Author Archives: gavinstaug

Tuesday March 26th 2019

Matthew 16 26
What is the point in gaining the whole world and forfeiting your life?

What Jesus is talking about here in forfeiting life is not necessarily dying,
but forfeiting everything that is good and meaningful about life.
I have spoken to many people over the years
who have climbed the ladder of success or followed a dream,
only to find that they have neglected the very things that truly matter.
This is why Jesus encourages us to place the lamp of faith,
the lamp of spiritual practice, in the most prominent place in our life;
because it illuminates what is truly valuable in life,
and keeps it firmly in focus.
The lamp of true faith and spiritual practice is the light of love.
It is love that truly matters.
Love of God; Love of others; and Love of ourselves.
Each go hand in hand.
…………………………
 
To paraphrase St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13

I may have enough Faith to move mountains.
I may have enough drive to make millions.
I may have enough personality to be popular and successful.
I may have enough vision to lead people to the next level.
I may have enough strength to stick with my principles and beliefs.
I may have enough fight to prove my doubters wrong.
But if I have not love, I am but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have not love it is all pure show and pretence.
If I have not love I’m simply barking up the wrong tree,
digging in the wrong place,
or have climbed the ladder against the wrong wall.
Without love I have nothing.

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Monday 25th March

Mark 4:21 Do you buy a lamp and put it under a bowl?

No, says, Jesus, if you buy a lamp you put it on a lampstand.
So often we fall into the trap of placing our faith, our spiritual life,
which should be the light of our life, under a bowl of convenience.
We bring the lamp out at convenient times,
when it will not interfere too much with the rest of our life,
and then place it back under the bowl until the next time we feel the urge.
What a waste! Says Jesus. It belongs on the lampstand,
where it can give light and vision to the rest of life.
The light of faith is not something that should be separated from life,
but central to it, shining out in everything that we are and do.
How can we make sure that our spiritual life is central?
What little changes can we make to each day to remind us
that our light belongs on the lampstand, where it is prominent
and can influence and inspire every part of our life?
……………………….

Dorothy Walters
 We are all
Writing God’s poem,
Inscribing it into our bodies
Breathing it into our cells.

Night and day
We make love with the light.
Where it is taking us
We dare not ask

We know only
That it is the love
That makes us
Remember our beginnings,
Particles dancing in holy fire.

 
St Francis of Assisi
 Such love
does the sky now pour
that whenever I stand in a field
I have to wring out the light
when I get home.

Sunday 24th March 2019

Sermon for Lent 3

“What can I do to attain a full and beautiful experience of God?” the disciple asked.
The saint ignored her disciples question and asked one of her own:
“What can you do to ensure that the sun shines in the morning?”
“Absolutely nothing” said the disciple, “it is totally out of my control.”
“The answer to your question is exactly the same” said the saint.
The disciple threw up her arms in exasperation and asked:
“So what is point of all this worship, prayer, and spiritual practice you encourage us to do?”
The saint smiled and said:
“To make sure that you are awake when the sun shines.”

Lent is a time when we are encouraged to renew our spiritual practice,
and maybe even to add a few extra bits during this holy season.
But the simple truth is that no matter how many times we come to church,
or how often we pray; or how many things we give up for lent;
or how diligent we are in reading our Lenten reflections –
we cannot influence God to give us a fuller experience of holy presence or love.
So why do we do it?
As the saint said – to make sure we are awake when the sun shines.
To make sure we are open to receive all that God longs to give.

Our spiritual practice does not make it happen, God does not reward clever prayer.
God pours down holy love as pure gift, God comes to us out of pure grace.
We can’t make it happen, we can’t earn it, we can’t manipulate God.
All we can do is to prepare our hearts as best we can
to receive the blessings that God freely bestows.
Our worship together, our times of prayer, our times of reflection –
they don’t make anything happen,
they simply help us to be open to receive what God gives as pure grace and gift.

