Sunday, 31 August 2014

Trinity 11 (22A) Archbishop Justin Welby 31st August 2014

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep Paul says in the continuation of Romans 12 set for today. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

As I read these words I recall with you what I shared last week about Romans 12-15 being Paul’s ethical application of the doctrine of Christ set forth in Romans 1-11. I also recall how a book I recently read chimes in well as a topical illustration of this teaching. Anne and I have both profitably read the newly published work of Andrew Atherstone with title Archbishop Justin Welby Risk-taker and Reconciler.

If ever there was a job to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep it’s that of a priest and even more so that of a bishop. As we all know leading Anglicans is no plain sailing whether you’re Rector of Horsted Keynes or Archbishop of Canterbury. Leading the Church of England is as easy as taking your cat for a walk!

Justin Welby is an impressive figure. From a successful career in the oil industry he was appointed among other reasons because he was easy in his own skin which seems rare among clerics. The lack of ease of his job is such that his predecessor as Archbishop talked of needing ‘the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros’. Like many impressive figures he has shown great bravery working with Canon Andrew White now in Baghdad but formerly in Coventry where I briefly knew him and Justin when we were priests in a Diocese famous for its ministry of reconciliation. The Archbishop wears around his neck a cross built from nails found in the ruins of the bombed Cathedral which burned to the ground in September 1941. Before his appointment his work on international reconciliation brought him like Canon White on occasion within an inch of his life.  A year into the job as Archbishop  that track record for reconciliation has been extended through his establishing a settlement for women bishops, charting a way forward re same sex unions and setting forth an agenda for prayer, monasticism, church growth and kingdom-oriented social engagement that sees Churches reconciled with the Pope as a leading partner.

On the night of the women bishops vote he appeared on Newsnight literally to Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Our Archbishop spoke directly to those found in deep pain that July night He has shared life sufficiently with people like me and my ecclesiastical neighbour Lisa Barnett at Scaynes Hill to be equipped to make what was bad disagreement into good disagreement. My ‘two cheers for women bishops’ in P&P has Lisa very much in mind and takes a leaf out of Justin Welby’s book.

When you share life with people, as we do here at St Giles, you grow through tolerance of difference to respect of difference. You really can rejoice when they rejoice even if what they’re rejoicing in is painful to you. Paul knew and taught this. So does our Archbishop and so should we! For example it’s not good enough to tolerate Muslims – we need to respect them, which means have the capacity to imagine ourselves in their shoes, something friendship can achieve.

Andrew Atherstone’s book on Welby is peppered with joyous life, growth and change far more typical of the Church of England than letters to Church Times would have you believe.  Sympathy with our Eton educated subject is won by tale of a broken home which sent him to boarding school and no doubt skills him in dealing with dysfunction in his Anglican family.

Intellectual brilliance made him a fast riser in the oil industry and the church as ‘risk-taker and reconciler…able…to synthesise a lot of information quickly and under pressure’ be that linked to collapse of oil prices or Anglican affairs. 

Throughout the book there are quotes of how Jesus on the Cross impacts him: ‘The cross is the moment of deepest encounter and most radical change. God is crucified – my Friend died – in some way, for me. ... A person caught by the implications of the cross will be a person who has found the fullness of the life which is the gift of God through him…  The cross is the great pointer where the suffering, and the sorrow, and torture, and trial, and sin, and yuck of the world ends up on God’s shoulders, out of love for us’. 

This profound sense of redemption underlies his strong sense of the church. Again I quote: ‘Because God has brought us together [as his Church] we are stuck with each other and we had better learn to do it the way God wants us to. That means in practice that we need to learn diversity without enmity, to love not only those with whom we agree but especially those with whom we do not agree’.  This sort of sentiment echoes that of Paul before us this morning in Romans 12. As Archbishop he says he isn’t trying to get everyone to agree but to transform bad disagreement into good disagreement, working for unity not unanimity. I quote: ‘Reconciliation among Christians does not have unanimity at its heart, or tolerance, but the capacity to love despite disagreement, and to differ and be diverse without breaking fellowship. The difficulty is where to draw the boundaries and decide that a difference is of such fundamental importance that a breakdown of fellowship is necessary’.

