Saturday, 25 July 2015

Trinity 8 Romans 8 BCP 8am 26th July 2015

Little James and his parents were in church and there was a baptism.

The boy was taken in by all of this. He observed the priest saying something whilst pouring water over the infant’s head.

With a quizzical look on his face, he turned to his father and asked with all the innocence of a five year old ‘Daddy, why is he brainwashing that baby?’

Out of the mouth of babes!

At the baptism later this morning we’ll be reminded of what it is to be a Christian.

We will say we turn to Christ, repent of our sins, renounce evil and profess faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we say it we will all be a little more brainwashed into Christianity.

At no other place does the Church of England make it so clear what it is to be a Christian than in the baptism service.

We will be brainwashed that bit more into the truth Paul announces in our epistle that the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God and, if children, heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.

As we say what we believe, as we just did in the creed, our words enter our ears and descend to our hearts so that we believe it all the more.

Little James had a point.

In our or our parents choice for us of baptism there is a choice to be placed within the influence of Jesus Christ and his Spirit.

We are influenced by all sorts of worldly things but as Christians our greatest concern is to possessed by the spiritual focus that Jesus offers. 

It doesn't matter how much we do or have but it does matter how much love we put into it and the use of it and to possess what Saint Paul writes of in Ephesians, namely to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, to… be filled with all the fullness of God.

Such an aspiration is a long haul. Baptism is a long haul. It costs a lot but it’s worth a lot as the promises of God make clear, and the pivotal promise is that we just affirmed of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

We do baptisms on Sunday morning when Jesus rose as a reminder of the call to the baptised to honour  Sunday as the Day of Resurrection.

One of the things we get brainwashed or disciplined into as Christians is coming to church on a Sunday.

Sunday’s the day life triumphed over death in the resurrection of Jesus and there’s no more meaningful thing in life than what conquers death.

Earthly life’s a prologue. The book of life proper starts beyond the grave with Christianity’s Founder who is the life, the truth and the way.

Life is what Jesus is all about. God who gives us life wants to give us his life in his Son who said I came to bring them life and have it to the full (John 10 verse 10).

For a Christian the glass is never half empty it’s half full at the least and it gets to overflowing.

Another scripture, again from John, makes this plain. Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Jesus says Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.

When we choose Jesus there’s a fruitful overflowing. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit… wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

As someone said God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.

Religion can get a bit nutty, yes. It’s God-given but it does get man-handled.

We seek the spiritual fruitfulness that flows from the long haul of baptism, trust in God’s promises and the hope of the resurrection.

May the Holy Spirit who anoints us with the bread and wine and words of the eucharist bring us energy this morning as we offer ourselves our souls and bodies in union with Jesus Christ to God our almighty Father. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Trinity 6 8am Eucharist 19th July 2015

Today’s gospel shows us a heart and mind expanding vision of God shown in the glorious transforming ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wherever he went…they laid the sick in the market places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.  Mark 6:56

The main issue for the church today is – how much of a vision of God do we have?

How magnificent is God to us, or more exactly to you or I?

How big is your God? How real?

You can be sure of this – however magnificent and real he is to you today there’ll be a greater magnificence and reality in store for you!

On a few occasions in my ministry I have been on the scene when the glory of Jesus evidently illuminated someone.

I think of Bernard who came stumbling around to the Clergy House of my Curacy beaming all over his face.  Was he drunk? I thought. No. Jesus had come real to him. The Holy Spirit had opened his inner eyes. 

I think of an older man to whose troubled deathbed I’d been summoned. As I read the 23rd Psalm deep peace descended upon him.  It was as if Jesus appeared and just took him away. He died joyfully as I prayed.

Or some time back when a young man called James described to me how for several months he had helped his wife cope with a spiritual problem, Jesus made himself known. James started a confirmation course. A short meeting opened my eyes with his to God’s wonder and magnificence
Here at St Giles over my six years I have seen eyes opening to the heart and mind expanding vision of God that’s at the heart of this eucharist, people testifying to transformation of their lives in some degree or other.

What a difference it makes to someone when they see Jesus!  They see glory – glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

To see Jesus is to catch hold of a radiant beauty quite out of this world, a beauty that is compelling and extraordinary in its attractiveness.

