Sermon for the Feast of the Presentation

Well we have seen this coming… here we are in the Temple presenting Jesus again. Simeon and Anna who have been waiting for the fulfilment of God all their lives are here too and they recognise this fulfilment in Jesus.

The Epiphany of God, which we have seen in so many ways now. Draws to a conclusion.

Christmas officially ends today and the crib figures, those who have led us in Epiphany can be put away.

Yet in this ending we also really do see a beginning.

I am reminded of those famous lines in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets “Little Gidding”

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;”

The beginning we see is the journey back to Jerusalem. This time the Donkey really does appear! Yet this time the cross is also on the horizon. Yet another time for ending and yet another time for beginning again.

I have become convinced over recent weeks especially,  that to look at the life of Jesus in any sense as a linear movement, or as a simple day one through to day end is never going to reveal what he clearly was to the people who followed him and became his disciples.

At each turn of the way the whole epiphany of God to us is revealed, the new wine, the crucified King, the glory of God seen in a humble stable, and today even even in Simeon’s words to Mary today,

“a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Last week was Holocaust Memorial Day, Auschwitz was liberated. For many this place showed the lowest that man could become, and yet even last week we were reminded of stories of redemption and love and forgiveness shining through the darkness. Here again we see that there is no darkness that light cannot penetrate.

Whether it be a dirty stable, a cross of execution, the darkness of the grave. God can reach in and out of all these places.

An end? or a beginning?  Which way are we facing? And for what reason?

I am reading Richard Holloways book “Waiting for the last bus” at the moment. Its subtitle is ‘reflections on life and death’. This is a moving and challenging book in many ways as it encourages us to think both about our own life and our own death.

Holloways remarks that humans are reflective creatures and because of this they find it hard to live with the muddle and confusion of their nature. Perhaps something some of us at least can recognise!

Because of this he suggests we look for the rescue.. the explanation…. The rescuer…. That thing which will not only make sense of it all but redeem it all too. For Christians this is often naturally seen in Christ, but only in a Christ that stands at both ends of time at the same time and whose beginning is an ending and whose ending is seen as a beginning.

The Feast of the presentation reminds us of this circularity of Christ.

As you and I travel the journey of faith we know so often that sense of moving on yet also arriving and the times of saying farewell and hello.

Our life of faith is that exploration we enjoy with God at our side, or even with God holding us in his arms and that realisation that,

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;”

And as God holds us in his arms as Simeon did for Jesus on this feast day, we can glimpse the fulfilment of the Kingdom and the revelation of that light… a light that seeks to be revealed now…. Through us.

 

A reading from Oscar Romero.

God comes, and his ways are near to us.

God saves in history.

Each person’s life, each one’s history,

is the meeting place to which God comes.

How satisfying to know one need not go to the desert to meet him,

need not go to some particular spot in the world.

God is in your own heart.

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany

sermon:

Sermon For Fourth Sunday of Epiphany 2019

Lerwick

I must say that I have been both fascinated and challenged by the exploration of Epiphany this year.

Today this time is drawing to a conclusion, with the finale next week at the Feast of the presentation.

We have seen how for Luke it was the Shepherds who lead us into the Epiphany… the manifestation of God in Christ

For Matthew (which perhaps is more natural for us to say) the Wise men show us the Epiphany of God in Christ open for all the world to see and to recognise as we are invited to come and worship with them and bring our own gifts… what can I give him poor as I am etc?

In Mark it is the Baptism of Christ and the words of heaven “this is my Son… listen to him” that opens up the Epiphany moment when our eyes are encouraged to look and see God in Christ ready to embark on proclaiming the good news of Gods Kingdom on earth.

Last week we found ourselves at a wedding feast… perhaps it was our own wedding banquet and our wine had run dry and Jesus uses water in vast quantities to offer us the best new wine of the Kingdom which we are invited to drink.

Today we find Jesus in the Synagogue reading the Prophet Isaiah and we here that when the Kingdom of God is witnessed the poor hear the good news, the blind recover their sight, those who feel trapped discover freedom, the oppressed find freedom, and those who are in any kind of debt are released from it. The Kingdom of God brings in ever new and liberating possibilities.

Over the last weeks we have also been invited to realise that we have the mind of Christ, and that One Spirit is moving within us.

I have also put before us the three questions which we can always use when invited into Scripture readings and into the stories of the Gospels in particular.