Speaking last year at a commemoration of the great 17th century Anglican writer Jeremy Taylor he describes our Anglican scenario in these words: ‘Like a drunk man walking near the edge of a cliff, we trip and totter and slip and wander, ever nearer to the edge of the precipice. It is a dangerous place, a narrow path we walk as Anglicans at present. On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message. On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question. When we fall into this place, we lose touch with human beings and create a small church, or rather many small churches – divided, ineffective in serving the poor, the hungry and the suffering, incapable of living with each other, and incomprehensible to those outside the church’.

This description brought me back to today’s section of St Paul. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; Paul says. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Our own readiness to accept and respect fellow Christians of different belief or, as with Islam or militant atheism, those far from our own conviction, will invest love which always brings a return.  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 

I close repeating one of the Archbishop’s quotations:  A person caught by the implications of the cross will be a person who has found the fullness of the life which is the gift of God through him... It is out of that fullness brought us here in the eucharist that we gain courage to say, and not just of fellow Christians, because God has brought us together we are stuck with each other and we had better learn to do it the way God wants us to.  So be it! Let’s apply it!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Trinity 10 (21st of Year) Therefore 24th August 2014

We have just heard 700 words of scripture but its one word I want to call attention to this morning at the start of the second reading in Romans 1 verse 12 and its ‘therefore’.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

In Greek this is a little word oun just three letters but it’s a great hinge so that the ethical teaching in Romans 1 to 15 has been called oun ethics. All the doctrine taught in Romans Chapters 1 to 11 brings ethical implications spelled out somewhat unsystematically in Romans 12 to 15 and the key or hinge conjunction or adverb is ountherefore.

Christianity is something beautiful that holds together without seams doctrine, worship, ethics and prayer so that you can’t have one without the other. At St Giles School assemblies as in confirmation classes we teach the Creed, the seven sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the Lord ’s Prayer and we teach them as interconnected as they are.

In the last few months we’ve followed St Paul teaching in his letter to the Romans the new life from God Jesus brings. Now he goes on from Chapter 12 to spell out application – how the new life from God becomes a new life lived for God and verse 2 of our reading gives us a major principle: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

A great novelist was sitting down after Church to Sunday lunch with his mother and she asked about the sermon. ‘It said the obvious’ he replied. ‘But what did it say about applying the obvious’ his mother replied.

Here’s the rub for any preacher. Paul knew this because all of his letters, even this most theological letter to Rome, contain help to apply the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.

People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed wrote Dr Johnson. One of the most difficult things to comprehend is how people can forget events and gifts on which their life and salvation depends.

I summarized the core teaching of Romans in my four part series last month as dynamite with two blasts concerning law and history. Romans challenges the part of us that seeks to earn good will legalistically through good actions and the other part of us that’s deep down lost hope for the future of the world.

The first eleven chapters of Romans says reaching into a right relationship with God is impossible from our side but that God has reached down to us in Jesus to lift us to his heights.  The righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith is banner heading of the letter, Chapter 1:17 saying we’re saved ultimately not by following laws but by welcoming grace.

The second blast of Romans is that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has rewritten the history of the world, making the church God’s new Israel and tying in the very destiny of the cosmos with that of God’s children so that, as we read in Romans 8:21 the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Saint Paul, having taught this in Romans 1-11 moves on to describe its practical or ethical implications and how the doctrine of Christ has power to reset our life and our hope if we apply it. From next week we shall hear more of the practical outworking of faith as the Sunday Lectionary moves forward into Romans 12. 

Like this practical advice from verse 9 headed in my Bible ‘Marks of the True Christian’:  Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 

Paul’s teaching against legalism finds application in outdoing one another in showing honour. His teaching against pessimism about the state of the world is applied by the fortitude that Rejoices in hope, [is] patient in suffering [and] perseveres in prayer.

