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Thy Kingdom Come

I have been sharing Thy Kingdom Come posts on the church Facebook page but didn’t think to post it here! So I’m starting with today – Better late than never…

 

Monday, 29th May – #Pledge2Pray #Offer

The Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio
Bishop of Cuba

‘God loves a cheerful giver.’
Let us offer our whole selves and work for the purposes of God.

(Two Videos Below)

A short video from Bishop Griselda: https://vimeo.com/218623586

A short Thy Kingdom Come video: https://vimeo.com/217821068

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A Very Simple Reality

When you read this I will be on my way to Taize (https://www.taize.fr/en), a religious community in France, so instead of my normal post I have copied a reflection from the founder of Taize, Brother Roger.

God bless…

“A very simple reality”

When we open the Gospel, each of us can say, “These words of Jesus are rather like a very ancient letter written in an unknown language. But since it is written to me by someone who loves me, I am going to try to understand its meaning, and to put into practice right away the little I have grasped.”…

Extensive knowledge is not important at the outset. In time that will be of great value. But it is through the heart, in the depths of themselves, that human beings begin to grasp the Mystery of Faith. Everything is not granted at once. An inner life is developed step by step. Today, more than in the past, we enter into the faith by going forward in stages.

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Right at the depth of the human condition, lies the longing for a presence, the silent desire for a communion. Let us never forget that this simple desire for God is already the beginning of faith.

Moreover, no one is able to understand the entire Gospel in isolation from others. Each person has to say, “In this unique communion that is the Church, what I do not understand of the faith is understood by others who are living from it. I do not rely on my faith alone but on the faith of Christians of all times, those who have gone before us, from the time of Mary and the apostles to those of today. And day after day I prepare inwardly to put my trust in the Mystery of Faith.”

So it becomes clear that faith – trusting in God – is a very simple reality, so simple that everyone could receive it. It is like surging upwards again and again, a thousand times, throughout our life, and until our very last breath.

Brother Roger

https://www.taize.fr/en_article1000.html

Chosen!

Thinking back to my school days I remember the world being split in two. Most people think of split between Grammar School or Comprehensive, but I remember a far more fundamental split than that. The split that I am thinking about is between those who were chosen and those who were not. Every time there was a game of football, or cricket or races or anything else, two captains were chosen. Then those captains would choose their team. As I said the world was then split between those that were chosen – those that the captains wanted on their team – and the rest – those that they didn’t want or even tried to refuse.

While at school I fell into both camps. In primary school I was a reasonable footballer and sportsman. I wasn’t one of the best at anything, but I wasn’t useless either. So I was always one of the chosen, just not usually the first choice. Then the world changed. I was very ill shortly after arriving in secondary school. I nearly died, and when I finally returned to school I was too weak to be much good at any sport. This lasted right through until I left school. So I remember vividly being the very last to be picked. I was popular but not an obvious choice for a football team, or rugby or cricket or any other sport. It was humiliating standing there and having your friends argue about who would have to have me on their team. I even remember someone demanding an extra player if they had to have me on their side.

I know of lots of people who are still hugely affected by that split at school. I know people who failed all their exams but remain positive and successful – they were always one of the chosen at school. I know people who passed everything but still struggle with a sense of rejection, they still expect to be the one left behind at the end; the one no one wants.

Acceptance or rejection affect me and all people so much, probably because we are social creatures. So it is no surprise that it was the sense of warm acceptance that I got from Christians that first attracted me to the faith. It would be no exaggeration to say that it was meeting a God who welcomed and chose me, that took me a long way on the road to belief. It has been my continued experience of God’s acceptance of me, that has kept me in my faith and ministry.

With that in mind it should be no surprise to learn that these words of Paul from the Bible have always been important to me, “Before the world was created, God had Christ choose us to live with him and to be his holy and innocent and loving people. God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.” (Ephesians 1.4-5) It is a big deal for me to know for certain that I am chosen by Jesus, and that the Father has accepted me as his adopted child. It feels wonderful.

