Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Early thoughts from July 26th

The readings I will be using are

Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

The OT lesson of David, Bathseheba & Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:1-15) is almost too wonderful NOT to preach on, but as I have a baptism at each church I think it may be just too convoluted to tackle with a largely 'unchurhed' congregation on a one-off occasion (shame!)

So these are my thoughts so far:

I admit to being completely hooked on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, Anthony Gormley's 'One & Other' installation, in which a different person each hour occupies the empty plinth & has a completely free choice of what to do. Some people have raised awareness of charities, some have simply admired the view & taken photos of the world below, others have exercised or even prayed.

What would you do –how would you share something meaningful for an hour?

I thought about the plinth when I read the gospel story for today – Jesus feeding the 5000, & stilling the storm.
Now if you could do either of those things on the plinth – That would really make an impact.

But for Jesus the very act of being on earth here at all was, if you like his ‘plinth moment’ – God become human – come to earth to live a normal human life – a life we can see and touch and hear.

Jesus shows us God not in heaven but here – on a plinth – with us.

And Jesus ends up not just on a plinth but on the cross – to show us the extremity of his love: the ‘breadth, length, depth and height’ of it as Paul writes.

These baptisms show us God with us throughout life – God joining us on the plinth of existence in Jesus – helping us to make the most of our lives, our moments – to live with him & know we are loved.

So perhaps if I took to the plinth I would take with me a huge font of water, to sprinkle everyone below as a sign of God’s love for them and presence with them.

Monday, 13 July 2009

July 12th

Trying to get ahead before a holiday - sp lat week was a bit hectic.
Here's yesterdays notes (much expanded 'on the hoof') - no notes for July 19th, but will try to post something for 26th early rather than late!

Plumblines
Amos provides us with the memorable image of the plumbline.
God shows him this and says that he is going to place this plumbline in the midst of the people of Israel.
A plumbline is always true – it will show up what has not been built well, what is not built straight – even if at first glance it looks OK. If your life is a little unsure, a bit wayward, then the last thing you want is to be told that God’s plumbline is coming.

And so Amaziah, the priest complains to the King, Jeroboam – that they should seen this trouble-maker Amos to the other kingdom, the kingdom of Judah. Amos’s reply is that he isn’t a ‘professional’ prophet who wants to say things to please people and get paid for his work, but God has told him to say these things.
The people of Israel need to listen, and change, and ‘straighten up’ – especially when it comes to the unfair way they are treating the poorest in their society.

Being God’s faithful people means accepting that sometimes we have a problem, we are not quite right: we need to allow God’s spirit to move among us, correcting us when necessary and helping us to build our lives in a way that is true to God’s purpose.

…..

The gospel reading recaps the story of John the Baptist.
Like the plumbline of Amos, John had not been afraid to tell King Herod that he should not have married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John is true to God’s law – and Herodias doesn’t like being open to scrutiny in this way. So she tricks Herod into having John killed.

Would John have changed his message if he had known the risk he was taking? Probably not – we have no evidence that his message changed while he was imprisoned by Herod. The truth is the truth – whatever the consequences are for your own safety.

The story of John the Baptist is told at this point of the gospel because what Jesus is saying and doing has reminded Herod of John – he thinks Jesus is John come again.
Jesus, too is God’s plumbline, the measure of what it means to live a life pleasing to God – a life lived for others and without fear of what authority can (and ultimately does) do to him. Jesus came not to judge and condemn but to love and save – to show by example what a life of love looks like, and to call people to follow.

….

The psalm is one of hope, not of judgement.
God will speak peace to his people, and bring in a time when love and faithfulness will meet: when people will be so filled with love for God that they will naturally be faithful – God’s love will fill God’s people so that their lives will be true to God’s plumbline – they will be put right.
I love the phrase ‘righteousness and peace will kiss each other’ – there will be a time of complete rightness and oneness and wellness.