There is a link between what we believe of Christ and how we live our lives and this extends into how we worship and how we pray.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Christianity is a seamless robe. It is very different to the patchwork of post-modern society which stitches a bit of this belief and that practice together, gives a nod to worship at Christmas and admires Buddhist meditation.

Our Christian faith is something very beautiful, a beautiful as the One who holds us together in his church that weaves together without seams doctrine, worship, ethics and prayer. If at times I as a priest get despondent about change in the Church it’s because so much of the propounded changes – like those of marriage discipline or holy orders – tear that seamless robe, or patch onto it things that are alien to it lessening its beauty. Marriage and holy orders are sacraments,  fountains of grace instituted of God, with age old disciplines. When w change those disciplines or doctrines even there’s a knock on effect that has implications for ethics, prayer and worship as well as the doctrine.

There is a link between what we believe and how we live our lives and this extends into how we worship and how we pray.  All of this is implied by those first two verses of our second reading this morning from Romans Chapter 12.

In the life of St Giles this is becoming more evident as the worship and prayer of the Christian community links more into its biblical and doctrinal moorings and into outgoing care for the community as evidenced for example by the village lunch. I remain convinced many more would profit from this event initiated by some of our members if more of our members who’re around on third Friday lunchtimes took trouble to identify and bring folk along to something that gives heart to Horsted Keynes.

We have a great brand as Christians but, individually as much as together, we need to value its seamless beauty and use it to cloth the needy God sends to us.

I end with what’s probably that simplest of prayers of application we call the choristers’ prayer:
Bless, O Lord, your servants who minister in your temple. Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Blessed Virgin Mary 17th August 2014

Sometimes people get the wrong end of the stick about Christianity! They see a Christian as someone who seems to be at best superhuman or at worst inhuman. Someone whose life seems to fall short in humanity because of commitments they are bound by.

In fact the Christian faith has always claimed to be a route into the fullness of humanity. To be Christian is to be fully human, fully alive in the way you were made to be moving towards the glory that’s ready to crown humanity – even though that’s got a challenging starting point.

Someone speaking to me last week about retirement said it was a spiritual challenge to be a ‘no body’ after being so up front all his years of public service. As Christians our humanity builds from that sort of humility. Leave behind valuing yourself from your status – that’ll go one day - we are all ‘no bodies’ destined for the Churchyard - dust and ashes.  Realising that ever more profoundly is one half of our calling.

The other half is we ‘no bodies’ are loved immensely, each one of us, by our Maker who is our Redeemer and our Sanctifier so in our nothingness we can put confidence away from ourselves in God who is, in Paul’s words, our sufficiency (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Living life open to God’s grace opens up possibilities that lead through the therapy of the Holy Spirit into fullness, and not dullness of life. ‘I came that you might have life and have it to the full’ the Lord says in John 10 verse 10.

Fullness not dullness – that’s what being Christian’s all about. This fullness affects body, mind and spirit as Jesus changes us from his image into his likeness in glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This weekend from Friday Christians all over the world are gathering round their altars to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the Church’s faith that the Mother of the Lord has been given total fullness of humanity by the gift of her divine Son our Saviour. Our Lady possesses already a resurrection body suited to her place at Jesus’ side in his glory.

Mary is as ever example to Christians, example of fullness of life just as she is example of humility, trust and obedience. Her exaltation builds from her humility. ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ she said to the angel Gabriel told of her divine motherhood. ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you’ was the word from God. So in today’s sequel from Luke 1 Mary says ‘the Mighty One has done great things for me... and lifted the lowly.’

A heart that opens to Christ starts with the recognition of lowliness, that you’re a ‘nobody’, then recognises that’s not true in God’s sight seeing his love, and lastly becomes a heart that allows ‘the Mighty One’ to do his great work within it effecting transformation ‘from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation is spiritual in that it deepens our living, mental in that it leads us into a fuller grasping of Truth, and physical in that ‘this mortal body must put on immortality’ (1 Corinthians 15:53f).

