Leave your comfort zone – get outta the boat.

Words and phrases in the English language come and go. So what’s fashionable for one generation may not be for the next. I find that jargon words crop up all the time, some are easier to use than others.

So do you know what it means when someone begins a sentence with “hash-tag”?  Would you know what “eating the frog” means? Well it means exactly what it sounds like – doing the one thing you have been avoiding.  “Eat the frog” – getting it over and done with.

The opposite of eating the frog I suppose would be being in your comfort zone. So let me ask you. Where is your comfort zone?

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Evensong Sermon for the Transfiguration

On the eve of day of his assassination Martin Luther King gave his last speech.    It was filmed and watching it all these years on, it has lost none of its power.

As he draws to his conclusion, he talks of scripture.   “I have been to the mountain top” he says, he has “seen the promised land”.    He encourages his listeners no doubt wearied by the struggle for equality “we will get to the promised land” he tells them for “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King was a man who had spent time with God.   He had glimpsed more and he knew that he couldn’t let the injustice of segregation and inequality go unchallenged.    Being with God had changed him.

Moses had, as we heard in our Old Testament reading been with God too, on Mount Sinai.   This mountain top experience had changed him too, so that ‘the skin of his face shone because he had been with God.

This morning we heard of how Jesus, together with some of his friends also went up the mountain to pray when ‘the appearance of his face changed’.

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The Transfiguration

Doreen was nice enough.    A faithful member of another St Mary’s, Walney Island where I served my curacy.   She lived with her husband Bill (who never went to church) in one of the posher terraced houses, built for the managers of Vickers Shipbuilding in Barrow.

From the outside theirs was a house like any other on the terrace.    Inside beyond the well cleaned hallway and polished statuettes I found Bill in the back room.    At first glance he looked rather crumpled, he wasn’t really very well, he had trouble breathing and so on.

If I’m honest I expected the conversation to be pleasant and friendly which it was yet there was more.    The large bust of Richard Wagner I glimpsed on the way in should have told me that.

When I spent time with that crumpled little man I was surprised time and again.    Here was a man who taught me always to look twice, to try and be attentive, to look beneath the surface.

He may not have looked much but this was a man who loved poetry and Dostoevsky and Shakespeare.   He might have been stuck indoors for much of the time, but his days were filled with the sounds of famous theatrical performances on audio tape or with classical music.    He loved music, Wagner yes, but more Mozart, Beethoven and so on.    Movies too.   We were never short of something to talk about.

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‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like…’

“The kingdom of heaven is like…”           How would you end that sentence?

It reminds me of a primary school lesson on similes and metaphors – ‘give 4 ways to end this sentence…’

And I know from experience that if you gave that task to a group of 7 years olds you would get some nice, predictable answers…’The kingdom of heaven is like angels singing’…or ‘a summer’s day’.

You would get some answers suggesting the authors were in a parallel lesson, if not a parallel universe – usually involving dinosaurs or sharks…

And then you’d get some that really made you stop and think.

And that, after all, is the point of parables. It’s easy to forget – because they are so familiar, or because they weren’t written for 21st century Leeds– but the point of parables is to put surprising things side by side in a way that provokes our imagination.

According to some of my books, parables…

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For the First Celebration of the Holy Eucharist by The Rev’d Alison Battye

What a joy it is for me to preach on this great occasion.     Alison was ordained a priest yesterday at Leeds Minster and this morning for the first time to use some words from that service she is presiding ‘at the Lord’s table’ and leading us in worship.

She has already declared ‘in Christ’s name the absolution and forgiveness of our sins and at the end of the service she will ‘bless the people in God’s name.’

This is the stuff of priesthood, forgiveness, presiding at the Eucharist and blessing.    So though Alison looks the same something has changed, she is a priest.    Thanks be to God.

I was ordained a priest in 2004 and I’m still trying to work out what it’s all about.   For whilst we can read something of what being a priest means in our service book, the ordinal, that’s just part of the story.

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Corpus Christi Sermon 2017

Bread and Wine.     The stuff of an ordinary meal with friends, gathered in a room in a pub.   Except for me at least bread and wine isn’t an ordinary meal, bread maybe but wine well that’s for the weekend or the day off or if we have a guest to stay.

Wine is anything but ordinary.     Bread is though, we toast it, we make sandwiches, we even pray for it ‘give us this day our daily bread’.

The other day a familiar face called at the Vicarage door looking for food.    The nuns were apparently out so I’m obviously the second choice.

I try to be graceful when he calls, after all aside from the inconvenience he goes away thankful if I have filled his bag with a few bits.

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Glastonbury and Abiding

Ten days ago I spent a couple of nights in Glastonbury.    Aside from the music festival, a quick walk up the Tor years ago and the existence of an Abbey, I didn’t really know much about the place.    I left feeling it was a strange place.

For I’d never seen someone hug a tree before – I did at Glastonbury.    My friend watched as someone poured water on a random stone and proceeded to march around it making a droning noise.   I learned too, about ley lines which are I quote ‘spiritual and mystical alignments.’

At Glastonbury there is a strange mingling of pagan, Christian and all kinds of other practices in one place, a place for searchers.    For those who might be described as spiritual but not religious.

Perhaps if Paul were there today he might have begun with similar words to those we heard in our first reading.    “People of Glastonbury (rather than Athens), ‘I see how extremely religious you are in every way.’

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Sermon Easter 3

‘Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.’

These words began the Gospel reading for today, a Gospel which as I’ve thought about it has shaped me both as a person, but also as a priest.    For the themes of the reading have seeped deeply into how I understand ministry and the church I’ve been called to serve.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that it finds echoes in our vision statement here at St. Mary’s, words written first on the back of an envelope that you find everywhere, on our posters, on our newssheet, on our website and so on.    It’s one of those things the incumbent bangs on about.

Hopefully you know what I’m talking about, so please can you join me and say the words (if you’ve forgotten the words are on the Sunday Sheet) that St Mary’s is a place ‘Where all find a welcome and are nurtured in their journey with Christ.

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