I thought of this and then a picture came into my mind of the last time that I went to an animal shelter. All of those hopeful faces, all wonderful, all needing me to choose them, but of course I couldn’t choose them all. Dogs and cats, guinea pigs and hamsters; young and old. Each time I chose one or perhaps two, and had to leave the others rejected. Then the thought entered my head, “What if me being chosen means that others are being rejected by God?” I felt a shiver of horror go down my back. It was far worse than being at the animal shelter. At least there I was pretty sure that someone would choose the little faces that I had not. Even the ones left behind would still be loved and cared for by the dedicated people who ran the shelter. But what of those people not chosen by the one and only God? What about the rejected ones? I don’t know if I can accept this gift if all these others, are rejected. They are just as wonderful, quirky, good and bad as me, they are just like me but rejected.

Then I read a little further in the same letter from Paul and found, “by what Christ has done, God has shown us his own mysterious ways. Then when the time is right, God will do all that he has planned, and Christ will bring together everything in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1.9-10)

Right now God seems to have chosen some and not others. Some know him now and work for him while some don’t. Some have the Holy Spirit working in and through them reassuring them that they are God’s children, others do not. Looking around, that is true. But this is not the end of the story. Those with faith now are a sort of advanced guard, sharing Jesus with others, preparing the way. God seems to choose everyone who comes to him, without exception. Everyone who turns up and wants to play will be accepted; will be chosen. No one who turns up will be left on the sidelines or be chosen grudgingly.

Then it gets even better. Then “God will do all that he has planned and Christ will bring together everything in heaven and on earth.” God will finish his plan and get rid of everything that leads some to be rejected.

While I wait for God’s plan to be completed, in this in-between time, I want everyone to know that they can come to God and they will be accepted. They can come and they will be chosen, without a doubt. They will be chosen, adopted and cherished for ever.

My mind goes back to my school days once again. I remember how special it felt to be chosen first. I remember also the deep sick feeling of being left unchosen at the end. Now I know that everyone should know the joy of being accepted and no one should feel the pain of rejection. I can’t change most of the world. But I can do all I can to make that true about Church. Now I have to live up to my choosing and make sure that is what everyone finds when they come to one of my churches! I need to make sure that everyone who comes knows that they are chosen and no one is rejected.

I know that I will fail. I so often feel as though God should have chosen someone better. But he has chosen me, he has perhaps chosen you too. He has chosen everyone who has come to him. So perhaps he knows what he is doing. Perhaps we can work together to show that acceptance, His acceptance to everyone.

Perhaps…

I hope and pray that I am up to the task…

Will you help me?

The more a monkey climbs, the more he shows his backside! (2)

There’s a memorable Yorkshire saying that I’ve used here before, “The more a monkey climbs, the more he shows his backside;” or words to that effect. The more someone climbs the social ladder, the more they tend to show the parts of them that they are least proud of. We’ve all met someone like that: Swaggering around, telling everyone how important their job is, how big their car is, and as to their house… which one?

Now, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with people making a success of their life, but the sad fact is that success can often bring out the worst in them. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen good decent people twisted by their success, or accident of birth. They became arrogant and ‘stuck-up,’ snootily looking down on those they had ‘risen above’ or had been born to be ‘better than’ the rest. They never seemed to realise that all they were doing was showing their backside; showing how much they were inferior as people; showing the very worst of themselves.

Sadly, the harm of that sort of boasting spreads out. Those being looked down upon often start to develop a pride in their poverty or lack of education and an inverted snobbery grows, just as poisonous as the pride that caused it.

Paul was faced with something very similar in his second letter to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 12.2-10). A group of Christians seem to have turned up at the church that he founded. They are boasting about how important they are and saying that Paul is an imposter.

Paul makes it clear that he could boast about how important he is, just as well as these others, better even. Paul is clearly upset by what is happening to his church in Corinth, but he also spots the danger that he is in. So instead of telling them about all the great things that he has done and about how important he is in the church; how he was sent out by Peter himself, and much more. No, instead of that he does something completely different. Paul reminds them that they can trust him, because… well because they know him. They have met him and they just need to remember what they saw and heard from him when he was in Corinth. He reminds them he was humble with them when he was with them. He helps them to remember for themselves that before they were deceived, they loved him, and that he loves them.