Let’s look briefly at these three aspects of transformation associated with being a Christian. First the spiritual, because the good news of God’s love first and foremost touches the heart, or spirit or centre of our being. That’s where the joy source is because the heart which is our spiritual centre has most likeness to God who is Spirit. The Church uses today’s Gospel of Mary’s Magnificat every day at evening prayer so it overflows down the ages with a heart sourced joyful enthusiasm for God. Joy is Mary’s gift to all ages and it’s ours to receive deep down inside of us so as to hand on as God sees best in the circumstances of our life. A Christian life is one changing from spiritually ‘dull’ to spiritually full!

Then secondly there is a mental transformation in being Christian.  It’s expressed by Paul when he speaks of having the humble mind of Christ and by Peter when he urges us to give answer for our faith. How good are you at giving answer to folk who say they’re losing faith because of all the evil in the world, because there are so many faiths who’s to know which is right, church seems all hypocrisy and you can’t see God. Our mental transformation is a matter of letting the Holy Spirit guide us more profoundly into God’s truth but it involves doing some homework. Some of you’ll have remembered those four objections to faith were subject of our Lent course. The Premier Radio series is available through the discipleship page of our website Have you ever visited it? Or, if you’re not internet savvy when did you last take a book from our library that’s got loads of books explaining or helping you explain Christianity.  The mental transformation involved in being a Christian  isn’t into being a ‘know all’ on religion - but God gave us minds to be used for him even if, with Mary, we profess our search for truth builds from admitting the Truth’s search for us and finding us in Jesus.

The Christian faith is a route into fullness not dullness of humanity. It’s a spiritual, mental and, thirdly, bodily transformation. Oh how challenging that is to a generation that seeks physical beauty in this world alone, lamenting and covering its loss. Today’s first and second readings speak of the hope of physical heavenly beauty set before us in the Blessed Virgin Mary. A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Those Marian stars are evidenced in the European Union flag pointing to Christian inspiration. In most of Europe today’ commemoration is called the Assumption based on this scripture from Revelation 11 but more from the strong tradition dating back to the 4th century that Mary’s body as taken straight to heaven after her death giving her by anticipation what we are all destined for on Christ’s Return, namely full glorious humanity in body, mind and spirit. As the second reading says Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died’. 

St Irenaeus once talked of how God is glorified as a human being is ‘brought fully alive’. In other words human fulfilment of body, mind and spirit is something established for Christ in his resurrection and desired from the very heart of God himself for Mary and for all of us who let him work that transformation. It’s something that begins in the heart of a mortal being to end in a glorious fullness within the communion of saints. There renewed hearts and minds are clothed after death at Christ’s Return with new glorious resurrection bodies. Mary has such glory in advance of Christ’s return. We live in certain hope that the grace at work now in our lives having ‘led us safe thus far’ will’ lead us home’ to glory.

To be a Christian is far from being inhuman or superhuman. Rather it is a call to full humanity, to life shared in glory with God, Blessed Mary and all the Saints. A call to a life that’s spiritually, mentally and physically glorious beyond imagining promised to those who welcome God.

Is that your desire? Is your heart open to the ‘Holy Spirit therapy’ that will lead you to this glory? If it is you can be comforted by the promise of Philippians 1:16 that ‘God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus’. May Our Lady pray for us and her Feast encourage us to press forward to that glory, the offer of which is the church’s unrivalled message to the world.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Trinity 8 (19th of year) The journey of faith 10th August 2014

We come from God, we belong to God, we go to God. Life is an accompanied journey whether people recognise it or not.

To be a Christian is to be aware of the company of God alongside us in Jesus Christ sharing our joys and sorrows. We are never alone, contrary to outward appearance.

In our Old Testament reading from the first book of the Kings, Chapter 19 we’re told how Elijah felt very alone at mount Horeb when he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’  

I alone am left – how that speaks to us this morning, and to our thoughts of those we know who are desolate over a bereavement or relationship breakdown or those we can see in our mind’s eye in the warzone of Gaza or under threat of execution for their Christian faith in Iraq?

What does God say – how does he speak to Elijah? Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out. God spoke in the silence after the storm and sent Elijah on his way.