I have my main time of prayer and meditation early in the day,
it is what works best for me.
But, you know, most days while I am in the midst of my prayer,
while I am repeating my mantra, following my breath, moving my prayer beads,
I wonder what the eck I am doing. My mind is often all over the place.
Instead of it being focused on God, it is planning my days diary,
or mulling over a conversation I had the day before,
or agitating over an old concern that I am finding hard to let go.
Or worse still, I suddenly find I am fantasising of scoring a goal at Wembley,
or being a brilliant jazz guitarist – or worse!
You know, some days I wonder if I am not just wasting my time trying to meditate and pray because I am just so bad at it!
It would be very easy to just give it up as a bad job and have an extra hour in bed.

But, but. I know from experience
that when I struggle with my mornings meditation the day flows better;
I stay much calmer; life feels richer,
and I recognise God’s hand in small unspectacular events in the day.
My prayer does not make that happen.
My prayer is certainly not Premiership quality – its Northern village pub league at best!

But what spending that time does, no matter how poor we think it is,
is makes us open to receive what God freely gives through pure love and grace.
You know God is an amazing improviser – God can make a little go a long way.
No matter how paltry we think our offering of prayer and worship is,
God can use it to amazing effect, whether we realise that is happening or not.
It is not the quantity or quality of our prayer that matters –
but the quantity and quality of God’s love.

So this holy season of Lent encourages us just to keep going in practicing our faith.
To come to worship as regularly as we can. To come to prayer as best we can.
Follow our spiritual path as closely as we can –
and not beat ourselves up when we seem to get it all wrong.
Lent encourages us to do these things not because it will make us saints,
but because it will open us to the saintliness God has already bestowed upon us.
God only needs a little opening to pour divine presence into our day.

So do I encourage you to make it a spiritual discipline
to come to church week after week? Of course I do.
I can advise nothing better. I think it is a vital foundation to spiritual life.
It won’t ensure the sun shines in the morning
but it will help you be awake when it does.
It will not give any of us a greater influence over God,
But it will open us
to allow God a greater influence over us and over our lives in the coming week.

Thursday 21st – Saturday 23rd March 2019

Thursday 21st March

Matthew 14:31 Why did you doubt?

A question that we often ask ourselves! Why did I doubt?
I am sure Jesus asked this question with a smile on his face.
He had walked across the water to where once again
they were struggling against the elements.
Peter, full of confidence responded to his beckoning to come
by stepping out of the boat and onto the water.
Then fears crept in: What if I sink? What if I drown?
His trust deserted him and he felt like a failure.
Jesus reached out his hand, caught him, and held him;
as he does you and me, time and time and time again.
We are called, we are chosen, we are God’s precious creation,
we will never be left alone, no matter how many times we doubt.
………………………………………..

When in Hours of Fear and Failing  by Novalis
 
When in hours of fear and failing,
All but quite our hearts despairs;
When, with sickness driven to wailing,
Anguish at our bosom tears.
Then our loved ones we remember;
All their grief and trouble rue;
Clouds close in on our December
And no beam of hope shines through.
Then, oh then! God bends him o’er us;
Then his love grows very clear!
Long we heavenward then – before us
Lo, his angel standing near!
Life’s cup fresh to us he reaches;
Whispers comfort, courage new;
Nor in vain our prayer beseeches
Rest for the believer too.

Friday 22nd March

Matthew 6:28   Why are you anxious?

Good question. Why are we anxious?
If anxiety was a problem in the time of Jesus,
It must really be an epidemic now.
We live in a very anxious and stressed out world,
and we find ourselves getting worked up about so many different things.
One of the things Jesus suggested to those around him
was that they spent time considering the lilies of the field
and birds of the air.
That advice is probably even more important in this day and age
when we are becoming more and more cut off from nature and beauty.
Research has shown time and time again that spending more time
in the natural world, and among things of beauty,
is essential for a good balanced life,
and helps to control our anxiety and stress.
Why are you anxious?
Do you need more time contemplating beauty?
…………………………………………

I Worried     by Mary Oliver
 
I worried a lot. Will the gardens grow, will the rivers
Flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing,
even the sparrows can do it and I am, well, hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing,
and gave it up. And took my old body
and went into the morning
and sang.

