Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Christmas magazine article

The Vicar writes . . .

“God is with us!”
Is it all Good News??

One of the difficulties of settling into a new culture is the slowly dawning realization, that for all our common cultural inheritance and language, like the past “they do things differently”. Those of you whom we have come to live amongst, who have grown up in these most beautiful of islands, have been deeply embedded in a way of life and a way of understanding the world which is strange and new to my family and myself and it takes time to adjust.
            One of the BIG differences of course is that no-one here thinks it at all odd to celebrate Christmas in mid-summer J The seemingly infinitely variable weather may well mean that wind makes moan, but it is unlikely to be frosty; the earth is not standing hard like iron – rather it is perfect for rapidly growing vegetables for the Christmas table! But, that is a good thing for it is all too easy for any of us to be lulled into cosy sentiment regarding Christmas, wherever we may live – and vicars, having to speak to Christmas year in year out, need their perspectives renewing more than most!
            Christmas for many of us, is a time of fixed traditions – of that which has its Sacrosanct Place in the year to year cycle of events. It is something we may look forward to, because of that familiarity. We know what it will bring and so may well be a comfort to us. Just like those familiar words, plain for all to see on the sign by the church drive, “God is with us”.

To say that these words have been misused and abused down the years is only to state the obvious. One need only think of how from the latter part of the nineteenth century in Europe and Germany in particular, through to the fall of the Third Reich, these words were emblazoned on helmets and belt buckles and buttons of military uniform – to see this in its most blatant form. But as it is blasphemous so to take the name of the Lord and use it in vain in this way – to attach the name of the Lord to any of our projects and thus Baptise them - so also we must be very careful of reducing those words to the kind of cosy sentiment which years of our Christmas traditions might have done. Matthew uses these familiar words, “God is with us”, from the Prophet Isaiah  - wherein the one who is called Immanuel is not only a sign of a Salvation beyond comprehension, but also a devastating Judgment on the powers that be. You may like to take a look at chapter seven and eight of the prophet Isaiah and read this for yourself. Salvation and Judgment go hand in hand – they are Present to us in Christ, God with us.

The very circumstances of Jesus’ birth, if we are to read the narrative as intended, sees the birth of Christ forcing even the mighty Roman empire to be re-organised, as Bethlehem becomes the epicentre for the action of God. And in response, ‘the powers that be’ are unleashed with demonic force.
‘Herod then with fear was filled – “a prince”, he said “in Jewry”. 
All the little boys he killed at Beth’lem in his fury!’

 Imagine for a moment being someone caught up in all of this – perhaps being forced to travel for a census, or fleeing from Herod’s wrath, or worse, and being told ‘this is because the words of the prophet “God is With Us”, are coming true in this time!’ The story thus takes on a very different hue – this is no sentimental image.
As Mary herself proclaims, the arrival of Immanuel pronounces unimaginable upheaval – “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away”

Last month I gave some space here to the Beatitudes, amongst them Blessed are those that mourn. As we look out at the world this Christmas it is hard not to mourn. Beset by economic meltdown and turmoil – with ecological mayhem creeping ever closer and military action never far from the surface, we cannot say that the world is in no need of a Saviour. And it is all too easy to fall either into despair, or to close our ears and eyes and turn to our familiar rituals as sources of light against the dark, or indeed once more to try and save ourselves. A sentimental understanding of  “Immanuel” will do little to speak to our need to turn our mourning into dancing.

             One of the chief purposes of Advent is to prepare our hearts and minds for the Only One who can Save us, precisely by reminding us that he is also the Judge. That at the cross Everything is judged and found wanting. The babe of Bethlehem, is the Christ of Calvary, is our Risen and ascended Lord. As my eyes are struggling to open to new realities this Christmas time, blinking in summer sun (I hope! J ), may this Advent prepare in us a home to welcome the one who comes to pronounce God’s Judgment. His NO! upon the world over which we mourn, and only through this to Pronounce his utterly unimaginable YES and so to Save it. For no lesser a Saviour is worth celebrating, in this season or in any other.

So may Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you this Advent, Christmas and Epiphany season, scatter the darkness form before your path, and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory.