The story is chosen to match the Gospel passage from Matthew 14:22f  where once again God is revealed in the wake of a storm. The boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them… Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then we see Peter taking heart exactly and walking the walk of faith. Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

This morning both Elijah and Peter are set before us as those consciously on the move with God. They are a wakeup call for us to challenge false securities and get on the move spiritually, just as Peter left the security of the boat to walk on water.

One of Bishop Cornell of Guyana’s phrases is ‘I’m not afraid to walk on thin ice as I serve a Jesus who walked on water’. It may be there’s a situation you’re in where you feel you can’t move forward. It looks like thin ice ahead – take heart. If God is with you, and calling you to work through that situation, though the ice cracks you’ll be able to walk on the water. Peter did, but he slipped under once he took his eyes off the Lord. Faith, the journey of faith, is belief in the divine accompaniment, of Jesus Emmanuel God with us. Is there anything, any challenge before us that’s too great for us on a journey with God at our side?

We come from God, we belong to God, we go to God. In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28). That’s faith speaking as it looks to the facts of God’s love around, alongside and before us and ignores, as both Peter and Elijah did, those natural fears. Peter naturally feared being overwhelmed by the water and Elijah feared the isolation he was in as a believer in a hostile climate. Both men looked in faith to the fact of God’s love and away from their fears.

This reminds me of a story the late Bishop Maurice Wood used to tell: ‘Faith, facts and feelings were three figures walking on a wall. Faith walked behind facts and in front of feelings. Faith kept going as long as he looked to the facts of God’s love. Whenever he looked over his shoulder to feelings behind him he wobbled and came in danger of falling off the wall.

So it is with the journey of faith that we travel on – and we have to keep moving. We were made to move finding no ultimate security this side of the grave save in the promise of God. As Paul spells out that saving promise to the Romans in our second reading if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. … ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 

To have faith is to be on the move.

I think of people I know who’ve moved forward courageously through financial insecurity putting trust in God that he wouldn’t see them put to shame, continuing to give as he would have them give but out of real poverty.  Or of people who recognised their life’s journey had stopped as Elijah’s did but their stopping place, their cave was one of destructive anger God had to call them out of. Or people who’d sensed a forward call out into the sacred ministry which took their gifts away from serving money into serving God and the Church. Or people who, faced with a diagnosed terminal illness lost no forward momentum, no sinking under the waves of self-pity but pressed forward to make the passage to Jesus as though walking on water.

We come from God, we belong to God, we go to God. He would be our guide and support but we have to recognise that and welcome his leading in our circumstances as surely as we welcome him in his word and in the bread and wine of the eucharist which is food for the journey of faith.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Trinity 7 (18th of year) God our provider 3rd August 2014

As parish priest I do quite a lot of visiting and am aware of the sense of isolation many parishioners experience living on their own. A recent survey reveals that over 1 million people aged above 65 admit to always or often feeling lonely. Yet what often impresses as I visit and take Holy Communion to church members is a word of testimony such as ‘I never feel alone – the Lord is near, he provides’.

This morning’s Old Testament and Gospel readings are on that same theme of how God provides for us. Isaiah writes at the start of Chapter 55: The Lord says this: Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!  In the Gospel from Matthew 14 we read the Lord had compassion for the crowd and cured their sick and went on to feed them supernaturally, sensing their hunger. All ate and were filled and those who ate were about five thousand. The two passages point to the heavenly banquet and to the eucharist but they are also reminders of how God is a provider.

I am aware as I go round the village of how far we are on the ground from the nationally trumpeted economic recovery. Living in Horsted Keynes requires transport and petrol’s not cheap. Our bus service is diminished and under threat. Many are living on fixed or falling incomes with our minimal interest rates. There’s a sense in some households of living on a knife edge. Again I find encouragement from stories from you of God’s provision, in answer to prayer and sometimes through fellow church members. Where we entrust our lives to Christ we don’t find that knife edge so sharp.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, says God through Isaiah this morning and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. To live in God’s presence, as we do, is to be led into the best use of money. I want to affirm this, whatever the faults of the Church Commissioners, that the church of Jesus Christ is the best steward of money you’ll ever find. I’m talking of Christians who know what’s theirs isn’t theirs but entrusted to them. When you know that you’re freed from useless care however low your income. You give –and you receive far more than you give. Your joy in that overflows, as Isaiah indicates in the close of the passage. Nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