The, What?

The, So What?

And the ,What next?.

(Perhaps we realise that rarely do we allow ourselves the discovery of the answer to even the last two what questions)

So to bring these questions to the Synagogue today… If the Kingdom of God means these things…. So what?

Are we going to gaze on the reader (Jesus) and when he rolls the scroll up just move on to thinking about something else….. or are we like the disciples going to keep on following Jesus and work out ways of making this Kingdom he spoke about a reality?

Well I would like to think we choose the latter and follow Jesus along the way and learn from him.

Paul today helps us a little in this ..

He tells us we are the Body of Christ.

This is a big ask… a huge point. We are the Body of Christ.

If the Shepherds, wise men, and the folk at the wedding realised in Christ that the Kingdom of God was living and present…

How much more should they realise that the Kingdom of God was living and present when they look at the Body of Christ today…. You and me?

Next week we find ourselves at the Temple Simeon and Anna are there and Mary and Joseph bring in their first born son, to do for him what is prescribed in the law.

Simeon and Anna have been waiting nearly all their lives to see God’s Kingdom fulfilled and when Jesus is there they recognise this is the very moment. Simeon even takes him in his arms and declares that he can now die in peace knowing that it has happened.

When we come to celebrate the Feast of the presentation next week, are we going to come with the same mind as Simeon and Anna? How much have we been waiting for the Kingdom of God to be realised?

Will we be able next week to declare “Now I have seen it” Now I know the Kingdom of God is present… now I am part of it as a member of the Body of Christ?

Will we be able to witness to the Epiphany too? Can we recognise God in Christ reconciling the world… can we see ourselves as part of this amazing thing?

God knows the world needs it, God knows the worlds needs us!

Pewsheet for 27th January 2019

Pewsheet for 27Jan

sermon for 3rd Sunday of Epiphany

Water into wine?

Following on from last week (how could I resist?) but without the flipchart!

We encounter the infamous story today of Jesus turning a considerably large quantity of water into the best wine that people at a wedding feast had ever tasted.

 

What?     Does this story cause us to wonder?

So what?    What could it mean for us

What next?    What effects are made upon us?

 

Needless to say it is worth pointing out some important points..

Johns Gospel tells the story of Epiphany very differently and actually begins with this story of Epiphany… and it is he says the first sign of it.

He introduces this story with a key phrase “On the third Day”…

This must surely be reminding the readers of the resurrection and the time of God’s fulfilment.. (it was also the time Jonah was in the Whale)

The wedding feast was the celebration of something life giving and something new… it was a day of celebration.

The fruit of the vine is often symbolic of God in our world and in our lives, there are lots of examples of Jesus talking about the fruit of the vine or the vine itself… I am the vine and we are the branches he says at one point, and of course when you drink of this cup remember me ….

We are not just being asked to listen to the story as we have realised… but to enter into the story and find our part in it. The story is an invitation to us…

So, when Jesus makes gallons and gallons of wine at a wedding reception, it is a sign for us­, Here we see things clearly being pointed out (underlined three times if you like) that the scriptural promises we know well about God fulfilling promises and God coming to his people and sharing his love with them are unfolded here. God future is unfolded before us. It is REAL. It is NOW.

That’s why turning water into wine is the first of the signs Jesus did, and the rest of the signs follow. It’s saying, look! God’s future is breaking in now, has begun in Jesus. What else does God’s future look like? It looks like hungry people being fed, sick people being healed, dead people being raised from death, death itself being defeated.

God’s future is available now. In the present. In this life. We don’t have to wait to experience hope. And we can trust that God will keep God’s promises for the end of time.

 

We might be able to take some clues as to how we make this possible… how can we grasp the meaning?

Mary gives an answer: do whatever he tells you. !!

Maybe easier said than done to be honest but there you go.

But notice something else in this first sign… The people play their part! Without the people the sign would be missed…it would not happen.

They got to participate. They got to have a hand in Jesus’ first sign. They just did what Jesus told them to do:

“Fill the jars with water” and they do.

No arguing, “We need wine, not water.”

“Now draw some out” and they do.

No complaining, “What’s that going to achieve?”

“And take it . . . So they took it.”

No, “Hey, Jesus, I have a better idea . . .”

They just do the simple, straightforward things Jesus tells them to do and they get to participate in a miracle.

What might this suggest to us?