Hoping that they are now listening to him again, Paul now tells them why it is so important not to boast. He shares with them how he has been kept humble by an illness or by persecution, so that he never gets above himself. He says that he is made weak, so that God can do more through him. He reminds them that if God made them then how can they possible boast about anything, except God’s love?

What a lesson! I have nothing to boast about, except in God who he has made me to be me, and in what he is doing. It is a lesson that I take to heart, but it is also a lesson I have to relearn every day. My qualifications and my various titles as a minister; I could boast in them, but I would just be showing my backside. Only God is great, and all of these are for him to give or take away. I have no power to stop him either way, so how can I boast, except in the love of God that I have known and shared?

The more a monkey climbs, the more he shows his backside.”

How much am I showing to those looking up?..     How much are you?

Is being tired a sin?

Brown as a nut, tired but happy I’ve just come back from working at the Norfolk Show. For the last five years the Diocese of Norwich has hosted a stall at the show, and each year it has become bigger and better. In the heat the £1 coffee and free water were as popular as ever. There was space to sit, to pray, and to lie on your back and watch the wonder of creation projected above you. There was space and the time to talk. There was singing and musicians. Probably our greatest strength was our provision for children. There were craft activities and soft play for the little ones, a climbing wall, canoeing experience and football for the older ones. Everywhere, the welcoming love of God was calling out to the people walking by.

Everything was done well, by people who knew what they were doing and who were offering their gifts to God. I was there to walk around, welcome and talk with the people there. I was there to listen, to encourage and to explore faith; to be with people from a huge range of backgrounds.

I’m still buzzing from all the excitement. I am also profoundly moved by the conversations that I had. Talking to people, introducing them to a Christianity that many will never have encountered before. A confident, vibrant church that was giving out rather than asking for money. All of this made me think of the vibrancy of Jesus’ ministry and that of the early church described in Acts and the letters. Like today the early church had its problems but it was not short on enthusiasm. Or at least that is what I thought until I read 2 Corinthians 8 once again.

Here Paul, still full of enthusiasm, is having to flatter and push, even subtly threaten the church in Corinth to help out with the collection for the Christians in Jerusalem. They don’t sound to keen to help him. He even sounds unsure whether or not they will accept the people that he is sending to them. Then I remembered the words of Hebrews 10.25, “Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship.”

So a lack of enthusiasm for the faith is not a new, modern problem. It was there at the start of the church and I suspect it will be with us until the day that Jesus returns. I don’t think anyone could be bored then, but people never cease to surprise me!

So I should not be surprised when I look around my churches and see some full of enthusiasm, but also see some who are tired and dispirited. I think that this is just how the world is, and how people are, even people who have God’s Spirit working within them.

I wrote this and then had to stop for a while. So much of the push in the church is for constant enthusiasm and passion. It is true that passion and enthusiasm are great, they show that the church is alive and dynamic, but I don’t think that this level of passion is possible all of the time.

People get tired, or discouraged, or weighed down by all of the worries and concerns within the church and outside. They are not evil, or second rate Christians. They are still the wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ that they always were. It is just that where they were the ones giving the encouragement, now they need love and patience as they receive encouragement themselves. After all this faith is for all seasons. The Father’s commitment to us is unwavering so our commitment to one another needs to be unwavering too, whether we are happy or sad, vibrant or depressed, or somewhere in between.

I read Paul’s words to the people in Corinth and I hear his love for them. They may have rejected him but he stands by them, he even praises them at times.

I think of my the inspiring time at the Norfolk Show. I smile and I pray that I can carry my smile with me to everyone back here where I live. I hope that this smile can stay. I hope that I can smile fit to burst to cheer on the enthusiastic, and smile gently to show love or to share the pain with those who are not.

God bless…

The Sound of Silence

The world is an incredibly busy place, noisy too. Not just noise out there but with all the rush and stress, I find that there’s lots of noise in my head too, and I don’t want it. I like my modern connected life, but I’ve found the cost to be high. I look around me and I’ve found lots of people feeling the same, young and old; and those of us somewhere in between.

