For fear.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Keep your voice down someone will hear. At least that’s the response I imagine in the scene before us in today’s Gospel for ‘the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.’

It was finished, or so they thought – they were still reeling from Mary Magdalene’s proclamation that she had ‘seen the Lord.’ Left wondering how could that be?

This morning we find them afraid of being found and facing the same fate as the man they had followed. So, ‘the doors were locked for fear’.

This image of locked doors seems so apt for us at the moment. Especially as we recall that tomorrow the locked doors of shops, and gyms and pubs (well, as long as you are sat outside) will be opened again.

And we, a little later than some churches will open our doors next Sunday for public worship, and it will be good to see some of you again, although facemasks and distancing and not singing will be with us for a while yet.

And as the vaccination continues to be rolled out, the locked doors of many in our neighbourhood will be opened again to family and friends. And yet I suspect we shall continue to live with some degree of fear.

For- some will fear what opening their doors will look like, having avoided supermarkets and trips out for over a year but beyond the pandemic we fear all sorts of things.

Continue reading “For fear.”

Sometimes things don’t turn out as we expect…

Sometimes life takes a surprising turn. That can be a good thing. Think of Captain Tom Moore who at almost 100 years old started pottering about in his garden and then raised millions for the NHS.

But it can a bad thing too. Think of the last year, and the how plans made have been postponed or abandoned altogether.

Sometimes we can be surprised when but then things don’t quite work out as we expect, and here we turn to our Gospel this morning as we think of the PTC.

The PTC, the Parochial Temple Council who thought that a few tables selling things would both help those who went, and make a bit of money too – to help pay for the new roof or whatever it was.

But then it all got rather out of hand. A few tables became a thriving marketplace. And so coming to the temple became less about worship and more about an exchange of money.

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Step in. Step out to see the big picture.

Most of the time we live just getting on with life. Wake up. We get up. We step into the day with its tasks and challenges. We eat. We drink. We rest. We go to bed and so it goes on.

But then occasionally, hopefully we sometimes step back too and consider whether we are in the right career, or the right home, or even the right relationships. We step back to consider the big picture.

It’s true of our life with God too. Much of the time we get on with it, we say our prayers perhaps, read the Bible, come to church, receive the sacrament. e step into our life with God daily.

But then every so often, if we are wise we step back and consider how that life with God is going perhaps accompanied by a friend or counsellor, whether we feel God close or distant.

Sometimes this stepping back happens painfully when we are confronted by something specific our mortality, an illness or a grief for example.

But it can happen at other times too, when we reach a significant birthday for example, or as we pay attention to an underlying sense that we are not as fulfilled as we might be.

Continue reading “Step in. Step out to see the big picture.”

Party People still?

If we were to undertake a survey to try and discover what people have missed most since we began this journey we are on. I imagine the answers would include, seeing friends and family, having a hug, family celebrations like christenings and weddings and anniversaries and birthdays and so on.

And we miss these things so because fundamentally we are made not to live isolated lives (as I am at the moment having tested positive for the virus on Wednesday last week) distanced from one another but to be together. To be in communion.

In the story of creation as we have it in Genesis we read that ‘the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone;(1) We are meant to be together. 

And whilst the Gospel for today often comes round at this time of year, it feels a bit as though its rubbing salt into our wounds at the moment. For we have not been together, we have not had a party to celebrate for ages, birthdays of note have passed, anniversaries celebrated differently.

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1 Genesis 2.18

Risk it. God has, so should we.

The other day I came across a cartoon. It depicted a vicar stood by a font, holding a child and surrounded by the family. High above them, sat a lifeguard looking down. The caption read ‘He’s the result of our risk assessment survey.’

What comes to mind when you think about the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Perhaps when you launched a new business?
Perhaps when you made that charity parachute jump?
Perhaps when you set out to cross Selby Road?
These are all risks in one sense, however is not the greatest risk of our lives to love.

Hopefully we are born into this life knowing love from our first breath. The love of our parents, family and friends and this love shapes who we are and how we see the world. There’s nothing quite like the love a parent has for a child, and a child has for a parent.