Jesus works with us

Do whatever Jesus tells you. Something even as simple as water can become a fine wine.

The mundane becomes miraculous.

We become (next week) nothing less than the body of Christ and we have been told we also have the mind of Christ.

Sermon for Sunday 18th November

Sermon for 2nd Sunday before Advent (B)

 

These weeks before Advent, known to us now as “the kingdom season” it is the time we direct our thoughts to what we mean as the victory of Christ.

What exactly is the Victory of Christ and how do we understand it?

 

We look at this through the readings and  we see the effect which such victory has in the great scheme of things,

  • In the fulfilment of creation,
  • In making all things new.
  • In putting right that which was wrong.

The weeks culminate for us next week as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

 

The difficulty that you and I face in coming to understand these things is the way we view time as if it were linear, a before and after in chronological sequence. For us “Cosmic” has somewhat different connotations. We get all tied up with literal understandings of up and down, of body and Spirit.

 

 

 

I am told that the Temple in Jerusalem was an incredibly outstanding building, closely followed by the city itself, surrounded by a magnificent fortified wall. Some of the stone used in the temple were the largest ever used for building not just by that time but also since. Absolutely huge stones.

 

Of course they were not only building their special city, but it was all bound up with the place God had chosen. The Temple represented the place of God’s very dwelling. And to match their feelings and their belief in God, they built with the finest and largest stones they could. It was impregnable, God was not beaten. They had absolute and complete confidence, based on years of history, many victorious battles, and now also on the finest edifice in the world

 

It was against this confidence that Jesus words about the end of the Temple took them by unbelievable surprise. “Do you see these fine buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another” It was simply impossible to believe, they all knew how massive they were.

 

Every society possibly builds a Jerusalem, or a Temple, to house its gods. They may not even be built today with bricks and mortar, in fact we now realise these will probably fall. But there are plenty of other “Temples” …and we cannot bear the thought that our Temple will fall, but inevitably they do.

 

We find our confidence in some pretty shaky things sometimes.

 

Daniel chapter 12 lies at the heart of the Jewish understanding of Resurrection. The Fulfilment of God’s good creation. The restoration long awaited. The Christian Church developed this thinking and saw in Jesus the revelation of the resurrection after he was crucified. It changes and changed everything for those who believed.

 

This is worked out more fully in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which at best can be confusing, but works out the roll of Sacrifice and priesthood seen against the life of Jesus.

 

Written after the fall of the temple in Jerusalem it is able to masterfully point to where real confidence lies in a post Jerusalem society.

 

The Temple we worship in is none less than Jesus himself as far as the Epistle goes. We enter the sanctuary, no longer kept outside like in the old Temple. We are right at its heart.

The curtain (you remember according to Matthew was torn apart) no longer holds us back.

We approach with a true heart in full assurance of Faith.

 

The kingdom of Christ makes all this possible, as we head towards next week as we see Christ as the King.

 

It is set against this view of a world built upon a wholly different confidence than the world that went before, that we come to prepare ourselves through Advent to enter a once again God created space. A place where God dwells with us again, …and of course we see this as happening through the eyes of the Gospel writers in the babe of Bethlehem.

 

Simply to look on many things in the bible as history, is to belittle the importance of what is going on. Hebrews and Daniel and Mark 13 all point at the same time deeper and beyond the here and now.

 

Creation becomes NOT a moment in time but a present action of God.

 

The FALL is something that happens daily.

 

The RESURRECTION is the time each day that God fulfils his purpose in us.

 

The INCARNATION is when God again and again comes to right where we are and calls us to him as ransomed and redeemed, to use the words of the prophet Isaiah.

 

In what then can we say we find confidence in a world such as this.

 

Are we prepared to see Christ as King

Sermon Sunday 14th October

Today’s gospel is very familiar territory. Lots of well worn phrases including that enigmatic image of the camel and the eye of a needle and again all things are possible for God. The first will be last and the last first too! Everything seems surprising… if not challenging.

The scene we enter is familiar to us too… a person approaching  Jesus and asking a question…. But what a question! “

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Perhaps the first most important thing to realise is that the question we hear is not probably the one we thought.

The man is not asking about life after death.

Today we naturally jump to this conclusion because we have focused on this point too much ourselves. It is common currency to us, but it was not so in Jesus time.

The idea of life after death was actually quite a new concept and was still (perhaps still is) in formation.

