thought for the week

Rector’s December thoughts

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in thought for the week | 0 comments

It is a strange thing writing any kind of article for publication; because, by necessity, it is written a good time before the actual piece is printed – in this case a good two weeks before December, and a month before Christmas itself. Being topical can therefore be a challenge. For instance, in my current world it is mid-November, and I am not really feeling very festive, yet somehow I have to write about it. We have just marked Remembrance Sunday, All Saints and All Souls, which whilst dignified and important, for me they are among the most difficult services I perform – they form part of a season of sorrows, and I cannot be detached from it. Then of course, only a few days ago we had yet another example of people wishing to kill and murder in Paris, to bomb and destroy – hatred-fuelled destruction perpetrated by people perverting and abusing religion for their own aims, and to their shame. This is a really important point. People perverting and abusing religion is exactly the same as people abusing and perverting money, people, power or position. It is shameful, and not anything to do with religion – rather, it is selfish, egotistical and reprehensible. I know of no religion that thinks this is the correct way to live your life. It is not Christian, nor is it Islamic. Soon we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. The world He was born into was not less dangerous or evil – it seems humanity is quite good and persistent at perpetrating evil, especially against fellow human beings, and especially if they are weaker, or less important, or just less…… Jesus came from God to remind us that whilst the world is what it is, it does not have to be so. God felt so moved that he sent His son so that we might know God understands the sorrow of this world. God offers us hope through Jesus, Jesus the light among the darkness giving everybody salvation, especially those who are weaker, marginalised, persecuted; it is this that we celebrate at Christmas. In the Gospel of John Chapter 1, right at the outset, the Gospel writer wants us to understand this and says ‘In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1, 4-5). This light is Jesus – just in case you were wondering. The sadness of the events in Paris, in Beirut, in Turkey.………. is depressing. Perhaps it causes you to think: 1st what type of world are we living in? 2nd how can we make sense of it all? 3rd how can we celebrate Christmas in the light of all that has gone on? Answers: the world is broken – but it doesn’t have to be; second we cannot, it makes no sense – it is pure evil; and third – well, we have to, it’s what we do. Christians celebrate Christmas, and Christmas reminds us that even in a world full of darkness, hate and persecution, God broke into the darkness to show us the way to salvation. The light of Christ is really, really important, especially this Christmas. We celebrate the prince of Peace. Peace be with you all this Christmas. Every Blessing...

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Strings, vacuuming and above all, suffering…

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in thought for the week | 0 comments

Over the last few days I have been suffering the most ghastly levels of pain. The pain is in my lower back – I want to tell you that it is a result of an injury sustained scoring the winning try playing Rugby, or as part of an intrepid mountain rescue team – saving someone in peril, abseiling, skiing a black run, husky racing, doing the Tuff Mudder anything other than the truth, the truth which seems utterly unbelievable, my injury, an injury that resulted in the most pain I have ever experienced in my entire life was sustained whilst hoovering – I know; I ask myself the same question, what on earth was I doing hoovering in the first place? What adds insult to injury is that I wasn’t even really doing the hoovering properly; I was sort of lazily pushing the thing about the living room completely preoccupied by the silly question ‘ in String Theory, what does it mean to say the point like points of particles interact with each other in one dimension?’ (I think that was what I was thinking but really like String Theory – who cares?) When, as I turned the corner of the coffee table I felt a pain that resulted with me lying flat on the floor for three hours unable to get up or to move at all. While I was laying on the floor in complete agony and unable to move, in a moment of complete sorrow I thought to myself, what would Jesus do? I concluded he probably wouldn’t dial 111 because he wouldn’t need to; neither would He have whinged as proficiently as I. I did conclude however, that whilst the idea of Jesus suffering back pain doesn’t really seem particularly valid, I do know that in fact Jesus very well knew pain and suffering – Jesus was killed in the most awful of ways, crucified so that we might see the Cross as something that speaks ‘for us’ in the vicarious atonement it offers, but also ‘against us’ when we consider the continued pain and suffering of the world. The Cross is a constant and powerful reminder that Christians are working for the Kingdom of God, which will be perfect, but it so evidently not yet, the world for many still despite all modern advances and wealth a place of injustice, hardship, poverty and neglect. What would Jesus do? We all know the answer; He would give up everything, even His life in agony and pain to see each of us have a chance of living in paradise, a gift truly undeserved but never- the-less on the table – a paradox isn’t it? God loving us so much He would suffer pain and humiliation just so that we might know He loves us – so what should we do? Well I cannot help but finish with the beautiful Benediction from the Prayer Book, ‘Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good, render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour everyone, and be very; very, careful hoovering....