The world is an incredibly busy place, noisy too. But it doesn’t have to go too deep inside. I lead a group of people who are learning how to be still and quiet inside. You might call it meditation; meditation that comes out of deep Christian roots. We gather for an hour together in an oasis of silence. We learn to calm our breathing and our mind, so that we can listen once again.

I have found that the silence sinks deep into me, calming me. I find that, without the constant outside clamour, I can hear, as if for the first time, the sound of my own thoughts.

Like deer from the trees, long hidden ideas and memories creep from cover. As I am healed in the silence I begin to hear another sound: The sound of silence; a sound that I suspect was there all along; the sound of eternity and the still small voice of God.

God bless…

 

Article of reflection broadcast by Park Radio at 7.45am on Sunday 24th June 2018.

http://www.parkradio.co.uk/

The Sound of Silence – Teaser

The world is an incredibly busy place, noisy too. Not just noise out there but with all the rush and stress, I find that there’s lots of noise in my head too, and I don’t want it. I like my modern connected life, but I’ve found the cost to be high…

Hi,

I’m on Park Radio again at 7.45 am on Sunday morning and my post this week is the short reflection I’ve prepared for that. I don’t feel right about posting it before I spoken on the radio so it will not go out here until 8.30am tomorrow. If you want to follow it live instead you can tune in on 107.6 FM (Diss & Eye) or 105.2 FM (Harleston), or online at  http://www.parkradio.co.uk/

God bless…

Staring at Clouds

I couldn’t think what to say this week, so I laid on the ground and stared up at the clouds. I conned myself that this was to help me think but really it was to experience again that sense of being drawn out of myself as I looked up at the sky. I remembered when I’ve been camping and slept with my head out of the tent so that I could stare at the night sky above me. I stared, my mind emptied and 2 Corinthians 5.1 dropped in, “Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever.”

I wasn’t not sure that I liked the thought that my body is as insubstantial as the clouds above me. Then my mind wondered again. I began to consider how all things shift and change. I saw a plane above me and reflected how that would have seemed impossible for most of human history. Now, I can easily hop over ‘the Pond’ to America. With the phone and the internet I can communicate with people on the other side of the world as easily as with people in the next town. I am living in an age transformed by technology.

I am living in an age of wonders, but I notice that people don’t seem any happier. We use all these modern things but we don’t seem thrilled with what technology can do for us. I must admit that I so often take these technicalogical wonders for granted. If I’m honest I only notice my tech when it doesn’t work, or is a little slow! If I am not careful I am like a spoiled small child, with lots of things, lots of toys and distractions, but an appreciation of nothing. I need to be like a child once again. Not the spoiled child that I so easily become, but a child experiencing the world for the first time.

The sort of child I was once, the sort of child excited at exploring the seaside, or a wood. I need to let my eyes see the wonder of the world around me, all of the time: The wonder of technology, the wonder of each day. I know that I need to notice the wonder of amazing things like a plane, a computer, or a beautiful day. I pray for the grace to see the divine wonder in the ordinary too, even in the difficult and uncomfortable. I pray for the grace to see the wonder of a hard church pew. The wonder in the bland and the ordinary; The wonder too in the sad events, the losses and the partings.

I watch the clouds in fascination and dream, I wonder, but Lord help me to wonder more. Lord help me to wonder, as as I am steadily drawn more and more into the eternity of your love.

Fresh Wheat

I remember walking through the fields near where I lived as a child. I can’t remember why I was there, but I do remember that it was a hot sunny day, and the wheat fields where ripe for harvest. I was young, probably about 8 years old and I was with my Dad. I was hungry (I always was at that age) and I can remember my Dad taking an ear of wheat and rubbing it between his fingers to release the grain. He showed me how to do it and we both nibbled on fresh wheat.

I was a fussy eater when little. So, if my Mam had put fresh grains of wheat on my plate for tea, I would almost certainly have refused to eat. But that hot day, in that field, those grains tasted better than any chips!