Eternal life was not life after death.

In the same way the phrase Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of heaven does not translate into something that is beyond this world.

When Jesus says, “the time has arrived, the kingdom of God is upon you, Repent and believe the gospel” (Opening chapters of Mark) he was not talking about something yet to happen, something for the future. Jesus was talking about the present moment.

So what must I do to inherit eternal life?

The man was a devote person, he always had been. He had kept the commandments as he had been taught. There is no reason at all to suppose he was not telling the truth here. He had indeed done everything possible to lead a good and holy life.

Another fascinating thing in this passage which we can easily miss is that “looking at him, Jesus loved him”.

This is an exchange made in love not in any sense of judgement or even testing. Jesus recognises his holiness and honours it.

With love for him, the Lord said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

As we have noted people in Jesus Day were still in two minds about life after death. It was getting more popular to think in such terms but it was not universal belief. Eternal life however does not mean life until the end of time. It did not mean life after death.

Life and Eternal life was not about quantity, but quality. Eternal life means a deep connection with the ageless and invincible values of the Kingdom of God. Eternal life describes a quality of relationship between human beings and God, bringing us into a present knowledge and experience with the loving and living spirit of God.

I wonder why we jump to the conclusion it is all about quantity or lastingness of life rather than a qualitative thing.

Elsewhere Jesus tells us that he came to bring life and life in all its fullness… a passage I love and echo so often.

We have turned Heaven into a reward system when it was not about this at all… it has always been about promise.

Jesus loved this man before him. The man in turn loved God and followed all the commandments. But he was also held back in a growing relationship with God by “stuff” by possessions (and wealth).

I dare say we can all recognise what holds our relationship with God back. What prevents us growing. I dare say we know what our attachments are.

I dare say we may know what Jesus would tell us is the one thing we lacked…..

What is it that we need to give up in order to gain what is much more valuable? Is it greed or prejudice – ignorance or pride – anger or the need to control others, the inability to acknowledge our sins of hurting others or the “things we have left undone” or something else?

We probably know!

In a material world with so much emphasis on reward and punishment and gain and loss it is so easy to respond to God with similar driving forces.

Jesus tells us the Kingdom of heaven is already upon us… enter with Joy into the kingdom. Let us grow further in God and not hold back, God is ready to greet us as the Father did to his wayward Son.

Sermon for Trinity 15 September 9th

Sermon For Trinity 15 Yr B 2018

Lerwick

All of us love to be noticed, to be recognised, to be understood, and to be loved. We actually need this.

True enough there are times when we want to be able to blend into the background, and to pretend we are not there. It is sometimes not nice at all to be drawn out when you would rather be inconspicuous.

But to be loved and recognised for the person we are is, I think, a basic and important human need.

Today in the gospel reading we see an interesting exchange between a woman from Syrophenicia  and Jesus. It would appear that Jesus reacted to her very badly… we might want to say out of character. He was acting in what today would be described as a racist way… not something we wold in any way condone.

Yet the woman answers calmly and realistically and Jesus recognises the positive response and her daughter is healed… drawn into that place of loving and acceptance, and in drawing the daughter in to this place the mother herself is of course also included and drawn in.

Heading on to another notorious region, the Decapolis, Jesus encounters a deaf man who had a speech impediment.

There are various curious parts to this story of healing, including of course the seemingly unseemly method of healing by sticking his fingers in his ears and then touching his tongue… but the one thing that stands out to everyone who reads this story is the word “Ephphatha” .

The word is equally odd in the Greek as in the English… a bit of a tongue twister … pun intended!

“Be opened”

It is quite interesting to note that Mark uses the Aramaic word spoken by Jesus… his mother tongue if you like on a number of significant moments.

We hear Mark using Aramaic words here when healing this man in today’s gospel,

When he is talking about prayer and teaching his disciples how to pray “Abba”

When he is on the cross speaking to his Father in agony “Eloi Eloi Lama sabacthani”

And when he is raising a little girl from her death bed with the words “Talitha Koum” (Little girl get up)

It is noticeable that in each case they are moments of intimacy and closeness. There is something significantly personal going on.

They are private and not public moments… even if others seem to be able to overhear.

So today we are drawn into a private encounter an intimate moment and we are allowed to hear the word spoken “Be opened”

Many commentators ask the question about this and similar passages, how are we the hearer also hearing the words spoken as if to us… in other words we also hear Jesus speaking as if to us “Be opened”.