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sermon for Advent Sunday


ISAIAH 64:1-9
MK 13:24-37

What are you looking for? John 1:38

One of the most intriguing, perplexing, at times Wonderful but usually downright exasperating things about human beings is that for all we are meant to be set apart from other creatures by the size of our brains and our power of rational thought – we are precisely not.

For example – I KNOW that a healthy diet and exercise will make me feel better – I KNOW not only that fatty and sugary foods are bad for me, that excess carbohydrate makes me feel bloated and uncomfortable. Not only do I know these things are true, with my background in life sciences as well as Physics, I know precisely why they are  true, BUT do I ever say ‘NO!’ to a piece of home baked chocolate cake or manage to avoid that late night bread and honey treat? No, I don’t. If I ever drop dead from a heart attack, my last thought may well be, ‘I can’t say I didn’t see that one coming!’

Or take my love affair with my Kindle. Now I know that it is cleverly designed to interact with my deep seated book buying compulsion and thus progressively empty my bank account. I know that – ‘in under a minute’ - from the comfort of my own chair I can be reading a book carefully suggested to me by a computer programme devoted entirely to finding books I am likely to buy. The Calorie free alternative to Chocolate fudge cake!! But does this knowledge stop me compulsively buying books? NO! Does it reveal a Life not controlled by rational impulses? You bet!

Well after that insight about myself what follows may just be a simple case of projection, but I see the same irrational behaviour all around me. From the economy to the environment – we live in an age where we are better informed than ever about precisely why what we are doing is No Good! The World’s Economic order based on the ludicrous suggestion of infinite Credit has finally come to its logical conclusion and No one could really say ‘Well we didn’t see that one coming!’ – The Worlds leaders meet again very soon once more to say ‘Something must be done!’ about the rapidly advancing global climate catastrophe – but forgive me if I sound more than a little hopeless regarding the outcome, especially when we are caught by our need to further expand our economies . . .

You see, for all our rationality ( and I think we must admit that animals behave far more rationally than humans ) we fail to understand the human condition if we ignore the fact that it is not our rationality which controls us. As my daughter put it on her recent facebook status “Reason is in slavery to the desires of our hearts”.
Put another way, our Desires or our Longings are what guide and direct our lives – our restless hearts are much more evident in the lives we leads than our supposed rationality.

Of course this can be neatly covered up. We may lead what to the outsider look incredibly orderly rational lives. I know for years I did in many respects – until I was ordained!! Now I know that in some people’s eye’s seeking ordination is in itself a sign of a kind of madness – but what completely threw me was how ‘out of control’ my life became when I started my life as a Priest. And it came to me that this was for a very obvious reason, that by and large from the age of 5, first as a school pupil, then a university student, then as a school teacher – my life was ordered by bells, by timetables. I wasn’t free to do what I wanted and I believed that I was highly Rational and organized in my being, but actually it was my Bine that was being organized, by timetables and bells. And this showed itself especially in my struggle to pray. When I’d been a school teacher, I had to leave home each morning at 6.30 so I got up at 5 to pray. It was the only time I could, so I did. And then once ordained, well I had all the time in the day to pray – and it became a real struggle. I knew I Should be praying, but I discovered that in my heart of hearts I didn’t really want to, other things seemed ot be more important.

I remember talking with my spiritual director about this and how I just wanted to go and live in a monastery and so have my prayer directed by bells – and she fairly firmly reminded me that as I was married with children that that wasn’t an option!!  - and indeed, that  it was better for me to face the desire of my heart, my lack of desire for God rather than kid myself as I had been all along to that point.

When Jesus started his ministry and folk started to follow him, he asked them the most pertinent question of all – What are you looking for? What is the desire of your heart? What are you looking for? What in your heart of hearts do you Really want??
            So on this Advent Sunday I think it is worth asking that question. Confronted as we are with this Shockingly Powerful image from the Gospel ‘But in those days, . . . , the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Is this what we are looking for, what in our heart of hearts we really want?? Because Advent is about looking precisely for this – the consummation of all things – crying with the Prophet Isaiah – Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! Waiting for this – as the prophet goes on - From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.

