Sunday, 19 October 2014

Trinity 18 19th October 2014

What’s good about being a Christian?

Share things that are valuable including significant answers to prayer in recent weeks

Christianity is good for the soul! The Gospel is good! This Church is a place of purpose in a confused world, a place of belonging in a lonely world.

If this good news is going to get around some more the church has got to grow and draw in the next generation.

Do you think we at St. Giles have something that the friends we care for are missing out on?

We need to believe this if our prayer and our invitations for them to join us are to be wholehearted.

How can we help the church grow?

A question we do well to ask ourselves is how we would feel if our best friend came with us to Church? Would we feel embarrassed about what and who they encountered? If so, why should we feel so?

What wisdom is there so far as the revitalisation of faith and our need to work for church growth in today’s Gospel?

Behind the questions and answers lies a trap set for Our Lord which touches on the relation of the believing community to its surrounds.

In the story we see the Pharisees making common cause with the Herodians who supported paying tribute to Rome against the Zealots who didn’t, hoping to put Jesus in the wrong with one side or the other. They ask ‘Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ 

Our Lord’s reply does not actually make a choice between the two parties.  It accepts the reality of Caesar’s rule, without touching on the question of its validity. Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.

Keep responding to God’s claim, Jesus says, whilst never forgetting the claim of the world around you. 

To be effective in our mission as his Church we need an ever-deepening confidence in God allied to an ever-deepening humility before both God and neighbour.

We can’t escape those dual obligations – to God and to Caesar. It’s up to each individual and each religious community to balance these obligations. To ignore God denies us our distinctive of godliness. To ignore Caesar – read the human community to put it into today’s language – is to make our religion sectarian and destructive.

We live as Jesus did in a culturally diverse society.  As such we can’t avoid speaking two languages.  Our Christian Faith is the language of ‘identity’ – it makes us what we are as God’s people seeking godliness through word, sacrament and fellowship. Our shared citizenship demands we speak the language of our community.

If religious communities don’t engage with their wider communities and seek to speak their language they become sectarian.

To paraphrase Our Lord with a slant to St. Giles, we need to give society its just service, throwing ourselves as a Christian community into the fray of Horsted Keynes and its surrounds, whilst giving God his due by building up our confidence as a distinctively Christian community.

As your parish priest I need to encourage you to work on both aspects.

For St Giles to grow we need an eye to both God and the community. We need to firm up our confidence in God by getting ourselves deeper into our worship and schooled more in the Scriptures. However bad a name religion has got we cannot escape the call we have to be better and firmer Christians. 

To be a Christian is to have confidence in God – and humility before him and before people.

A Christian who’s humble without confidence in God has no missionary potential.

A Christian who’s every confidence in God yet lacks humility before other people and their view of things is a danger to our cause!

In particular failure to be sensitive to the needs of our community and speak its language will show us up to be less than Christian in the sense of working for human and social flourishing.

Today’s Gospel makes clear the separate demands of God and man upon us as Christians but those demands flow together. Our Lord brought these conflicting demands together in his own body in his sacrificial death for us upon the Cross.

Through what he has done for us, which we recall at every eucharist, he builds our confidence in God and lends us his own humble love for people.

In this Eucharist he is waiting to touch us in our heart of hearts, so we can touch others for him!

May the Sacrament we share refresh in us the purpose for living and the reason for dying given to us in our risen Lord.

As God makes himself so near to us may he make himself near to the people of this community.

The Gospel is good! This Church is a place of purpose in a confused world, a place of belonging in a lonely world.

May more belong here with us to Jesus so that God’s world may be enriched by the growth of his Church

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Harvest Festival 12th October 2014

For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.  
1 Chronicles 29.14                            

In those words King David captures the invitation we welcome annually at Harvest Festival.
Our Lord speaks in Matthew 6.33  of how the earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head…. when the grain is ripe… the harvest has come.

In my first parish of St Wilfrith, Moorends in Doncaster we took coal to the altar and its remarkable for me today, Yorkshireman come south, to be welcoming grapes later this morning from our own Bluebell Vineyard.
Whether coal or grapes, or just, as we’ll be singing, our life, our health, our food this morning we’re talking and thinking about the sentiment of gratitude.
We come together after our Prayer Novena, nine days of prayer during which we’ve given thanks and prayed for Horsted Keynes and St Giles. I’m pleased to announce also that we’ve given as well to the mission of God’s Church a total of £890.  
The Christian faith calls for inner eyes of faith that remain open in gratitude.
We come from God. We belong to God. We go to God.  This means, as creatures made and loved by God, we live in gratitude towards the one who made us and provides for us.
What a wonderful privilege it is for us to live in mid Sussex in a place as beautiful as Horsted Keynes!
I was reminded of this when two weeks ago a dozen or so of us went up to the Vineyard which extends just into Horsted Keynes parish. We were invited by the proprietors Barry and Joyce Tay who’re no strangers to us here at St Giles. They share a deep sense of gratitude to God for his guidance and sense of being his stewards and instruments as people of faith.
The wine they offer this morning is sparkling wine, an image of joy that’s flowed from the soil of Horsted Keynes and its surrounds.
We give thanks today, as we do at every eucharist, for God’s gift of wine ‘fruit of the vine and work of human hands’.
This weekend sees that very work as the grape harvest  commences leading on to pressing and storing. Though we have a gift of wine it isn’t appropriate for the eucharist as it’ sparkling wine, even if it is a powerful symbol of harvest joy.
All things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
This is the sense of the prayers I’m going to offer for you now. First we take bread and say a thank you prayer. Then we take wine, mix in a little water and offer it to God.
Thanksgiving, joy, gladness are the Christian distinctive and they centre on what the Psalm writer calls the altar of our God of joy and gladness.
The gifts of bread and wine are offered as a glad expression of our submission of our lives to God this morning. Their transformation to Christ’s body and blood and our receiving of these is the instrument of our own ongoing transformation into thankful living.
Such living is a counting of blessings. As the old chorus puts it so simply and beautifully: count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
For all things come from him, and of his own shall we give him.