayer and contemplation. Hearing this I ran rather than walked to the village, and found him. “What do you want of me?” he asked. “I have heard that you are a devout and wise teacher,” said I, “Please explain to me the meaning of the Apostles words ‘pray without ceasing’. How is it possible to pray without ceasing?”
He was silent for a while and looked at me closely. Then he said: “Ceaseless interior prayer is a continual yearning of the human spirit towards God. It is prayer itself which will reveal to you how it can be achieved unceasingly; but it will take some time.”
He took me into his cell and began to speak as follows. “The continuous interior prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling upon the divine Name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart; being aware of His constant presence, and imploring His grace at all times, in all places. The appeal is made with these words: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Once you have accustomed yourself to this prayer, it will continue to voice itself within you of its own accord.”
He then read to me the instruction of St. Simeon: “Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, close your eyes, breathe gently and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Shift your attention from your thoughts to your heart. As you breathe out, say ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.’ Say it moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process regularly.” After a while the Staretz sent me away with his blessing.

With continued use, the Prayer of the Heart has given me much consolation, and I have felt that there is no happier person on earth than I. Not only have I felt this in my own soul, but the whole outside world has seemed to me full of charm and delight. Everything draws me to love and gratitude of God; people, trees, plants, animals. I see them all as my kinsfolk, I have found in all of them the holiness of the Name of Jesus.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 15

Day 15 16th March John Main

It seems that a lot of my ‘saints’ seem to die at a fairly young age, which probably says beware if I regard you as a saint! John Main is another case in point, he died in 1982 at the age of 56. I first came across him in my late teens when I became interested in meditation as a form of prayer. He wrote and spoke extensively on Christian Meditation and praying with the use of a mantra. He worked in his early years for the British Colonial Service and was assigned to Kuala Lumpur. While he was working there he met a Hindu teacher Swami Satyananda who taught him to meditate using a mantra – the repeated use of a word or short sentence. He prayed this way for some years and only stopped when he became a Benedictine monk. But after a while, he realised that this form of prayer had a distinctive Christian background as well, so he began to use and teach a specific Christian form of it in his monastery. This method of praying, he simply called, Christian Meditation. It became extremely popular and John Main’s ministry began to focus specifically on teaching it and setting up a World Community of Christian Meditation.
The specific word John Main used and taught for the Mantra was Maranatha, an Aramaic word used in the New Testament, which means “Come Lord”. John Main taught that it should be prayed for 20 minutes twice a day. The Christian Meditation organisation is still going strong almost 40 years after his death, as people still find richness and value in this way of praying.
John Main’s writings had a significant impact on me as I learned to meditate. Like John Main I was first introduced to meditation from someone outside of the Christian tradition, by a Buddhist monk that I met in Bethnal Green. This wise man told me that meditation was part of my own tradition and one of the people he pointed me to was John Main. And while I did not use the mantra he suggested, I found him to be a good guide in my early years of meditation, as have countless others. Someone who has the gift of helping others discover and deepen their relationship with God is for me one the primary marks of a saint. John Main has certainly done that.
You don’t have to spend 20 minutes meditating or even do it twice a day. Just a few minutes a day can have a massive impact. Just choose a word or sentence and slowly, quietly, repeat it to yourself. That word or sentence becomes embedded in your soul, and draws you into God’s presence.

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From Word Into Silence by John Main

What all of us have to learn is not so much that we have to create silence. The silence is there within us. What we have learn to do is enter into it, to become silent, to become the silence. The purpose of meditation and the challenge of meditation is to allow ourselves to become silent enough to allow this interior silence to emerge. Silence is the language of the spirit.

The all important aim in Christian meditation is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality in our lives; to let it become the reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are.

Silence is absolutely necessary for the human spirit if it is really to thrive, and not only just to thrive, but to be creative, to have a creative response to life, to our environment, to friends. Because the silence give sour spirit room to breathe, room to be.