Advent is a time of Waiting – of waiting on God, of waiting for God – and at first like the prophet we all say – Yes – Of course I want this Life of God to break out into the world – but Advent is a Long time to wait – longer than ever this year – four whole weeks – and we are offered disciplines for these special times – disciplines which help us to wait, but which also Test the reality of our desire for Him. Everyone has a leaflet suggesting ways in which we might Wait on God this Advent – particularly Waiting on God as we begin to discern together where God may wish to take us as a church. And it is worth taking up a discipline with which we are not comfortable. We may spend much time in prayer – good – then perhaps a little fasting might be in order, or one of the other suggestions. Why? Because it is God’s desire we are seeking, not our own and we all too easily confuse the two. That is why I suggest meeting with someone you do not know very well and sharing together about what you think God may wish for our church, because then you may well discover that what you thought was God was really YOU – as Another voice is given space.

You see what happens? This is a Reality Check. After affirming confidently that God works for those who wait for him, it becomes clear that he waiting reveals a different reality. The prophet goes on - You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We waited for you – but our waiting revealed we didn’t want to wait – we didn’t desire your heart above all  - our waiting revealed the state of our hearts, we didn’t Wait, we sinned – the prophet goes on We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. The Waiting reveals the true longing of our heart and it is Not for God – He goes on There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

The prophet realizes that that cry of his heart ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence’ was untrue. The reality is ‘there is no one who calls on your name’.  These next four weeks I am asking the church to join me in the work I have been doing since I arrived, to seek God’s heart for the future of the church here. Might I suggest that at the beginning you take a few minutes as I have done, to write down what you think that is. And then through Advent, use one or more of the exercises I have suggested to Wait on God. Take time. So often churches do exercises like this and everyone writes down what They would like to see – but as God’s children, it’s not about Us – its about what He desires for us – and if at the end of Advent, All we have achieved is to come to the realization that we don’t want what God wants, whatever it may be, but that in reality we want what we want and we honestly face up to that, then we will have made a GREAT stride forward. If we follow the prophet through this passage in Isaiah 64 as far as Verse 7 and declare ‘There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you’, at least we will be living in reality and not deceiving ourselves – we will have seen the reality of our own hearts, and that is a Good Thing – BUT . . . HOW do we respond to this apprehension that in our heart of hearts we do not want what God wants but what we want???

There are two possible responses – despair – look at the state of my heart, what hope is there?? Or the Great theme of Advent – Yes There is Hope – in God alone. The prophet realizing that his own hearts desires have led him Far Far astray puts himself into God’s hands Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity for ever. Now consider, we are all your people

We are all the work of your hand, We are the clay, you are the potter – You are the potter – we are clay in your hands.

I very recently put myself in the hands of another – I’d been having trouble right up high in my neck and my head – so I went to see Chris Soul – I had a massage as he went to work on what can only be described as the Dry and lumpy clay of my muscles – but the fascinating thing for me was how he focused on my feet – that getting my legs and my back and my neck straightened out  - he had to start with my feet – he had to go to work on the root of the problem – start from the base up.
            Christ the coming one goes to work on us from the root of our problems – if we wait on Him, wait For Him. It may well be that like the massage it is pretty painful – but I put myself in Chris’s hands because I knew there was a problem that needed sorting out and I trusted him.

In the end – the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. When I was being interviewed for this post I asked the nominators – what do you think God wants to do amongst you –and received some encouraging replies – what I didn’t ask was the most important follow up – because I couldn’t ask this without taking time to listen carefully to my own response – which is  - If that Is what God wants, Is it what You want?? What are we looking for?

This Advent, let us wait on Him, allow Him to speak to our hearts and so work on them and transform them that when He Comes to dwell among us our hearts may not be afraid, but full of Heavenly Joy at his appearing. So that we may declare in truth with the prophet – Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence!!


Friday, 11 November 2011

Letter to James

My Godson James was this last week confirmed back in England - he's the good looking one with the candle by the way :)

Not being able to be present I wrote him a letter. Young people in the church need lots of affirmation and also guidance in the life of faith - here for what it's worth are my stumbling attempts to do my bit.

[PS the other person in the photo is his dad, the best example of a Vicar it is my privilege to know]

"Hi James - from your rather distant Godfather here in New Zealand

I just wanted  to drop you a brief line to let you know that I'll be praying for you this evening at your confirmation.
Fortunately, as the clocks have gone back in the UK, I will be awake here in New Zealand

Your Dad hasn't filled me in properly about this (or bought me a plane ticket in order to attend!!) ,but I am guessing that this is something you have chosen for yourself, which I think is great.