Furthermore this would be Jesus as if it were speaking quite privately to us and intimately… “be opened”.

I know when I stop for a moment and get into that space and hear Jesus speaking to me “Be opened” I know what it is I am keeping “closed”.

I may be able to speak and I can usually hear too… but I know there are things “closed” which need the recognition and healing to be “opened”.

We have then encountered today a private moment with Jesus… a time set aside from the crowds when we come face to face so to speak and are invited to hear Jesus and to be recognised by Jesus for who we are. A moment when we can deep down beginning to feel the Love surging towards and through us.

It is intimate enough even perhaps to feel the fingers in our ears and the touch on our tongue… very personal stuff. And lets not forget Jesus uses his spit too!! (A little gross to our sensitive ears?) (

The word Ephphatha occurs elsewhere in the gospels too, notably again on the Road to Emmaus (another private encounter as it happens) and the disciple eyes are opened as they recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread, and in the Acts of the Apostles Lydia’s heart was opened to hear the good news of Gods loving call and acceptance before she then went on to invite Paul into her own home.

We might therefor be able to suggest that this word “Ephphatha” ..“Be opened”… is the heart of the message of Jesus both to his early disciples and to us.

Jesus takes us aside to the place we can hear intimately him saying to us “Be opened” and in this we are enabled to live our relationship with God and with others more fully…

 

….We live!

Trinity 14 Pewsheet. 2nd September 2018

Sunday 26th August

Sermon For Trinity 13 Yr B

Lerwick 2018

One particularly interesting thing today is that the gospel today repeated some of last weeks gospel. This is unusual.

it may therefore help us focus on the topic of importance.

We heard last week and again this week that those who eats this bread will live forever. Today again the main thrust of what we hear is about living and life.

The disciples we are told felt that this teaching was difficult…. I wonder why they found it so difficult?

There is much in our world today which on the one level seem to compliment things Jesus was saying. We are often told or that we have the feeling that if we “did” something, took something, bought something, then life would be  good. Some beers even reach the parts other beers cannot!

Our culture is driven by commercial success, the need to sell or to buy, the feeling that we should at least fit in, if not blend in.

Styles, fashions, trends, even our needs and wants, seem to be driven not by ourselves but by someone other.

The disciples found Jesus teaching difficult because like us they were focusing on the physical… the real bread the best wine. Yes it would appear that Jesus was not actually talking about that, but was rather speaking of spiritual things.

Once again he is speaking about the place we find home.. the place we need to abide in.

I spent some of this week in Glasgow at meetings. I was surrounded by people who were travelling, people who were moving from one place to another. Many were dragging huge bags and suitcases full of stuff. Some would have been trying to get home others were not.

I heard one check out assistant asking the chap in front of me where he was travlling to, and he answered he was heading home… to whch the reply was a question…. “home to relax?”

I was also struck by the number of feeding places specifically selling “food and drink on the go” one was even called, “grab it and go”

Jesus said “those who eat my bread and drink my blood abide in me”. He clearly was not talking physical food, he was trying to help people, you and I, to think of a reationship we have with God… the real palce we call home.

For far too long the church has spoken of heaven as if it were the place we head towards, whereas I really do feel that Jesus spoke about the kingdom as the place we already can live in. “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven… thy kingdom come….”

This was the place he was inviting people to abide.. to dwell.

For Jesus and his followers this place of dwelling was also the place of eating and drinking. By eating and drinking together the bread and wine of the kingdom we not only remind ourselves of our home but we also remind ourselves of the relationship we have with each other and with God.

Paul certainly picked this up when he writes to many of the churches about the way we are the body of Christ and how we are literally members of each other.

A wholly incarnational theology needs to embrace the Spirit as part of the body, the material. God is amongst us and beside us, not divided from us. God infuses creation with his Spirit, we believe this in Christ. The Spirit is life and Jesus help his followers see this.

 

Bruce Epperly says, “the spirit is embodied, and the body is inspired in the interplay of divine vision and human creativity… the church should become a laboratory of spiritual formation…

What we might call “reality” is certainly more than physicality and touchability. As an article in New Scientist this week notices, “the reality we experience tomorrow is the product of the mindsets we hold today”

What we believe does , and can, make a difference to the way we live.