In contrast to words of judgement, these are words of hope – God’s love will set people straight, will make their lives right.

Here we have Jesus’ life laid before us in bread and wine – to inspire us to live as God requires and to strengthen us to live by God’s plumbline and to be that plumbline to others.
To God’s glory. Amen.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

What a great idea!

The baptism today was at a 9.30 service, and at the invitation of the family we all went over to the village hall after the service for brunch - bacon rolls and sausage, tea, muffins, etc. Fabulous! The whole atmosphere of the service & afterwards was very upbeat - I do love to see a full church!
Now I'm wondering how to suggest 'brunch' to more baptism families??? - though we do have a tradition in one of the churches of an iced baptism 'cake' which is also a lovely idea. No wonder Jesus spent so much time eating with people.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Longer sermon notes

This one is more of an 'internal church' sermon...

God is speaking (Ezekiel 2:1-5 Mark 6:1-13)

I wonder if any of us here would say that God has spoken to us?
Perhaps it would feel strange to admit that (does God still speak to people?) – or dangerous (people might think we were mad) – or just not ‘us’ somehow (that whole booming voice out of the clouds thing).

The reading we heard from Ezekiel talks about God speaking to him – but he’s in the Old Testament, so you expect that sort of thing more. In the bit we read today, Ezekiel says ‘I heard a voice’ – but this isn’t the only way God speaks to Ezekiel, and maybe some of the other ways seem nearer to our own lives.
The very first time Ezekiel is in touch with God, he sees something – a storm coming, then as he continues to look he sees a wheel in the storm, ( you might know the song ‘Ezekiel saw the wheel…”) and as he looks again he sees the glory of God – he is amazed by what he sees and is convinced that God is present in it.

Ezekiel continues to see things and hear things – and sometimes what he hears is described as the voice of God and sometimes he says ‘the Word of the Lord came to me’ which seems to be more an inner conviction that he knows what God wants him to do.

So even for Ezekiel there are different ways of God speaking to him. Directly and indirectly – in what he sees and what he hears.

And then Ezekiel himself is sent to be a prophet – someone who speaks to people on God’s behalf – who speaks out for God.
Ezekiel is like the lamp we thought about earlier – he shines with God’s light, for the benefit of others, through God’s power.

How good are we at being this sort of prophet of God’s loving word?

First, the bad news:
According to a recent study by an American, David Kinnaman, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:

* antihomosexual 91%
* judgmental 87%
* hypocritical 85%
* old-fashioned 78%
* too political 75%
* out of touch with reality 72%
* insensitive to others 70%
* boring 68%
Kinnaman concludes “It would be hard to overestimate how firmly people reject-- and feel rejected by-- Christians".

This contrasts very strongly with the attitude of people to Jesus – although as we heard in our gospel reading he too had to face hostility.
The people who knew Jesus best – the people of his own village – were at first confused by him
‘How could this son of Mary be the one through whom God has come to us?’.
Yet they were confronted with the rightness of his message – a message of love and healing and reconciliation. And as Jesus continued to teach and heal, more and more people came to see that this was God become human, God incarnate, God with us.
Now the good news – God still speaks to his church and challenges and empowers us to be prophets of the good news of his love – even to a world which might expect us to say something else.
If, like Jesus we stick at declaring a message of hope and love, ultimately the world will have to think again about the message they hear and the prophets they hear it from.

Jesus sent his followers out to speak to others, to spread the good news of God’s love: like Ezekiel they were prophets, speaking out to others on God’s behalf. We need to get away from the image of prophets as gloomy judgemental folk, or those with an axe to grind. We need, instead, to understand and help us others to see that prophets are those who walk closely with God and are empowered by the Spirit.

We are to be prophets of God’s message of love – present before us in bread and wine.

We need to allow these gifts to speak to us of the love of God in the giving of Jesus’ body and blood - his dying and rising.