Could we wish anything more wonderful for anyone than a personal revelation of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

It can be ours this morning at the Eucharist. With St John we are to call out: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty; he was, he is and he is to come.

In this celebration earth is joined to heaven. There steals on the ear the distant triumph song as our words of praise find echo and amplification from angels and archangels, St Giles and all the company of heaven. 

God grant us a vision of himself more to his dimension and less to ours as we come before him this morning to thank him for his joyful goodness!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Trinity 6 8am Sunday 12th July 2015

Let’s start with Amos. Scripture calls him a prophet but he himself denies it if you look at the end of the first reading. I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

In scripture prophets and priests are linked respectively to challenging and maintaining the status quo. In our passage Amaziah, the priest of Bethel is a sort of Dean of Westminster Abbey of his day as an appointee of the King of Israel. Even the band of prophets were King’s men in those days. This is why Amos says he’s no prophet’s son.  Though a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, God took him saying “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

In the Diocesan vision our status quo as a religious community is somewhat challenged. God sets a plumb line or marker against us. We are reminded that we need more church members and all of us need to take more responsibility for bringing them in.

I would go further: sheep produce sheep, not shepherds. If the Diocesan challenge raises more fervour for each one to reach one that will prove its worth.

Then our second reading from Ephesians. It counts God’s blessings, speaking of our adoption as God’s children, our redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, ...the obtain(ing of) an inheritance...and the seal of the... Holy Spirit.

God who’s given us his dear Son Jesus Christ has given us all things in him. Our endeavours to grow in faith, love and numbers as a congregation are set within God’s plan for Horsted Keynes that’s part of his plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

One of the challenges we have is to build relationships between the church and the village, especially through the Martindale, so all that we know to be precious, the things Paul lists in the reading, may be made evident to those around us.

Through the various enterprises in the Martindale church members and non-church members engage. Through our prayers, and the good stewardship of the Martindale committee we look to engaging St Giles more fruitfully with young and old in Horsted Keynes for their good.

Ephesians 1.3-14 is one of the earliest eucharistic prayers – eucharistic meaning thanksgiving. The passage lists God’s mighty work among us in Jesus Christ. Three years ago Fr Keith McRae helped facilitate our last vision day when he spoke of critical mass and the mass as critical. Of St Giles need to build a critical mass eg of youth and families for outreach and also to see the mass or eucharist as critical since it has in it the wherewithal to help us do what God wants us to do.

The more thankful we are, the more we live Ephesians 1 and the eucharist, the less inhibited we’ll be by pride and foolish self reliance as a Christian community. Self reliance is the major obstacle to hearts opening and being enthused by Jesus Christ who calls us as a church into greater dependence upon him.

In the Gospel account from Mark 6 of John’s beheading we might observe how the Baptist got beheaded for his forthrightness. He also won respect from his hearers for it, and a place in the church calendar. People, young people especially, feel they can engage with folk who’ve a definite and not a shifting world view. It’s the people prepared at times to tell us it as it is that are end up being most formative in our lives.

I have conversations with many an atheist nowadays who drag me over the coals about faith in God’s goodness given the dreadful evils in the world. I’m glad to so engage seeing their engagement with me evidencing serious pursuit of the truth I am about. So with King Herod and St John the Baptist. When Herod heard John, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

Truth speaks to power. Christianity is true. There is a God who both made us and loves us. As we witness to that, something inside of people is stirred.

For 1000 years the Christian community here at St Giles has been a generation away from extinction. The truth of what we stand for is a counter to the powerful apathy and unbelief around us. We shouldn’t lose heart but take courage to be forthright at time about the truth we share - even if it costs. You won’t lose your head in Horsted Keynes!

If there is a theme through today it is prophetic in that way. Amos and John the Baptist encourage us to speak the truth God lays on our hearts with courage and prudence. Paul in our second reading calls us to fresh awareness of all God has given us in Christ which will energise our faith.

In seeking a critical Mass for growth here we shall indeed do well to see the Mass as critical. Let’s then be open now in a quiet moment to what God is giving us this morning in the table of the word and the altar of communion so we can gratefully seize upon his leading.