Sit still….say your mantra….There are no short cuts, there is no instant mysticism, but there is for each one of us the infinite love of God welling up in our own heart and that is more than sufficient.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 14

Day 14 15th March Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard is one of my favourite saints for so many different reasons. I first came across her through her music. She composed music for her nuns to sing in the monastery of which she was the Abbess, at Bingen, Germany, in the 12th century. She was born right at the end of the previous century in 1098 and lived until she was 81 years old. I find her music beautiful and haunting. On hearing her music I began to explore more about her life and discovered that she was also a herbalist and had great knowledge of plants and how they could be used in medicine. Hildegard was a great believer in the natural medicines of nature and through visions and her study she came to understand the “greening power of nature”, which she called Viriditas. She believed that whole of God’s creation contained this “greening power” and by being immersed in it we find healing and wholeness. The greening power, for Hildegard, was God’s Holy Spirit active and alive in creation. She also wrote poetry, and books on the use of plants and herbs in the healing process, as well as works on theology. She was consulted by people from all strata’s of society, including statesman, bishops and pope’s; and was never afraid to challenge those in authority if she thought them to be unjust. She was a renowned preacher and travelled much to preach and give talks.
When contemplating what I would write about Hildegard I was torn between stressing her life as a composer or her work as a healer and visionary. As much as I love the music of Hildegard, it is her role as a healer, and her visionary writing on the greening power of God in nature that fascinates me most about this incredible woman.
Hildegard is still spoken about and written about in many of the modern writings on nature and healing. She is written about by scientists who are beginning to find more and more evidence that Hildegard was correct in what she wrote about the healing power of nature. Many scientific experiments have taken place testing how spending time in the natural world aids both physical and mental health; how it both works in a preventative way, and greatly facilitates healing for those who are suffering. What many of the saints and mystics like Hildegard instinctively knew through their prayer lives and studies is now given scientific backing – that when we spend a good amount of time in midst of nature our health is supported. Hildegard knew that God touches our lives through creation.

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Some poetry of Hildegard of Bingen

No creature has meaning
without the word of God.
God’s Word is in all creation,
visible and invisible.
The Word is living, being Spirit,
all verdant, all creativity.
The Word flashes out
in every creature.
This is how the Spirit is,
in the flesh –
the Word is
indivisible from God.

Endless Strength!
Your love authorised life
when you spoke that one Word.
You’re the one who ordered
order, created
creation, Your own
way.
And Your Word dressed Himself
in flesh.

The Holy Spirit animates
all, moves
all, roots
all, forgives
all, cleanses
all, erases
all
our past mistakes, and then
puts medicine on our wounds.
We praise this Spirit of Incandescence
for awakening
and reawakening
all
creation.

God is life.
God lives in every created thing –
invisible life that sustains all.
The air is life,
greening and blossoming;
the waters flow with life;
the sun is lit with life.
All creation is gifted
with the ecstasy
of God’s life.

Lent 2022 A Saint a Day for Lent Day 13

Day 13 14th March Desmond Tutu

When I first began to write these reflections last Summer, Desmond Tutu was not on my list of saints to include in them, because I was only including those who had died. I wrote in my original introduction that I considered him to be our greatest living saint. Sadly, Desmond died on Boxing Day of last year and hence I now include him in the reflections.
It is so difficult to know where to begin with this extraordinary man. Even before he became famous as the Archbishop of Cape Town, his role in the fight against apartheid, and all that followed in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s election victory; Desmond Tutu had a growing reputation as a holy man. He will, of course, be always associated with the struggles for justice in South Africa, but his impact on our world is even bigger than that. For me, more than anything, Desmond Tutu stands for a belief in a God whose immeasurable love covers the whole human race. Black and white, rich and poor, male and female, gay and straight and every other conceivable aspect of our human journey. My favourite quote by him is the following one, which perfectly sums up his personality. He said:

“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven.
God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low!”

I love that particular quote because it sums up for me everything I love about him. He was a man of immense love and compassion, and that grew from his faith in a God who is unconditional love and compassion. He was a man with a powerful sense of justice, because he believed in God who is passionate about justice, not only for all human life but the whole of creation. He was a man with an incredible capacity for forgiveness, because he knew deep down that none of us are perfect and all are capable of messing up big time. He was a man of immense gratitude, because he saw the whole of life as a gift, and knew that gratitude was at the centre of truly enjoying life’s gifts, and sharing them. Above all, he was a man of overflowing joy that was contagious, and flowed from him like a stream taking all who met him in its currents. He suffered a great deal but nothing diminished his holy joy.
Today lets recognise and enjoy those holy gifts of love, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and joy, within ourselves and in each other; and like Desmond Tutu learn to share them abundantly.

