Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Baptismal eucharist for Arthur Beesley and Thomas Kerby 29th May 2011

I will love them and reveal myself to them Jesus says and we take this as a promise for Arthur, Thomas and all of us.

How do we see this love?

It’s a gravitational field that lifts us up to become what we’re meant to be.

The gravitational pull of the love of God competes with the gravitational field of the evil in the world and that, in our souls, we call sin.

When the astronauts trod on the moon they found themselves able to leap and jump with ease because gravity on the moon is a sixth that on earth.

If they had been able to visit Jupiter they would have crawled on the surface so strong is the downward gravity.

You and I get pulled down all the time. Our bodies, thankfully, get pulled down to stay on earth in Horsted Keynes. But our spirits – they get pulled down too. They can feel very heavy - as heavy as what we call depression.

I will love them and reveal myself to them says Jesus and in doing so he invites us to look up and find the gravity of God’s love which lifts us out of ourselves to head where we’re meant to head.

In baptism this morning Arthur and Thomas are being set off in the direction they were made to go with the support of their family. The love they’re being drawn up into is already real to Gordon and Penny and has been proved so through the trials they so cheerfully bear on behalf of their children.

There is one gravitational field of the spirit drawing us into God’s love and there’s another spirit dragging us down.

Human beings, you and I, are caught! We’re caught in the gravitational field of evil: of pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice and sloth – remember – PALE GAS – P-A-L-E-G-A-S - the seven deadly sins.

For some of us this heaviness is sloth, laziness - especially as we get older. For others it’s the weight of indulgence through gluttony. Or it’s the dead weight of pride that sinks so many of our relationships. Then we have avarice – greed - which, as I describe in the news sheet, weighs down the world around you.

So we can picture and imagine the downward gravity of sin that affects us all.

When we try to rise above it by our own efforts we feel like the man in the gym trying to lift weights that are beyond his capacity.

The more we try to lift ourselves the heavier life feels.

The gravitational field of God’s love that lifts our lives can’t be felt through our own efforts. It reaches down to offer us a hand up in Jesus and all he has done for us by his life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we struggle with our relationships, insecurities and spiritual emptiness we find ourselves caught by the gravitational lure of sin as if in a quicksand.

The more we struggle in our own strength to release ourselves the deeper we go down. I remember someone driving his father’s land rover onto a beach south of Morecambe Bay where it sank hopelessly into a quick sand there before they could get a purchase on it. He had some answering to do to his dad!

It is a sad truth of life that so many of our attempts to better ourselves prove counter-productive. People caught in quicksand sink faster through gravity the more they struggle to get out of it.

They need an upward pull from outside themselves.

Jesus does that for us.

I will love them and reveal myself to them.

Every Sunday is a day of resurrection, but particularly a Sunday in Easter Season.

Through resurrection from cruel death the gravitational pull of God’s love has been proved more powerful than the quicksands of sin, death and the devil.

You can prove that’s true - if you accept it!

You won’t escape the quicksands of pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice and sloth on your own. You need an upwards pull from outside.

There’s a Man outside of you who can. Jesus. He’s alive. He loves you and wants to give you that lift so you can become what you’re meant to be!

That’s why, in a moment, we’ll rightly say I turn to Christ. I repent of my sins. I renounce evil.

As we baptise Arthur and Thomas we are reminded of the two gravitational fields of the spirit we’re all caught up with and the need to welcome God’s rescue provision daily.

We can’t become godlike. We can’t elevate ourselves beyond the quicksand that drags us down however hard we try.

Jesus can, though - he can make us godlike.

He will - if we will let him - provide us with the upward pulls we need hour by hour to rise above the heaviness of our human condition into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

I will love them and reveal myself to them so be it, for Arthur, Thomas and all of us in St Giles this morning.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Easter 4 Good Shepherd Sunday 15.5.11

One sign of health and spiritual vitality in our church is the level of charitable giving. Last year our missionary and charitable giving of £4668 was double the 2009 figure of £2272. This total is beyond the money raised for Christian Aid, as in this important week, and the Children’s Society at Christmas.

Later in May our charitable giving focus is to be the Guyana Diocesan Association and once again and I am pleased to give some feedback on Anne and my visit over the last two weeks.

We enjoyed our trip and did a good deal for the church. We spent a week on the coast and a week in the interior. No serious mishaps save having my shaving gel eaten by a racoon in the night and having to rescue the archdeacon when he fell in a trench at a friend’s farm when the bridge broke. There was a forty foot snake in the trench – we got him out!

Guyana’s an exciting place and I’m pleased to say the church is on the up once more. St Giles is being made partner to its developing mission thanks to the new bishop Cornell Jerome Moss who made use of both of us to do some training whilst on leave in the beautiful land where we were married 23 years ago. The letter he gave us on our departure

I was encouraged to see the level of faithfulness in men I trained for the priesthood 20 years ago. With that I was impressed by the hunger for God especially at an evangelistic service of healing where I spent over an hour hearing confessions as the local clergy laid on hands assisted by Anne and other laity.

Another encouragement was Bishop Cornell himself who will be back with us on 3 July. He is proving a good shepherd and, to quote the Gospel, the Anglican sheep are following him.

One thing that impresses about the churches in Guyana is that they are full of young people. Youth are the clue to revitalising the ordained ministry, which is the major challenge in the Diocese of Guyana. Many parishes are short of a resident priest. Within a year Bishop Cornell has identified 5 ordination candidates and the UK based Guyana Diocesan Association will be paying for their training next year at Codrington College in Barbados so please be generous in your charitable gift in two weeks time.

I addressed the annual Diocesan Synod promising this support and met the five men who are well worthy of our backing. I also handed over £400 raised by St Giles School to purchase a computer for the Anglican school opening in September which will serve to link our pupils next door to one of the poorest communities in the Caribbean.

Bishop Cornell has appealed to all Anglicans to tithe, which means to give 10 per cent of disposable income to the church. There is already a good response to this challenge. The Diocese is determined to stand on its own feet so that our gifts will be less important in years to come.

What impressed me was the awakening of new pride in being Anglican that is coming about in Guyana alongside a new honesty and transparency about the money and ministry needs.

So is there a message to bring back to St Giles on this Good Shepherd Sunday?

Indeed there is! That we are helping make a difference on the other side of the world and can continue to do so through the 29 May collection. That what we do at this altar associates us with the Anglican communion as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church; that bishops and priests who shepherd their people in a Christ-like fashion get a following; and last but not least that the Christian good news is something that opens hearts in penitence and brings healing - I felt the readiness to seek God over there incredibly refreshing;

As Our Lord makes plain at the end of today's Gospel: 'I have come that they may have life and have it to the full'.