By sharing in the Eucharist, we share in an experience of the Living God that breaks down barriers, the barriers we have built. By living Eucharistically, we seek to recognize the Living God in others.

In living a Eucharistic life, we  find ways to recognise God truly with each one of us, no matter what. Jesus lived this and proclaimed it.

 

It was no wonder they found it difficult, but nevertheless those who were able to respond are heard asking “To who else shall we go?” and may we, with them, also recognise their response to the question….“you have the words of life, we have come to believe you are the holy one of God”

Sermon for Sunday 12th August

Sermon For Trinity 11 Yr B

Lerwick 2018

From our epistle today,….

25Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil.

I have had  a book on my shelves now for years and from time to time I have read it. First published in 1969, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am” John Powel explores the processes at work in each of us from time to time which prevent us being well with each other.

At the beginning of this book he quotes from Genesis, “Then the Lord God said, “it is not good for man to be alone”.

And yet he goes on to speak about the place of falsehood we all from time to time live in, and how we walk around as if we were wearing masks over the face of our real selves, and that we often play roles to disguise our true selves.

I don’t know how many of you have been to a Masque ball or similar, where you really do wear masks even if only over the eyes to disguise who you really are… it can feel quite strangely liberating, and I also wonder if it is the same principal that many experience at Up Helly Aa when so many masks are worn by the squads.

From the 60s on we have known that perhaps haunting song “The Great pretender” some of its lyrics say,

 

“Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell

Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I’ve played the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to grieve all alone

Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal”

Something I believe about the teaching and ministry of Jesus was that he enabled authenticity. He accepted people for who they were, he loved them no matter what, and he invited them to part of the story as it unfolded.

It was clearly difficult for his society to accept this challenge as they had so many rules as to how society should work, everybody had a place and they should stay in it or be kept in it.

Questions were often asked about why Jesus was seen mixing with the outcast and unclean, and the Samaritan women at the well questioned Jesus even speaking with her and asking for a drink, before later on going with excitement to her town to invite others to come and meet the man who has told me everything about me… and it is implied of course accepted me for who I am too.

None of us want to live a life of falsehood yet we do also often hide behind the masks we hold up for protection. John Powell makes the observation that I may be reluctant to tell you who i am because you may not like who I am and yet that is all I have.

For the people who met Jesus in the narratives of the gospels it would appear the real self was loved and accepted, and indeed even healing was enabled to take place too.

We know full well, that the early church was not free from dispute and tension and difficulties. Strong personalities (including I suspect at times Paul himself) came crashing against others. People were seen leaving the less fortunate to flounder, and differences of opinion did indeed cause stress.

Yet at the same time we also know that the early church was visible in society for the way it “held everything in common, how they supported and cared for each other” and in Johns Gospel the famous words on the lips of Jesus,

“I give you a new commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another”

Paul also writes to the church that we should bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ

Nowhere is it suggested this way of living was easy, nor is it easy today. Yet we are called to mirror this more real way of being with each other in the church today.

We have had a good number of visitors to this church over recent months. It is wholly heartening to hear that they have found us a welcoming and warm place. Some have in fact deliberately sought me out to impress upon me what a wonderful welcome they have received, and how included they have been made to feel.

We should be proud of this, and of course continue this level of welcome.

Let us also develop a growing sense of love and acceptance of each other, one that will allow and encourage us all to be able to leave our masks at the door when we come in.

“putting away all falsehood and being members one of another” is not going to simply happen. There is no magic that will cause it simply to be.

Praying deeply with one another will certainly help, spending time with one another will also help.

The early church discovered that eating and drinking together significantly helped, and from this activity we have developed “The Eucharist” when we gather around the table and share the feast of the Kingdom. We partake and share The bread of Life. It is an opportunity for God to feed us and to sustain us.

In 1 Corinthians Paul likens the Body of Christ to the Church and perhaps comically describes the foot wondering “because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body”. He says here again we are members together in the body.

How do we see each other as members of ourselves?

John Powel suggests “To refuse the invitation to interpersonal encounter is to be an isolated dot in the centre of a great circle… a small island in a vast ocean”

We know what small islands can feel like.

He also goes on to emphasise “To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage”

Again I would like to point out that the liturgy of our Eucharist gives us on many levels the tools we may need. We break, we pray , we share, we eat, we are fortified.

Let us give thanks for what we can become in Christ.

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