But even this love isn’t risk free. Parents don’t live for ever and to have a child is to be well acquainted with risk, sometimes tragically so.

This parental love isn’t the only love we know though. We choose to love others too, friends, husbands and wives and partners.

Thank God we do, it is right and good to love another person. It’s what we’re here for but it comes with risk.
We risk that love not being returned.
We risk being vulnerable as we open our hearts to another.
We risk being hurt, when a relationship ends or when a loved one dies.

So for me the greatest risk we take in this life is to love. Yet this is a risk that’s worth taking, for without love we as St Paul wrote are ‘nothing’ .

Continue reading “Risk it. God has, so should we.”

Unwrapping the Truth

Jesus said ‘Sanctify them in truth, your word is truth.’ The word truth is a word that we find frequently in the Gospel of St. John. Let me give you a few more examples than the words we have just heard in our Gospel this morning.

In chapter 1, we read that Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth’(1). In chapter four that we are to worship ‘in spirit and truth’(2). That Jesus testified to the ‘truth’ in chapter five(3). That the ‘truth will make you free’ in chapter eight(4). In chapter fourteen that Jesus is ‘the way, the truth the life’(5).
That we will be led ‘into all truth’ in chapter sixteen(6) and so it goes on.

The contrast with the other three Gospels couldn’t be greater. In Matthew’s Gospel the word truth is never heard. In Mark once and in Luke we hear it twice. So we could say that the fourth Gospel is one obsessed with talking about truth.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that when Jesus comes before a rather bewildered Pilate he asks ‘What is truth?’(7)

It’s this question I want to explore a bit this morning, as we ponder the words we’ve heard in our Gospel when Jesus prays that his followers may be sanctified ‘in truth’.

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1 John 1.18
2 John 4.23
3 John 5.33
4 John 8.23
5 John 14.6
6 John 16:13
7 John 18:37

Many stories told. Many still to tell.

“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Kirkgate Market has had a makeover. Over the last few days it will have been a hive of activity. Turkeys will have, not literally of course, flown out of the butchers. Enough fruit and veg purchased to feed an army. Amidst all the kerfuffle, some may have paused to notice some words painted on a wall.

The Kirkgate Market logo stands in the middle, on one side of it there are these words ‘Many stories told’ and on the other ‘Many still to tell.’

Many stories told. Many still to tell. Those words have stayed with me since I first saw them earlier in the year for they could equally be applied to Christmas.

What stories told accompany our Christmas?

Like the one when Dad went out on Christmas Eve to buy a Christmas Tree only to find them all sold out, and came back with what could be described as a Christmas branch.

Or the Christmas when the snow came down meaning that cars had to be left some way from the family home and walks made over snowy and icy roads to get home.

Or the time when plans were changed when an outbreak of illness meant that there were rather more at your house that you’d planned. These are some of mine, you will have your own.

Many stories told. What stories to tell from Christmas 2017 will seep into our family history?

We don’t know yet but something will happen. And the words we shall use to tell these stories will matter to us, for they become part of our story.

Continue reading “Many stories told. Many still to tell.”

The Spirit of Truth will lead you into all Truth

In a few minutes we shall say the Nicene Creed. In these carefully fashioned words from the fourth century we, together with millions around the world express something of what we believe.

They are words which witness to something Jesus said in our Gospel ‘I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.’

The creed, unlike the Ten Commandments, was not dictated to Mr Nicene up a mountain to be written on tablets of stone.

Instead in the centuries following Christ’s life and death, resurrection and ascension his followers strive to articulate what they believe about him and how that shaped their understanding of the nature of God.

So for hundreds of years there was discussion and dialogue, discernment and dissent. The truth was tested, some ideas and concepts discussed and then disregarded. Then in 325 in Turkey, at the city of Nicaea, Bishops, theologians and leaders gathered.

What emerged from their time together was a creed that bears the name of where it was formulated, a creed which has become the touchstone of our faith. A creed we say almost every week, part of that creed describes that which we believe and celebrate today, the Holy Trinity.

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