Not fitting in and weakness

Not fitting in and weakness – two themes to ponder this morning from the readings, themes that are subtly connected – not fitting in and weakness.

Not fitting in – is something that most of us have some experience of. Whether it is starting a new school or new job or joining a new group, or even coming to church. We know that sense that we don’t fit in. We don’t know anyone. We don’t know the rules.

But eventually we adapt, we form new friendships and we do fit in. And generally in life we like to fit in. And what is true now was true in the time of Jesus. Jesus in the Gospel this morning is back in his hometown. He goes to the synagogue on the sabbath just as he always has.

But this time something changes. His teaching is different. He has an authenticity and wisdom that astounds those present. And from being someone who fitted in ‘they took offence at him.’

It’s interesting that this trip to the synagogue precedes the sending out of the disciples in the second half of our reading this morning. They, you recall have witnessed what happened in the synagogue.

And Jesus sends them out by two and the Gospel makes it clear that they will not fit in everywhere, that some will take offence at them.

As followers of Jesus today this experience of not quite fitting in is around for us sometimes. For though we generally want to fit in there are times when it can come into conflict with what we think Jesus would have us do.

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Giving thanks… whatever

Many of us have had, either one or both doses of a vaccine that we hope and pray will lessen the continued impact of Covid-19 on our lives. Those of you who have not yet – soon will.

And its clear that the vaccine has made all the difference, and though the virus will continue to evolve the vaccine works. Those who developed, manufactured, delivered and administered it deserve our thanks.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that charities like Christian Aid identified this moment in which we want to give thanks and donate money to support those less fortunate then ourselves.

But if we feel the need to give thanks for the vaccine at the moment just imagine the response of the poor woman described in our gospel this morning who has ‘endured much under many physicians’.

Just imagine her desire and need to give thanks for the miracle she received from Jesus just by touching ‘his cloak.’

Then there’s Jairus whose daughter who is at ‘the point of death’. He pleads with Jesus to come and though he arrives too late to everyone’s ‘amazement’…‘she got up.’

What would Jairus have wanted to do in response to Jesus giving him his daughter back? Surely from that moment on he would’ve been for ever thankful and spent his life telling others of the miracle that happened that day.

But Jesus says ‘tell no one’. He does so because he knew that his teaching could so easily be distorted by these acts of love, for faith in him is more than miracles. It was and is about transformation of life, a way of living and loving that changes everything.

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The Kingdom of God is…

‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God’ asks Jesus in our Gospel today. To answer his question he uses a parable to help his listeners understand because it’s not a kingdom as we often think of it. Nor is it a place, as we understand place. Nor is it just a fantasy or an idea that makes us feel better.

It is so much for when we pray ‘thy kingdom come’ we are praying that God’s reign over all things will in time be established.

What that looks like is beyond our imagining except every now and then we get little clues. For example, in those random acts of kindness and love from both friend and stranger that surprise us. These help us believe that what we hope and dream of, what we long for might just come true.

They are to use the imagery of our Gospel little mustard seeds of the kingdom, gifts through which we contemplate what is to come. And yet the imagery Jesus plays with in this parable is not just about the future. It’s about what was to happen next for those first followers of Jesus.

For they in a way were tiny seeds, frightened people, fragile and precarious living in a hostile culture. But they became so much more for from tiny seeds came the church that has ‘”put(s) forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”’

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Our Suffering is for Your Consolation

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.

I have to admit that I haven’t always got on too well with St Paul. There are the unfortunate comments about women… but mainly it is just he is so blooming sure of everything – particularly himself. As a lifelong Anglican I find this slightly alarming…

So when I first looked at tonight’s reading – I couldn’t get past Paul saying  “If we are being afflicted it is for your consolation” – it all seemed a bit self important of Paul – and didn’t make a lot of sense.

Then someone asked me if I would visit her neighbour – a lady whose husband of nearly 60 years is in St Gemma’s hospice and very poorly.

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Giving is Good for You

In giving we receive. That’s what we called it this time last year when we launched a giving campaign to increase our financial income. It ended two weeks later with a Harvest Lunch of Thanksgiving. I was delighted with the result. We increased our income, including gift aid by just under a third. There was much to be thankful for.

However we were starting from what I felt given our number and our relative affluence was a low income. Consequently though we’ve made good progress there is more to be done. We are still some way short of meeting our commitments not least to our diocese through our parish share. We have not paid what we have been asked for over a number of years which is something of an embarrassment.

Yet we will get there not because I stand here and make you feel guilty, I don’t want to do that anyway, but because we are growing and know that our giving is central to who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.

Money is of course part of our life. We need it to pay the bills, to support those whom we love, to enjoy our life and to be free from worry. I am not immune to those feelings, quite the opposite and so I have to keep asking myself, as we all should, whether these notes have an excessive hold on me. Continue reading “Giving is Good for You”