That sense of infectious overflow is to be found in the most unlikely places. Several of you are carers in households including frail or elderly folk. The selflessness that serves unrelenting physical and emotional demands can be inspirational. You think – how on earth do they cope? How little I myself, however much I complain, suffer anything like them in being taken out of my comfort zone. When you realize your friend has regularly to drop everything and drive across the land to help their parents in a crisis! And they talk about it in such a matter of fact manner! 

I was reading on the train and vaguely saw a man with a blind stick come on. A young man across the aisle from me jumped up and offered him his seat. It was an action that showed me my lack of watchfulness. You know – watchfulness – a virtue underlined in monasticism as a receipe for Christian perfection. Watching, to give out for Christ!

In the Gospel Jesus was watchful. We read how he had compassion for the hungry and needy around him. He felt their hunger, with them in the desert, and looked to his Father to provide. One of his actions in this passage is repeated by priests at the eucharist – you may have seen me doing it when I say Jesus gave thanks. Taking the…loaves…he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves. In the eucharist we make a big ask – the priest looks up to heaven for a miracle, for God’s Spirit to change bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood!

Sometimes it’s easier to believe that miracle of God coming down from heaven to his altar than his coming down from heaven to help a chronic state of disease. Our faith shows most, I think, when we counter the negativity of a poor health condition with an arrow prayer to heaven. God provides - but we don’t ask him to. That’s why St James whose Feast we kept the other Friday in his letter chapter 4 verse 2 says in so ‘in your face’ manner: you do not have because you do not ask (James 4:2)

For a plethora of reasons we don’t ask God, as we should, to provide for us. There’s the false pride that refuses to ask for my own needs. There’s unbelief in which we sink to the default of Horsted Keynes woman or man who, unlike us, don’t believe God took our flesh. Unless you believe God took flesh in Jesus you’re unlikely to believe he can take diseased bodies and animate them. One of the great encouragements in recent years at St Giles has been the renewal of the ministry of healing through which there are people well today who wouldn’t be - and people alive today who wouldn’t be - if they hadn’t asked God.

The collect for Trinity 7 addresses the Lord of all power and might who is the author and giver of all good things: it goes on to pray that he will graft in our hearts the love of [his] name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of [his] great mercy keep us in the same. We prayed that prayer with the universal church but are we ready to let it echo down through the week ahead, to percolate our circumstances so that we act always mindful of the author and giver of all good things.

God is giver of all good things. It may be you are sensing a move ahead, a change of life or home or job. Are you taking it to God to seek the best provision so you’ll see good things ahead and not the fruits of a wild, selfish impulse? Better to get things right than get them now – better, above all, to get good things.
I’ve been touching on a number of material needs but I end with a reminder concerning spiritual needs.
Is your prayer dry? Are the scriptures closed to you? Is the eucharist empty ritual? Ask for the provision of God’s Holy Spirit maybe taking away the hymn book this week and reading hymn 116 to God with these words in verse 4:

Heal our wounds; our strength renew; on our dryness pour thy dew; wash the stains of guilt away; bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.

Our Blessed Lord started his great Sermon on the Mount which we’ve been reading through this summer of the Year of Matthew with these words: Blessed are those who know their need of God.

Do you know your need of God? Do you want to know your need of God? Do you want to want to know your need of God?

The Lord says this morning through Isaiah: Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; come and drink of the Holy Spirit. It may be you need prayer from another to attain this – ask one of our prayer ministry team for that this morning. Or confession and absolution – there’ll be special times next week before the Feast of the Virgin Mary but you can make a private appointment with the priest.

The Lord says this morning through Matthew: all ate and were filled. Put faith in God’s provision this morning - that the bread and wine you receive are his gift to you, bringing healing, joy and peace deep within you, so others who see you later today will be led to wonder where you’ve been this morning!  Let’s reflect for a minute or two.