Holy Baptism for Joshua Iles – What’s in it for me?

Well Joshua Jonathan Iles you’ve flown a long way to be here. Whitkirk isn’t Texas and yet if you had been baptised in the lone star state, it would be just the same.

The waters of baptism there and here are just the same, they have the same power to unite us with Christ as we obey his command. And yet perhaps Joshua if he were a little older might be thinking what’s in it for me?

It’s a good question and sometimes people seem to have the wrong idea of what baptism can do for you.   It certainly doesn’t offer any guarantees or security that the tragedies of life will not affect you, it doesn’t mean that you won’t make a mess of your life, it isn’t some kind of invisible force field to protect you from evil. However it does unite us with Christ and that unity is about life.

That brings us to reflect on the Gospel for today. We heard of the the woman who struggled for so long  with haemorrhages who is healed as she touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak and that event is framed by the raising of Jairus’ daughter. It is a dense and rich gospel passage that is at once disturbing and encouraging.

Why disturbing? Simply because we have no experience of what it describes. Just this last week the church was full to bursting for the funeral of a local 19 year old lad who’d had cancer. His parents had journeyed with him and they together with family and friends were here to participate in something no parent should have to.

For them the raising of Jairus’ daughter is likely difficult because that cannot happen for them or indeed any parent whose precious and beloved child is taken from them.    Continue reading “Holy Baptism for Joshua Iles – What’s in it for me?”

Parables invite us to see more

Jesus was an unpredictable fellow. I reckon it was sometimes pretty frustrating to be around him.    He did unexpected things, he is elusive, difficult to pin down. He tells stories without explaining them, leaving you with more questions than answers.

Its part of what makes him, for me at least, such an intriguing and engaging figure. Our friend yes but taken seriously this isn’t a cosy, easy friendship, life with Christ is full of surprises.

I think that’s why in each of the Gospel’s in one way or another, they ask the question ‘if you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ In other words make it obvious, keep on message and tell us what we think we need to hear.

But no, that kind of question invites the wrong answer, hence Jesus’ reluctance to engage with it.    Instead as the Gospel reminded us today ‘he did not speak to them except in parables.’ But why?

The reason for me is about the nature of our relationship because we’re invited into a grown up relationship with him. So Jesus is not our master and we his slave at least not in the conventional sense rather he is our friend and companion.

That’s why he sometimes seems elusive because he invites us into a depth of relationship beyond the superficial, invites to say yes to him, not just once but again and again as we go through life sharing our journey with him.

On that journey we meet him in so many ways not least through his parables, we heard one this morning. These are great stories that get beneath the surface of things, they challenge us and lead us to think about things differently. Consequently they might sometimes give us more questions than answers, but exploring those questions is part of what faith is all about.

But isn’t always easy, that’s why we sometimes want to echo those words ‘If you are the Christ tell us plainly.’ The desire for simple answers seems to run deep. Continue reading “Parables invite us to see more”

The Well of Life

‘Take care that you do not forget the Lord’ wrote the author of Deuteronomy but if we’re honest we sometimes do.

We live as though we are the centre of the world. As though we can manage perfectly well thank you very much, we forget who and what we are made for.

One way we counter our forgetfulness is through worship, what we are about this evening when we deliberately stepping into that place where we remember who we are.

When we remember that the God whom we worship is the God of all things, who we are to worship and adore in all times and seasons, good and bad.

Even those times when we want to tell God to get lost, we come and through worship remember who we are, remember amidst the frustrations and sadness’s of life that we are but dust.

The psalm for this evening, 36, captures something of the paradox of what it is to be human.

On the one hand it speaks of self-deception and guile ‘Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes.’ 

And on the other speaks of how though we may strive to deceive ourselves, we cannot deceive God and in him we find life. ‘With you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light.’

Super words those, likening a well, a place where life giving water is found with what happens when we don’t forget the Lord. I shall return to that image a bit later.

Water and life is also picked up in other verses of the psalm, reminding us that with God we shall ‘drink from the rivers of your delights.

So my friends ‘take care you do not forget the Lord.’

But how do we do that amidst so many demands, people to see and places to be and so many other supposedly more exciting things to do? Continue reading “The Well of Life”

Behold what you are, become what you receive.

What one thing would make all the difference to your spiritual life?

What is the one easy win that could make a real difference?

What to do amidst the mountains of worthy books on prayer and worship that doesn’t feel too difficult?

I guess we all struggle with those questions sometimes yet take heart for the one thing you do tonight simply by being here makes all the difference. For here we receive Christ, what more could we ask and we take his life into our own.