That memory makes it easy for me to imagine myself back in that field. But this time, it’s not my Dad who is with me, it is Jesus, and his disciples. I can picture the ears between my fingers. I can feel the roughness rub away leaving the smooth, soft grain in my hand. I can taste and feel the dry but slightly squishy grain in my mouth as I chew. That story from Mark’s Gospel feels so real to me; so natural; so ordinary, that I find myself recoiling in shock when I read about the Jewish leaders criticising Jesus (Mark 2.23-27).

Jesus and the disciples had broken the law by harvesting on the Sabbath and the religious leaders were furious, particularly that a religious teacher would allow his followers to act like this. They were right. A literal reading of the Old Testament law, as stated in the 10 Commandments, makes it clear that working on the Sabbath is forbidden (Exodus 20.8). Part of me agrees with them. I want to be able to look to my Bible and get simple instructions on how I should live, and the 10 Commandments seem to be one of those places in the Bible where God’s will couldn’t be simpler to understand.

I like simple, but Jesus the Jewish minister (rabbi) is having none of it. He breaks one of the central commandments of his faith. What is worse he encourages others to do the same. He goes further too. Jesus questions the very nature of God’s commandments. Jesus teaches that God’s commandments are not rules to be slavishly followed, no matter what. They are not laws where disobedience needs to be punished. No, these are the words of a loving Father to his children.

Jesus is being absolutely consistent. In John’s Gospel we hear this theme of God’s love for his children in great detail. Later in John’s first letter we hear him reminding his readers that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4.16)

So Jesus is saying that God had given the 10 Commandments to Moses, not to limit people, but so that his much loved children could live well. These words had been given in love by a loving God but they had been twisted and used to put people down.

This is a lesson for all time. So now each time I read my Bible I ask myself, “Where is God’s love?” If I can’t see a loving God in what I read, then I need to step back and read again; I have obviously misunderstood the passage. It has transformed my understanding of the Bible. I once saw the Bible as a rulebook, and struggled. But Jesus’ words, recorded in the Bible have changed all that. I now know the Bible to be a book about God’s love, setting me free to love God back, and I love it!

Good religious people still try to turn the Bible into a rule book. I am still tempted that way myself. But when I wake up from my temptation and sin, I find my Father waiting patiently to welcome me back. Now in my imagination I wander through those ripe fields again. I am young, a little more than 50 years old, and I’m with my Dad. I taste the warm wheat in my mouth and know the love of my Father beside me.

I now read the Bible, asking all the time, “Where is God’s love?”. I hold out a hand and I invite all to join me.

All You Need is Love

“All you need is love”, I’ve had that Beatles song going around in my head all week. It just keeps repeating on an endless loop. That earworm has meant that I’ve been thinking about love. I blame, not the Beatles, no I blame Bishop Curry and his sermon at the royal wedding last Saturday.

“All you need is love:” People everywhere are calling out for love. Love in their lives, love around them. Love in the way that people treat each other. Romantic and sexual love form a major part of that longing. But on their own, sex and romance always seem hollow; beautiful on the outside but lacking in substance within.

Romantic and sexual love are like the sugar of love. They taste wonderful, are phenomenally attractive, addictive even, but on their own they are ultimately unhealthy and destructive.

“All you need is love:” I’m not immune, I too crave that sugar love… but I need a balanced diet. I need the sort of love that cares, and will keep caring. I need to receive that deeper sort of love to know that I’m valued. I want to be more loving too. I want to be changed by love.

So, “All I need is love:” I want to come to the source of that deeper love, to be drawn into that love and changed. I know that I need to come to the source that is infinitely greater than me; the source who is itself a relationship of love, the love of Parent with Child, all bound together in a Spirit of love.

“All you need is love:” The source of love more often described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God bless…

(The text of my reflection on Park Radio: http://www.parkradio.co.uk/)

All You Need is Love – Teaser

Hi,

I’m on Park Radio again at 7.45 am on Sunday morning and my post this week is the short reflection I’ve prepared for that. I don’t feel right about posting it before I spoken on the radio so it will not go out here until 8am tomorrow. If you want to follow it live instead you can tune in on 107.6 FM (Diss & Eye) or 105.2 FM (Harleston), or online at  http://www.parkradio.co.uk/

God bless…