I guess a few words of Godfatherly advice wouldn't go amiss at a time like this, so for what it's worth, here goes . . .

errmmm . . .

. . . actually I don't have any advice that hasn't been given a thousand times before, so here instead is a story that I hope gives you a clue as to what to do with the rest of your life after the Bishop has laid his hands on you to pass on the Holy Spirit that is in him, because someone once laid hands on him etc.etc. Remember this Stuff goes back to Jesus breathing on the disciples

In the early years of the church there were some guys (and one or two gals) who realised that the church had sold out. It was trying to be cool and trendy and so get people to like it, which is always a bad idea if you are following someone whose idea of success is getting nailed to a piece of wood. Anyway they'd had enough and so decided to get away from it all and spend some serious time with God.

They went off into the desert (probably to get away from Cafe Church or the fourth century equivalent) and there hung out with God, getting used to his rhythms and ways and learning to pray (this is THE most important thing and don't let anyone else tell you anything different!!)
Some of them became great sources of Wisdom - that means they learned to see things God's way, not that they were 'Intelligent' - and folk travelled miles to see them and ask them stuff.

One day a young man - let's call him 'James' - came to ask one of these guys for a Word of advice. The old guy looked him in the eye and said - 'go away and learn what this means "You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength" '.
 Well 'James' thanked the Wise man and went his way.

TEN YEARS later he came back and said 'Father I have learnt that word, now please give me another' - the Wise man looked him in the eye once more and said 'Go and learn what this word means "Love your neighbour as yourself" '
'James' went away and was never seen again.

I think that's pretty good advice - put another way - fix your eyes on Jesus, keep reading your bible, keep praying, remember that you will ALWAYS be a learner in this Christian life - and al the other stuff will sort itself out.

Remember, all that glisters is not gold and a lot of the stuff that looks like Mud is Platinum - ask your dad to explain this as his work teaches him this on a daily basis.

May God the Father, Bless you
God the Son, Lead you
God the Holy Spirit, Indwell you
this night and always

Your God Father

PS I think you are great, and so does Jesus!"

Why not write a letter of encouragement to a young Christian you know? God Knows, they need it!

Ramblings around Dent - or 'The Dentdale Run'

I try to do a little running for any number of reasons. I keep a little blog of my efforts, but usually these are no more than a few words about the weather or sore legs. Just before leaving the UK, though I wrote a longer piece about a road race. Re-reading it the other day I thought it might be worthy of a larger audience, so here it is.

"At a time of getting ready to move away it's good to visit old friends for what is at least the last time for now. So this morning I headed out to Dentdale to reacquaint myself with The Dentdale Run, an old friend I hadn't seen for 16 years - by the end of the day it was clear which of us had worn better, but whilst it tested me it didn't judge my decrepitude.

This annual event is held in aid of the lovely village Primary School and all fees , merchandise sales  ( I acquired a nice new hoodie to replace the rather vivid T, which had long gone the holey way of all frequently worn similar garments, to the rag man) etc. went to help the local school.
And boy do they need it - if the hole in the ceiling though which the days rain fell into a fetching red plastic bucket is anything to go by. Mr Cameron's ideal of The Big Society finds embodiment in places like Dent, remote communities where community spirit still lives on in truth and people gather together to help one another out, yet in a technologically complex and 'advanced' society, it patently isn't enough. There are echoes here of the same romanticism which fed John Major's vision of the reinstatement of elderly matrons cycling to Evensong being the answer to all societies ills . . . , but I digress (?)

The day's activity being for old times sake, I took a rather circuitous route to Dent which took in old haunts. Past the field in High Casterton where incipient hormones used to find an outlet in plaguing the farmer's Hereford bull, without red capes or banderillas, in acts plainly designed to arouse the admiration of the local girls.

On into lovely Barbondale - destination of many family Sunday afternoon outings to swim in the beck - and then to follow the narrow road higher and higher, hemmed in by sweeping fells down which preposterously steep limestone dry stone walls had marched for hundreds of years. An act of human 'permanence' in a wild landscape.

Finally, steeply down into Dentdale and the hamlet of Dent - still boasting two pubs, a good village shop, various establishments for tea, B+B's (although there are far fewer now, the economic climate having wiped out a huge number of these guest houses, vital in communities which cling on to life, rather like lichen on the ubiquitous limestone walls), and of course the aforementioned School.

