Thursday, 29 April 2010

Real work!

This Sunday's readings are :

Acts 11:1-18
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

I cannot stop thinking about Jesus' words 'love one another' and how despite that Peter had serious doubts about accepting Gentiles - until he had this vision at Joppa.
What would happen in our churches if we took seriously the words 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane' ?
Surely we would offer really radical hospitality - to those of different backgrounds, beliefs, abilities... - the church really would be for everyone. And how would this affect the world around us? "everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" - how great it would be to be known as the people who follow Christ because we truly love others.

As it's the Sunday before the election, I think I want to say something that encourages everyone to vote, but also to accept one another's different political views... in love.

A word association game

Ok - I've just had lunch & should be posting about Sunday but decided to play this same instead, which I found at http://subliminal.lunanina.comlink here

  1. Hell :: no laughter

  2. Scott :: Antarctic

  3. Dominion :: God's

  4. Stunt :: silly

  5. Cougar :: poetry in motion

  6. Columbia :: University

  7. Gasp :: goldfish

  8. Cancerous :: leg

  9. Bitty :: life

  10. Quit :: never!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Sermon notes Easter 4

It was strange to look at a sermon I had written myself over 6 months ago (for the vocations Sunday material) & feel very dissatisfied with it! But I have 'worked it over' and feel OK with it now.
Here it is:

Easter 4
(Acts 9:36-43
, Revelation 7:9-17
, John 10:22-30)

Today is vocations Sunday – a time to think about the calling we all have to follow Jesus Christ and the ministry, the service of others, to which Jesus calls us.
So how do we feel about the story we heard from Acts of the raising of Dorcas by Peter? Maybe it leaves us feeling that Peter’s ministry is way out of our league.
We might be able to try to love God and love others – but raising the dead…? Rather than encouraging us to hear and explore a sense of call it might just make us feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

We might be facing other questions about this story, too:
• Do we wonder why this sort of escape from death doesn’t happen today?
• Do we question why should God make an exception from the normal rules of the universe in Dorcas’s case?
• How do we square Jesus’ talk of eternal life - and the words of Revelation about the God who waits to wipe every tear from our eye in heaven - with this story of Peter seemingly clawing Dorcas back from death?

Perhaps it helps us to tackle these questions if we remember that this happened within a year or so of Jesus’ death. The infant church of Jesus Christ is attracting new believers, but together the church is still trying to work out quite what it is that they believe. In all the uncertainty and persecution, they needed to see and know the resurrection power of Jesus.

The Jesus whom his disciples are following raised from death Lazarus & Jairus’s daughter - Luke tells us both stories: he has this habit of telling mirror stories giving a male and female example of the same thing. Jesus raised Laxarus – a man, and Jairus’s daughter – a young woman. Luke wants his listeners to know that the powerof Jesus to defeat detha is for both men and women, it is for everyone.
Then as Luke tells us the stories of the followers of Jesus raising people from death, he again mirriors the story of Peter raising Dorcas & the story of Paul raising Eutychus (the young man who fell out of a window having fallen asleep during one of Paul’s sermons). It seems that Luke is anxious to show us the power of Jesus is raising men & women - and then that the same power is transferred to Jesus’ disciples - Peter & Paul.

Jesus has the power to raise anyone, man or woman, to life; he is risen to life himself by the power of the Father; and that power lives in his disciples. Having shown the real existence of that power, and given the early church the confidence to preach life beyond death, in Jesus, it seems that the world can return to a more predictable pattern, where the dead remain dead, and where life is to be enjoyed, but not clung to desperately as if it is all we have.

Our concept of life and of death is changed forever by what Jesus shows us - that it is not the end - that eternal life is not about getting more of what life we already have, but is about a different order of life altogether, which is greater than death.

This is why Easter, which we continue to celebrate, makes a difference to us.

It is not that Jesus shows that we need not fear death because with the right prayer we can claw back our lives - we cannot hope that this life as we know it will go on for ever. But because of resurrection we can live with the hope that death is not the end - that love is stronger than death and that eternal life is promised to us. How we live today is affected by the knowledge that life will go on - not just through future generations, but for each of us, in spheres of time beyond what we know. When we have a future, we live today differently.

We have a promise of such a future:
“…the lamb, who is at the centre of the throne, will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.

Peter’s ministry is about raising Dorcas for the encouragement of the whole church and to declare the gospel of hope and eternal life.

So what might be the ministry of each person here today? How can we serve people in the name of God? Our ministry today is not about raising the dead, but is still about the life Jesus offers. It is about the service of Christ’s church, the encouragement of others, and the declaration of that same gospel of hope and eternal life.

