Vicar's Thoughts

Prayer 2017

1 June 2017

We are currently in the Novena, those nine days of prayer to which the Archbishops have called us to from Ascension to Pentecost. And, we are engaged at St Mary’s on a number of initiatives related to this.

Prayer is very much a time where we talk to God and say sorry... seek to change... Ask for things... worry about things... tell God we’re frightened... lonely…

Of course, we should ask for things, apologise and all the other things we know prayer is all about. We need also to remember God through prayer in the good times, times when we are thankful.

But as well as in times of asking and in times of being thankful, God is gracious enough, generous enough, loves us so much, that he wants us to simply receive too.

As Rowan Williams has said: "The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say [prayer helps] make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

So, as well as saying sorry and asking for things or being thankful – on behalf of ourselves, and on behalf of others - God tells us we can also simply be still. To, at some point, stop talking so we can receive what God has for us. To minister to us. Particularly in times of tragedy, fear, anxiety, confusion…

That’s not to say we will actually ‘hear’ anything... or feel anything. But we will be opening ourselves up to those words we hear in the great blessing at the end of church services... we open ourselves up to the Peace of God which passes all understanding.

In the simple act of waiting, we are opening ourselves up to becoming more the person God wants us to be; knows we are. Of course, it may be difficult to find a place, a time, privacy. It may be difficult to look like you are praying.

Wherever we are whatever we are doing, we can find ourselves in a place of grace. We don’t have to think about anything if we don’t want to. Don’t have to make some kind of elaborate prayer or anything. All we have to do – whatever we are doing, wherever we are – is to remember God once in a while. Remember he longs to be part of our lives, wants to offer us his Grace.

Grace is what works in us to bring us hope, healing, peace, a sense of reconciliation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and the Gift of God. It is found at the heart of prayer, of fellowship with one another. It is found in Hymns, it is found in the act of kneeling or even in the lighting of a candle. It is found in tears. It is found in the Eucharist – Holy Communion. It is a mystery. But it’s freely available. To all of us. Grace is what brings us home - to our true home in Christ.

It cannot be asked for - certainly not demanded, nor fretted over. But it can be waited for. It can be waited for with an open heart and open hands. It is rooted in love, stretches back through the centuries and stretches on into eternity. Through grace (as St Paul says) we do not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear: Through grace we receive a spirit of adoption. Through grace we find ourselves able to cry Abba Father – call God our beloved father. Because it is that very spirit of grace which bears witness with our human, fallen, frail, flawed spirit – that despite all our faults and failings we are, indeed, God’s children.

May you have a blessed Pentecost and Trinity Season

Amen

Mary Magdalen - Easter 2017

2 April 2017

Mary Magdalene has a crucial role as witness to us about the Easter Miracle. She has been called 'The Apostle to the Apostles'. For it was she who first encountered the empty tomb. It was she who ran to find Peter and John to tell them. It was she who had the first encounter with the risen Christ. It is she we can use as a model for our own journey of faith and our own encounter with the living Christ.

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A Lenten Reflection

18 March 2017

Jesus is standing, even now, as he did before Pilate and Herod,
silent before the secular rulers of the world.
Jesus stands, silent, before the self-righteous religious people.
Those religious people who are so wrapped up in their own ways
and their own version of the Truth.

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Come and See

16 January 2017

‘Come and See.’ Such a simple phrase, and yet one of the most profound in all of scripture. This is God – the creator, the one in whom we all live move and have our being, extending to us a great and gracious invitation. Come and see…

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Christmas Message 2016 - Change

23 November 2016

It sneaks up on us doesn’t it? Not the regular changes we’ve become used to. Like the seasons. Like the change from countryside to city when we journey in the car or the train. Like the change of cultures or even languages when we travel. Like the change from our daily routines into periods of celebration - as with birthdays or anniversaries… or Christmas. Those kinds of changes don’t tend to bring with them any sense of unease.

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Christ the King

21 November 2016

Last time, we were talking about the point at which pain and grace meet. The place where Christ is to be found. We end our church liturgical year with something called the Kingship of Christ. Why do we end it celebrating Christ as King when, in just a few weeks time we will celebrate the birth of the King again? Why do we end it (as the church does) with a reference to Christ’s crucifixion? Well, perhaps we are being asked: what does the Cross say about the Kingship of Christ?

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Remembrance Sunday 2016

13 November 2016

Most of us here in Britain, thankfully, find the Christian journey, if a little complex, not too demanding. I use the word journey because this is what we are on. We the church. Individually and communally. It is good to have someone to pray for us, look out for us, seek out with us what is best and most fruitful for us in our ministries both as church and as individuals… But we are also, first and foremost, called to follow Christ ourselves as individuals, and to model Christ to others whether anyone is alongside or not. After all, the most important ‘someone’ is still alongside - and will never leave each one of us: Jesus.

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The Dishonest Steward

17 September 2016

On Sunday we read the bible story Jesus told of the Dishonest Steward of a great man’s estate (Luke 16.1-13). A servant who, about to be sacked for dishonesty, went around to everyone who owed the great man money and deliberately cooked the books so they didn’t have to pay quite so much. An act which, Jesus’s story goes on to relate, the owner of the estate, surprisingly, then praises him for.

Praising the dishonest steward for losing him money in order to help others?

What’s that all about?

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Luke 12.13-21 & Ecclesiastes

4 August 2016

Help me Jesus! Take my side. He’s in the wrong and I’m in the right. Tell him. Tell him off. Make him give me the money he owes me.

That, in a way, is how one Gospel passage starts (Luke 12.13-21). In the Ancient Near East Rabbis, Teachers, the Learned, were sought out by parties in dispute to give a legal ruling on any given issue. One wonders, without legal institutional accountability, whether some of those ‘learned folk’ - those people in positions of authority, responsibility, trust - were perhaps corrupt and would look more favourably on those people who – shall we say – offered some kind of ‘thank you’ in terms of money or goods for finding in their favour? Thank goodness that doesn’t happen today (!)

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Pentecost and Trinity 2016

14 May 2016

This is the time of year when Christians celebrate Christ's Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Ascension is an odd thing, really isn't it? In Art we are usually presented with the image of Jesus floating off into the clouds. It certainly is the image we are given as Children. And it seems, well, unbelievable, right?

Perhaps I can let you in on a little secret...? Human beings have – and have always had – difficulty in believing anything. Anything. So we shouldn't be surprised if we, as human beings – at least most of us, I assume – find this Ascension event difficult to get our heads around.

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