Then filled with God’s gift to us we can be God’s own for the world.
To his praise & glory.
Amen.

Baptism sermon notes

This is one sermon (the shorter one) - I will also post the other - the first page is the same, but then they diverge!

God is speaking (Ezekiel 2:1-5 Mark 6:1-13)

I wonder if any of us here would say that God has spoken to us?
Perhaps it would feel strange to admit that (does God still speak to people?) – or dangerous (people might think we were mad) – or just not ‘us’ somehow (that whole booming voice out of the clouds thing).

The reading we heard from Ezekiel talks about God speaking to him – but he’s in the Old Testament, so you expect that sort of thing more. In the bit we read today, Ezekiel says ‘I heard a voice’ – but this isn’t the only way God speaks to Ezekiel, and maybe some of the other ways seem nearer to our own lives.
The very first time Ezekiel is in touch with God, he sees something – a storm coming, then as he continues to look he sees a wheel in the storm, ( you might know the song ‘Ezekiel saw the wheel…”) and as he looks again he sees the glory of God – he is amazed by what he sees and is convinced that God is present in it.

Ezekiel continues to see things and hear things – and sometimes what he hears is described as the voice of God and sometimes he says ‘the Word of the Lord came to me’ which seems to be more an inner conviction that he knows what God wants him to do.

So even for Ezekiel there are different ways of God speaking to him. Directly and indirectly – in what he sees and what he hears.

And then Ezekiel himself is sent to be a prophet – someone who speaks to people on God’s behalf – who speaks out for God.
So how do we hear God speak to us?

Perhaps in the birth of a child. This is a miracle by any definition of the word. A new person, an emerging individual, a blessing to the family and to the world.
It is quite right that we come to give thanks for Henry’s life today and to baptize him as a sign of the love God has for him – a love that will be there for him and will be ready to speak to him throughout his life.

Perhaps through this very act of baptism God will speak to us. The good news of God’s love for Henry is also the good news of God’s love for each of us. God’s love has blessed Ange & Jeff through the birth of Henry and they are responding to God’s love in their own baptism today.

Perhaps God will speak to us through the Gospel reading we already heard. People who knew Jesus best – the people of his own village – were at first confused ‘How could this son of Mary be the one through whom God has come to us?’. Yet as Jesus continued to teach and heal more and more people came to see that this was God become human, God incarnate, God with us.
Jesus sent his followers out to speak to others, to spread the good news of God’s love: like Ezekiel they were prophets, speaking out to others on God’s behalf.

And Jesus tells his followers to share bread and wine & to allow those gifts to speak to them of the love of God in the giving of Jesus’ body and blood - his dying and rising in love for all of us.

God is speaking – are we listening? Amen

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sunday July 5th

I'm writing this on July 1st - so that's half the year gone! Wow - that was quick...

Readings for this coming Sunday are:

Ezekiel 2:1-5
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Ezekiel's call as a prophet and Jesus as the 'prophet without honour' seem to fit together & I can see them fitting into the baptism (yes, another one!) service... but Paul's stuff about a person being taken up to the seventh heaven & then his own stuff about his thorn in the flesh feels a bit too technical for the congregation that are going to be there.

So we're left with prophets... I'm drawn to the idea (which I used years ago) of 'why is a prophet like a table lamp' - you can only really see what it is when it's doing it's stuff; it illuminates others; it only works when it's plugged into the mains.
The point is getting away from prophets as gloomy folk, or those with an axe to grind and encouraging us to see prophets as those who walk closely with God and empowered by the Spirit.

Problem is I can see this feeling like an abstract discussion too. So who are prophets today? Possibly all of us - if we can tune in to what God is saying. How do we do that?
I can see this linking to the idea of those who come for baptism moving closer to God by walking with Christ (the baptismal candidates are a child and both his parents - they would say that having their son has made them more aware of the Holy in their lives and wanting to step closer to God).

As ever - more thought required...