May we live with the promise of eternal life and the hope of resurrection and may we hear Christ’s call to us, to share that life with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


This week I should have been at the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland at our Ministers' Spring School - but then a volcano in Iceland erupted and all flights got cancelled. In any case I would have been back on Thursday & preaching on Sunday - but now I'll have more time to think about it!
In many denominations this coming Sunday is Vocations Sunday - I actually had a hand in producing some of the material this year - so I should be ahead of the game! The material is

I'll be looking at it again and selecting carefully!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter Sunday's coming!

So here's the sermon for Easter Sunday - and then I get two Sundays off. I hope it will be a time of real refreshment.
I also hope Easter blessings are with all readers of this blog: normal service will be resumed on April 25th.

Easter Sunday John 20: 1-18

Easter Day is good news for all those who wonder what to believe. There is great richness in the accounts of this morning.
We might wonder, first which of the gospel accounts to believe. Perhaps it is not surprising that each gospel tells the story of the resurrection in a slightly different way – earthquakes, a group of women or just Mary of Magdala, other disciples running to the tomb, angels, linen wrappings, Jesus appearing in the garden, on the road to Emmaus, in a locked room in Jerusalem – everywhere except the tomb. The empty tomb, the amazing, startling, miraculous sight of a tomb with no dead body. There is so much to tell, such excitement, such amazement.

It’s not surprising that the excitement and joy build quite slowly. Perhaps we are too used to barrelling into church on Easter Sunday morning & immediately
saying ‘Happy Easter’ or ‘Christ is risen’. But John’s account is more cautious, more of a slow burner. Bit by bit the evidence builds. The tomb is open (what’s going on?)..the tomb is empty (where is Jesus?)…the wrappings are there (not a hastily stolen body, wrappings & all, then).. the head wrappings are carefully put separately (not a theft at all, it seems). That’s enough for Peter & ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ – who go home to think about what they’ve seen. But Mary weeps, and looks into the tomb again (maybe she wants to double check what she’s seen)…two angels ask why she’s weeping, but do not tell her where Jesus is…and then Jesus himself appears – at first unrecognised, and then, finally the real truth dawns “I have seen the Lord” – now, finally it’s time to say ‘he is risen’

It’s not surprising that John lets the truth trickle out bit by bit, to give us chance to really grasp it.
Maybe what is surprising is that every gospel agrees that it is a woman, or a group of women, who first discover that Jesus is risen from the dead.

If someone was seeking to put together a convincing account of the resurrection, they would probably start with the testimony of a man rather than a woman. In first century Palestine, if you wanted legal witnesses to an event women did not count – only Jewish males were allowed to be legal witnesses.

But John’s gospel account starts with Mary and it reads like a gathering of first-hand accounts from those who saw or who heard from those who saw what actually happened on that Easter Sunday morning. Slowly the fragments of story build up into a wonderful, almost unbelievable truth.

Mary has come to the tomb, probably to grieve. When she sees that the stone has been moved she runs and fetches Peter & the other disciple and they run to the tomb and find it empty.

It is hard for us, who know the whole story, to recover their sense of complete shock –they have seen Jesus die on the cross, seen the body lifted down & laid in the tomb. Dead people stay put – unless grave robbers come – and that big stone was meant to stop that. But Jesus body is gone – leaving the wrappings neatly folded – and no grave-robber would do that.

After the men have gone, and Jesus speaks to Mary she is told to return to the others to tell them that she has seen the Lord.

Perhaps it is not too surprising that other gospel writers say that at first the disciples do not believe this – this is altogether too amazing for words!

But slowly the truth dawns… Jesus is alive – others have seen him, too – and he has a message for his followers that they must spread the news of his resurrection life and power to everyone.

Jesus’ new life breaks into the grief and resignation of all who have seen him die, bringing a new message of hope, eternal life, and God’s presence in our world.

If you wonder what to believe – believe this: Jesus is alive, God’s love is stronger than death: death itself has no more power over humanity.
This Easter morning, let the truth dawn into your life slowly.
Jesus Christ – who was dead, has been raised from death by the power of God the father.
The love of God is so great it went to the cross in Jesus:
the love of God is so great it suffered the darkness of the tomb in Jesus;
and the love of God is so unquenchable that it could not stay in the tomb, but burst out, crushing death forever.

We can celebrate new life, a living hope and the certainty of the power of God to bring each one of us safely through death to eternal life.

He is risen indeed!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Holy Week

To be honest, I'm worn out. I have been juggling various demands this week, including finishing a 12,000 + word dissertation to complete an MA course.
I'm very glad that for Maundy Thursday we have a seder meal planned - and stripping of the altar - so plenty to experience and think about but no sermon required! Then on Good Friday 'our' student minister is leading the worship - so all I have to do now is plan Sunday's celebration.
John 20: 1-18
Isaiah 65:17-25

New ness, new life, new heavens and new earth - God in action...

I'm certainly ready to hear a message about new life, even if I'm not ready to preach one!