In an age when we sometimes think of mission as seeking to be ever more relevant and accessible, tonight we remember that the beating heart of the church has been and always will be this Eucharist.    For here the bread and wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit become for us Christ’s body and blood.

So the one thing we can do, the easy win, is simply turn up as you have done because that’s what Christ does. Every single time we do this in remembrance of him, he is here with us.

But there is more, the transformation we think of tonight isn’t just about bread and wine but about ourselves. St. Augustine when writing about that moment in the liturgy when the consecrated elements are held up before the faithful, said ‘Behold what you are, become what you receive.’ Continue reading “Behold what you are, become what you receive.”

Living the Trinity – Creative Community

Last week in the Gospel for Pentecost Jesus said ‘the spirit will lead you into all truth’. The Holy Trinity, three persons and yet one God which we celebrate today is surely one example of what that means because there is of course no mention of it in the New Testament.

The three persons are there, Father, Son and Holy Spirit but the idea of the Holy Trinity was something that was worked out in the early centuries in the life of the church, in response to differing ideas and truth claims surrounding what we believe about the nature of God.

So there we have it, easy. Well yes and no because if you spend any time reading about the trinity, about “perichoresis” and “ousias” and all that before long your head will start to hurt – in simple terms it’s not easy to get your head round the trinity.

I used to visit a lovely chap as a curate on Walney Island. He never came to church but was widely read and for him the trinity was a great stumbling block “three persons and one God” he would say shaking his head and walking off. I fear my responses weren’t very helpful to him, too many “errms” and “hmmms” but I’ll return to Bill at the end.

I suppose he wanted a neat and tidy answer. Maybe an image like the one on our banner, but though that might be tidy and neat, there is more to the trinity than that.

Instead I’m happier beginning with that great Orthodox Bishop, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I once heard him speak on the Trinity.

The first thing he did, gazing out to his audience with his wonderfully holy face and a glint in his eye was to say, “the Trinity is a Mystery”.

And for me that is where we begin and end today. A mystery is held before us(1)1 Corinthians 15.51, something we can never fully understand or comprehend and like so many things to do with faith, it’s only when we stand before it; pray it and perhaps most of all live it that it begins, just begins to make sense. Continue reading “Living the Trinity – Creative Community”

References   [ + ]

1. 1 Corinthians 15.51

Big and Small – Pentecost is for All

Sometimes I struggle a bit with this great day for I sometimes feel as though I’m celebrating a birthday of someone or rather something I don’t know that well. Yet though that’s where this sermon began, I’m thankful that as my words today will show, it’s not where I end up.

So why the struggle?

It’s something about that feeling of being excluded.

Often we human beings are good at finding ways to divide ourselves. It’s understandable enough I suppose, we’re all different with different gifts and abilities. No use trying to say we’re the same when we are not. Continue reading “Big and Small – Pentecost is for All”

Four Weddings and a Funeral

In the early 90’s the film Four Weddings and a Funeral was a great success. It was the movie that launched Hugh Grant’s career as he tries to find love.

It was successful, it seems to me, because it wasn’t just a conventional chick flick. It was a film which alongside the joy of life, the weddings; recognised that every story no matter how we might wish otherwise doesn’t always have an apparently happy ending.

If you remember at one of the four weddings, which is taking place in the picturesque Scottish Highlands, one of the main characters collapses and dies. It was a moment when to use some words often used at funerals ‘in the midst of life we are in death’ ring true.

I guess we all know something about that of how in the midst of life, when everything else seems to carry on as if nothing has happened, something profound has happened. Life has been wrenched from someone we love and nothing will be the same again. Continue reading “Four Weddings and a Funeral”

The Brief Encounter Patchwork

The God who draws us here this morning is the God of brief encounters. In that, although God’s presence is constant we are limited to glimpses and hints of his life and love in the world, brief encounters.

And the God of brief encounters is present in the lives we lead and the patchwork of brief encounters that make up our lives. Of course some of these brief encounters turn out to be rather more, the first date that turns into marriage for example.

But sometimes they are just a few minutes and I guess all of us if we think back over our lives we can all recall brief encounters which have shaped our lives. Moments that have enriched our living as we are encouraged or inspired.

Let me share one example from my story. I remember meeting the great jazz and rock drummer Jon Hiseman, who at a concert made eye contact with this young drummer and then spoke with me, made me feel important.

But there are also difficult brief encounters are also often vivid memories. When we receive bad news from a medical professional for example. These few minutes in a life of thousands of minutes, are vivid and often perfectly recalled.

Just this last week I was with someone as they recalled with great clarity some of the most traumatic few days of her life.

Brief Encounters good and bad are etched on our minds. Continue reading “The Brief Encounter Patchwork”