A swift check on the entry list was followed by a last meal of bananas before the start.

Placing myself at the back, to ensure I might at least pass one or two runners :) I waited for the off. The usual inaudible instructions (inaudible at least to those of us plodders at the back to whom they were probably more pertinent!) were shouted over a megaphone - a count down from 10 and we began our journey. Setting off at the back has its problems in these low tech events - no timing tags or mats, so my final time was always going to be precious seconds wrong. However it probably beats getting stampeded over by most of the field :)

The course which lies on two sides of the dale is described as 'rolling'- I remembered well from last time and my knowledge of the area reminded me that this was rolling as in 'the rolling Sierra Nevada' - perhaps an overstatement but in the first mile some were reduced to walking up the road from Barbondale - not I  - but more of that Elsewhere. Fortunately it took a sharp right after the 1 in 4 section and the pace rapidly increased as we ran down the Dale. A brief conversation with a tall and good looking lady runner swiftly ended as she announced she was hoping to get round in considerably less time than I  - the end of an all too brief and possibly beautiful friendship as she disappeared in what would have been a cloud of dust, except that they don't do dust in Dentdale. A cloud of straw, water and mud along with bits of road surface worked loose by the hard winter? Of such transitory 'friendships' are road races made.

On past a farm - still working - the farmer and his family stood out by the gate - the harshness and economic reality of farming up here etched into their faces and clothes. It was the first time for many years I've seen a child dressed in a buttoned wool cardigan and little else. The farm advertised itself as the place which provided the milk for what we might call 'tourist cheese', of the over-priced sort designed to entice cash from visitors to Lake District grockle shops. There is little money in milk and even  less here, from what I saw. Clinging on . . .

At just past three miles the course swung to the North West side of the valley and we swung into the wind. Up to that point I'd wondered about the wisdom of running in my rain jacket - no longer. The wind swept off the fells and the lowering sky promised further meteorological 'pleasures'. The field thinned out and it was clear that I was running with the folk who one way or another would accompany me for the next ten miles. I was passed again by a couple wearing T shirts from a South African marathon - then I re-passed them, and so it went on till they left me at 7 miles, at least for then. Running on my heart rate I let them go - I guessed I might haul them in towards the end.

Past familiar farmsteads, derelict barns, the occasional B+B, but more private houses now. The rain began to come in - looking up I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that this was the typical hour or so of rain that would pass away leaving non hill-goers imagining the front had passed. It lasted almost exactly an hour and the weather was turning more intentionally serious  as I finally drove away, 45 minutes after the race. Glad to see my feel for weather hasn't deserted me even if the sprightly pace of younger days Has done so.

But running on heart rate is good for the soul - it gives you time to think, it is almost meditative and miles slipped by. One of a number of hardy spectators exhorted me to stick to my pace, by his gear I recognised an experienced club runner - he knew whereof he spoke and we exchanged a glance of mutual recognition - he knew what I was about and although no doubt he'd have been round a lot faster than I  - we both new that the race was not to the swift - at least for most of us it wasn't.

Just past 8 miles I slipped into a wonderful 'zone' as I climbed yet another hill in a bubble - aware that I was now beginning to leave some of my fellow runners. A steady 80% showed on the monitor and the hill slipped away. Just then a runner, who in my head became 'the Man from Bolton', (anonymity being part of modern running we never asked for names), drew alongside me and asked how long we'd been going for. We exchanged pleasantries but he was running his own race and soon moved on ahead of 'the man from Gisburn', but Dent Beck accompanied us two 'Lancastrians' - the colour of the beer from the local brewery as peat churned up by the rain added its own familiar hue.

I was glad to see the beck so close - it reminded my that the finish was downhill of me. I saw the road returning on the other side of the valley and remembered my last run on this course how I'd run down the road and waved cheerily to two friends who were about a mile behind me and still climbing where I was running now - how the mighty . . .