 
Saturday 23rd March
 
Matthew 6:25 Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

In the same passage in which Jesus speaks about anxiety
he also asks questions about our obsession with food and clothing,
and I am sure that he was also referring to other material things.
Of course we need adequate food, clothing, etc. in order to live well;
What Jesus is referring to is our demand for more, and bigger and better.
Our modern, consumer driven, society tells us again and again
that we cannot live without this or that, or the latest new fad.
We have forgotten how to live simply and within our means;
and, even more importantly, within our beautiful planet’s means.
We do not need to have the latest designer clothing,
or the richest choicest food, that dream car, holiday, or home,
in order to be content and happy.
We have just been fooled into thinking we do.
Is not life more than material possessions? Jesus asks.
The challenge we face is to discover that it is.
……………………………..

R.S Thomas   The Gift
 
Some ask the world
and are diminished
in the receiving
of it. You gave me
only this small pool
that the more I drink
from, the more overflows
me with sourceless light.

Rumi

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty; the bounty is its shell.
For thanksgiving carries you to the heart of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness;
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness.
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
And you will be freed from hunger and begging.

Wednesday 20th March 2019

John 6:70 Have I not chosen you?

When we are afraid and feel inadequate and defenceless,
and struggle to trust and be confident in God’s strength and presence,
maybe we should remember this question that Jesus asked his disciples:
Have I not chosen you?
He asks us the very same question: Have I not chosen you?
Whatever we may think and feel about ourselves,
however inadequate or feeble that we may feel;
we should always remind ourselves again and again and again,
that God has chosen us – just as we are.
God has chosen you and God has chosen me.
God sees in us things we cannot see, he knows us, loves us,
and created each and every one of us in God’s own image.
Yes, there are times when each and every one of us feel inadequate,
are fearful and cannot seem to summon the trust we need to move on.
But God knows we are much more than we can ever imagine.
Have I not chosen you?
…………………………………………………

Thomas Keating

The greatest accomplishment in life
is to be who you are,
and that means to be
who God chose you to be
when he created you.

Tuesday 19th March 2019

Mark 4:40 Have you no faith?

When the disciples were caught in the storm with Jesus out on the sea,
and he asked them what they were afraid of,
he immediately followed it with another question: Have you no faith?
With this question he reminded them of how they should confront fear –
with faith, with trust, with knowledge that they are not alone.
Our fears isolate us, they make us feel we are alone and inadequate,
fear can restrict our lives, our hopes and dreams.
With his follow up question Jesus was challenging his disciples
to use their faith and trust in God to help them face their fear.
Fear makes us feel small and defenceless, we feel we will be swamped.
Trust helps us to slowly come to the realisation that we are not alone;
that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9),
and that we have inner resources we did not realise that we have.
We all have our fears; at times they threaten to overwhelm us,
but we also have an inner strength, and God will never leave us.
……………………………………………………..

 
The Way it is by William Stafford
 
There is a thread that you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
Or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
 

 

 

18th March 2019

Mark 4:40 What are you afraid of?

I remember my spiritual director once asking me what I was afraid of,
and me looking at him puzzled. I was about to begin in my new parish,
I was full of confidence and was not aware of being afraid of anything.
When I met him a few months later I had a whole list of things!
What if I fail? What if they decide they don’t like me?
What if I’m not up to the job? What if I let them and God down?
We all have fears, fear is a natural and important part of life.
But we have to be aware of our fears, otherwise they control us,
they restrict us and make us less than we are.
When Jesus asked his disciples that question,
I am sure he was thinking of much more
than the storm that threatened to sink their boat.
To grow they had be aware of, and willing to confront, their fears.
Are we aware of, and willing to confront, our own?
…………………………………

“Do not be afraid” is one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible.
That does not mean that we should never feel fear,
it is simply an invitation to face it and not run away from it.
Fear is part of life, an important part of life, it helps to be cautious.
It becomes a problem when it restricts us from living .
As the Spanish priest, Pablo D’hor, writes:
“Many go to the river and do not swim,
or go to the mountains and do not climb,
or to life without living,
or to humanity without loving”
and the reason for this is fear;
fear of what may go wrong, fear of getting hurt.
The Bible, Jesus, encourages us to look at our fear,
get acquainted with it, and learn to move beyond it.
When we open our eyes and look at it,
it is never quite as daunting as it first seems.