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From In God’s Hand’s by Desmond Tutu

St Paul tells the Corinthians that each of them is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). We genuflect as we reverence the Blessed Sacrament, having been alerted to its presence by the white or red lamp burning in front of it or over the sanctuary. If we truly believed that we are each a God Carrier and a Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit then we would not just greet each other by shaking hands, we would bow deeply as the Buddhists do, or genuflect in front of each other: “The God in me greets the God in you.”
Imagine what the world would be like if we did regard one another as God-carriers of intimate worth! How could we mistreat, bomb or torture a fellow God- carrier?
None of us chooses our race, our gender, our sexual orientation. These are extrinsic to who we are: those extraordinary creatures made in the image of our Creator, endowed with an intrinsic worth that nothing can destroy.
You and I are God’s viceroys, God’s stand-ins. It is something almost impossible to take in. What would happen in our world were we to act appropriately in relation to this remarkable assertion?

From The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu

We are, every one of us, so very flawed and so very fragile. I know that, where I born a member of the white ruling class at that time in South Africa’s past, I might easily have treated someone with the same dismissive disdain with which I was treated. I know, given the same pressures and circumstances, I am capable of the same monstrous acts as any other human being on this achingly beautiful planet. It is this knowledge of my frailty that helps me find my compassion, my empathy, my similarity, and my forgiveness for the frailty and cruelty of others.

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent

One of the saints in our Lenten Booklet is John Muir. Born in Scotland, his family emigrated to the United States in 1884 when John was just 11 years old. His love of Nature and his campaigning led to America developing the world’s first National Parks to protect nature and wild places. John Muir spent much of his life walking and exploring the wilderness, which he called God’s Primary Holy Temple. He saw God’s presence everywhere from the most beautiful flower, to the ugliest looking bug. Each of them for him were a wordless sermon proclaiming God’s glory.
As well as being an explorer of God’s holy presence in creations beauty, John Muir was also a prolific writer, and his books read like an evangelical tract. He was so convinced that God was clearly visible in the whole of creation, that he preached to anyone who would listen to get outside and breathe God in, and become immersed in the holy.
In one of my favourite passages from his books he wrote how one day he went out for a walk and ended up being baptised 3 times. Firstly, he said, by the sun that elevated his soul and warmed his joints, later by the stream and waterfall he passed and pure clear water, and thirdly by the wild flowers that illuminated his path.
Being baptised, being drenched in God’s holy presence and love, was for
John Muir a daily experience. Every aspect of God’s creation, he said, was a conductor of the sacred. He also wrote that Jesus sermon on the mount was repeated daily on every mount, in every valley, every meadow, in the very breeze – that the whole of life was vibrating with God’s presence and love.
John Muir knew that God’s holy presence was there for anyone to see, if they would just open their eyes and hearts. The children being baptised in our worship today reminds us of that. They are baptised today with the waters of baptism, with the oil of Chrism, and are immersed in the light of God’s holy presence in their lives. But their baptism does not stop there.
Their baptism this morning is a sacred reminder to them and to us, that we are baptised again and again in holy love every day of our lives.
Yes we are baptised each day by the wonder, the beauty, and glory of God’s creation. We are baptised also by the love of family and friends; we are baptised by words of gentleness spoken to us in times of need; we are baptised by every act of kindness that is offered to us. We are baptised whenever someone smiles at us and says good morning; We are baptised each time someone forgives us a wrong we have done; or each time we forgive a wrong done to us. We are baptised by gratitude that others share with us, and also the gratitude we extend to others. God is present in the whole of life and the sacrament of baptism never stops flowing. We are also called to be baptisers of others; by receiving baptism we become baptisers. We are all called to baptise people each day in God’s love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and wonder. May the baptism we share in with these children this morning remind each and every one of us of the daily sacraments embedded in life, that we may learn each day to draw from them, be immersed in them, and to share them with others on our life’s journey.
We each are the body of Christ. Let’s receive it, embrace it, and share it on each days holy journey.