A turn at the head of the valley and onto the final four miles - 'downhill'. Except valley sides do not permit so easy of definition even when they follow the stream. The road, like all manmade things, wrestling as we do with thorns and briars, is condemned to take the harder course. So 'down the valley' - but with some big ups, the cruellest of which came just past the half marathon.
For a while my right adductor felt as if someone had injected me with local anaesthetic. The cold was now biting, my legs red but this felt just plain peculiar. (This and a momentary light headedness when I tried to push were the only 'distress' I registered for 14 miles. )
I'd forgotten how steep this part of the course was, and for a moment my pursuit of the 'South Africans' (my hrm now up to 85% for the last effort) halted as I walked the last few yards of the tightening hill, but the summit gained and no part of my anatomy threatening imminent collapse, I cruised past them to an admiring 'Well Run'. They of course had run well too and at the end I told them so - but for now it was the last few hundred yards, finishing with a cruel 20 yards of old style 'rough cobbles' ouch - but the pain instantly forgotten in the euphoria of the finish - there really isn't anything like it even for us plodders.

A quick word of thanks to the St John's Ambulance crew - fortunately a quiet afternoon for them - no 'blue light' dashes thank God, then after a few words with my friendly (as it turned out) 'South Africans' into the Memorial hall, past the leaking ceiling for the post race tea and the cacophony of a few hundred runners re-living it all for their friends. A Ham sandwich, a cup cake, a slab of bakers shortbread and a Bakers scone (lacking the lightness of my wife's :) ) - accompanied by a mug of tea into which for once I dropped a tablespoon of sugar - soon saw to my immediate needs.

A perch on a bench alongside another runner - clearly showered down and finished long ago - the prizegiving - the race was won by Spiderman. the first time I've ever been in a race and a costumed runner had won - mutterings of unfair advantage rose around the hall but given the conditions it wasn't really the weather for arachnids. I'm sure the all over lycra helped, but I'm still trying to work out how he breathed and ran fast (there being no mouthpiece in the mask!)

Noted how my fellow runners only truly quietened down after the speech of thanks from the school's headteacher - it is a very selfish pass-time - and also how two out of the four top female runners were 'vets' - the male vets were well out of the running for prizes . . . (enuf sed)

And so out as the first spots of the real rain began to bite, back to the car and farewell to this  special place - hidden from the sight of the world, tucked away at the head of the dale and, like the slower runners, clinging on."

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Yesterday Christchurch cathedral was de-consecrated. For many this is a moment of profound sadness described in several places, here for example. Elsewhere Bosco Peters has asked some thoughtful questions as to what is going on.

I here reproduce my own response to his questions and a question of my own.

'There is a real sense that over the years the church has undone the work of The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, not only in space, but also in time and our humanity.
This has occurred through the setting apart of:

Place (‘God’s House as some called churches in England)WHERE certain things could not be done, but thus making it fine for them to occur elsewhere;

Time (The Lord’s Day, or Sabbath) WHEN some things were not fit, but letting loose the rest of the week for ‘Profitable’ business :-) ;

and Humanity (focusing ministry in one person) WHO ‘did the God stuff’ so the rest of us didn’t have to trouble ourselves with it.

The question we are left with is, "has the Spirit gone out of these containers, set free into the World as some would say, or has it ‘merely’ gone out . . ."  '

I suggest that we should not be quick to respond - triumphalism of any shade is not appropriate in such liminal times

"The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed"

I am graced with several friends who are in there own ways truly saintly. Some in ways about which I can freely talk, like my good friend 'The Shepherd of the Moss' - a priest in a tough parish, doing work only he could do - quietly, and unassumingly. The sort of person the church should make bishop, but lacks the Wisdom so to do. Others whom carry at times intolerable burdens known to very few, yet whose lives are pure gift. All of whom get on with that hidden work that really makes a difference.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus he repeatedly speaks in veiled [sic] terms. From the parables which are hidden messages, heard yet not understood, to his reuqests oft ignored to tell no-one, to his counsel on piety that is in secret.

This doesn't please his hearers and often doesn't impress itself upon our consciousness either. We want the visible, the earthshaking, the dramatic, the spectacular, the successful, the powerful - and yet we follow one who eschewed all of this. 

I wonder if we really get it?

Thomas Merton suggested that there were probably only two people in the world who really prayed and that all of creation was held together by their work. I think he got it.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


. . .  is either The Human Vocation,
or utterly ridiculous.
Most of the time our preparation for, 
approach to and enacting of our worship,
signifies we haven't decided which it is.

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?