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On the journeys of St. John

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in thought for the week | 0 comments

I have had a brilliant summer. One great highlight has been to visit Ephesus in Turkey, although – and I have to write this in case she reads this paper – this only closely rivals my youngest daughter’s university graduation in Leeds (it goes without saying the architectural comparisons between Leeds and Ephesus are of course evident for anyone to see, should they wish to visit this magnificent northern city). Ephesus, even though a ruin, is simply an amazing place full of ancient monuments and incredible architecture, so much so it really is difficult to take it all in. Another simply amazing thing to know is that the first Christian community in Ephesus was founded by St John – yes I know, the very same St John who wrote the mind boggling brilliant Gospel delving the deepest mysteries of God Himself – that St John. He wrote his Gospel here in Ephesus, and he, St John, is buried in a tomb not too distant from the ancient city. St Paul also spent some considerable time in Ephesus, about three years, on his way back from visiting the city of Corinth in Greece. I walked along the same streets as St John and St Paul. I stood where they more than probably stood. I gazed upon the Christian markers set into the marble and stone that identified people and households as Christian; people and households who may have come to faith because they knew, saw, heard these two great Christian saints. It doesn’t stop there either. Just outside Ephesus on one of the high mountains, is the house attributed to be the home of St Mary, the Mother of Jesus – Mary the Theotokos, Mary the God Bearer! Now I have to say, by the time we visited Mother Mary’s house my wife’s patience was beginning, in an ecclesial sense, to fade – but I persevered and I have to say it was worth every moment of disapproval. St Mary’s house as a place was breathtaking. I was not allowed to linger as I was robustly moved along by a large paramilitary-looking fellow who seemed too important to argue with. But the space was what I can only describe in Celtic spirituality terms as a ‘Thin Place’, a place where the boundaries between heaven and earth collide. In such spaces people can seek God and feel God’s power in spine-tingling other-worldliness – like being punched in the chest by God’s very presence, literally breath-taking. This is what it felt like in this little room. As you come out of the house where Mary the Mother of God once lived, all are invited to light a candle and to write a prayer to be put on a prayer wall, a wall 60ft long and 6ft tall and covered head to foot in prayer cards. I do not know how many prayers there were that day for Peace, but my suspicion is that this was the predominant prayer, along with the one that went around my head for the rest of the day, ‘Hail Mary full of Grace, Our Lord is with Thee, Blessed art thou among women……pray for us...

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The brilliance of God’s Gift to us

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in thought for the week | 0 comments

When I worked in York Diocese, the Archbishop of York was very fond of telling us that if we had nothing to say, then we should only talk about Jesus. This is I think a noble sentiment, especially, but of course not exclusively, if you are talking to clergy persons, which he was. He was also rather keen to tell us that if we think worship is boring, or goes on too long, then we should wait until we are in heaven, because in heaven the only thing to do is worship God. ABY pointed out that in the Book of Revelation among other places, we are quite clearly told that ‘from the throne of heaven came a voice saying, Praise our God, all you his servants, Worship God!’ The suggestion is that we were created to worship God always, forever, eternally, so this is what we will do in the heavenly realm. Now this might mess up your hope of what a heavenly paradise should look like, sat by the pool sipping a Piña Colada in your budgie smugglers, for instance. And the problem when you only have 500 words, which is clearly not an eternity, is how to succinctly and pragmatically express that future destiny of humankind – eternity in heaven – eternally worshipping God. Well actually this is far easier than you might think, and it is not at all boring, and I refer you to my first sentence – Jesus! That’s right there is nothing more fantastic, amazing and brilliant than the gift God gave to us first – Jesus Christ. Now, I realise that some of you reading this may not believe me when I say Jesus is fantastic and brilliant, which of course I affirm He is. But even if you do not worship God, you probably are likely already to be in a cycle of some sort of worship, whether you realise it or not. If it is not the righteous and spiritual, then it might possibly be a consumerist cultural god – television, celebrity, money, success, power or shopping – for instance. This does not make you a bad person, but it does mean you are missing the point of being alive – fulfilment is not an achievable consumerist goal; but it is a spiritual outcome. Worship of God is the inoculation against all the transitory garbage we are peddled in our everyday lives; it helps us to focus on what is really important in the world – justice, equality, spiritual love and mutual respect – worshipping God is life-giving and life-affirming. Living in this world does not mean that you are not able to taste the joys of God’s love today either, but one does have to do something about it – and that something is Worship God. Renewal of focus of priorities, and joy at being alive, starts with knowing Jesus Christ. Give Him a go, He never...

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Rector’s thoughts for August

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in thought for the week | 1 comment

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I worked for the Prison Service. I did this for quite some time, eighteen years or so. I saw many wonderful and spectacular things. Every once in a while, every few months or so, a cohort of young persons would arrive in prison that were on the ‘accelerated promotion scheme’. I never really minded this because not only do I genuinely believe everyone needs to be given a chance, but also the propensity for comic moments increased by about 70%. The problem for the Prison Department was that somewhere in the selection process I believe they had clearly forgotten that knowledge did not equate to Wisdom. Often the antics of these young fresh-out-of-university officers resulted in moments of pure hilarity. For instance, on one occasion I remember one young officer who was soon to be in charge of an entire department, hand-cuff himself to a walkway railing instead of hand-cuffing the prisoner who has hitting him over the head with a Hoover – that scenario needs some further explanation to fully understand entirely, but really it could only have been him. What really made the spectacle all the more strange was that young man thought to add gravitas to his appearance by growing a large straggly beard and smoking a pipe – I know, the recollection of the scene amuses me to this day. Wisdom is, as we all know, not something that can be bought, or indeed bestowed because you have a beard or smoke a pipe. Now as I am writing this it occurs to me I know a few people around here that do have beards and smoke pipes, but the inference is purely coincidental – I assure you. Wisdom is something gained with experience and with time. It is also something in the Christian sense that creates right action. It is the result of doing the right thing, and it is the ability to see and cut through all the nonsense and leads to the making of proper informed and enlightened judgements. In Proverbs 11:30 we are told: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. How do we do this? Well at the beginning of each service we have a summary of the law, and it goes something like this. ‘Love your God, love your neighbour’. How do we do this? Well, I’ll give you another example. The other day I attended a rather pleasant meeting at the house of one of our most active church members, attended by a profusion of other active church members. The meeting was to discuss the Upper Itchen Community Visitors group. The whole evening was a really pleasant opportunity to talk to the assemblage about all the wonderful work they do – visiting people in hospital, and in their own homes. It is surprising – but I realise it shouldn’t be – how many people they visit. It is also surprising how quietly they get on with the job, no fuss, no commotion, just the desire that no one in our villages and community is left on their own, or that anyone who is ill does not receive a visitor. This group do great work. And of course it is something that gives not only satisfaction to the person doing the visiting, but also the person being visited, to whom it is often a great relief that they have not been forgotten about. I mention this group of intrepid Christian people as they would dearly like to expand their...

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Rector excels at table sports

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in thought for the week | 0 comments

Earlier this month, I discovered something quite remarkable about myself. It was at my eldest daughters 25th birthday party, held in a marquee in the Rectory garden – I discovered I am truly awesome at Beer-pong. Beer-pong, just in case you are unfamiliar, or have not attended university in the last twenty to thirty years is where you rack up beer glasses containing some sort of libation, just as you would a snooker rack, at each end of a long table. You are then required to throw a Ping-Pong ball into any of the glasses at your opponents end, and if you do so they have to drink the contents. Now, believe me when I say I do not wish to encourage binge drinking, because obviously the drink does not have to be alcoholic, but if it isn’t what’s the point? In this instance it was, and I will confess it was the most fun I have had in years. My opponents, variably around the age of twenty five years old thought it absolutely incredible that they were unable to beat me, a middle aged vicar able to triumph over all and sundry at their own game, their incredulity absolutely palpable. The thing is, between rounds of Beer-pong and whilst gathered in the old battered ex-army marquee, the young people sat along long benches, talking, laughing and asking an infeasibly large amount of questions, some of them quite deep, considered and intelligent, they asked the type of questions many people have; but often avoid, these young people were doing theology – I also, and perhaps because I’m wired this way could not get from my mind the Da Vinci(esc) last Supper type image that was in front of me, a collection of friends, gathered together along a long table – weird! The thing is the reoccurring question, the reoccurring theme was not seemingly is there a God, but how do we know Him? I enthusiastically proclaimed – ‘Jesus!! He is the only way to truly know God, because God is love, and unless you love Jesus you cannot truly love God’. If I am honest, I am not sure why these young people seemed to not already know this? I earnestly pointed out to them that actually Jesus is the coolest bloke at the party, His first miracle turning water into wine was just the start of Him letting the world know He is the coolest bloke at the party, wherever He went people thronged to see Him, be with Him, touch Him, because He is amazing! As I finished my homily to stunned silence, the chilled silence and the situation was salvaged when my youngest daughter shouted, anyone for...

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