Friday, 16 June 2017

Corpus Christi Sermon

May I speak in the name of the Father. And of the son and of the Holy Spirit Tonight we are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, or as the modern lectionary puts it the day of thanksgiving for the institution of holy communion, which personally I think is a bit of a mouthful. A liturgical act involving bread and wine has been part of the church's tradition since its earliest days. We know that the early Christians were referring to the bread and wine as the body and blood. Indeed one of the charges levelled against them by the Romans was that they were cannibals because they claimed to eat the body and blood. Lets face it on the surface it does sound a bit odd, we come to church each week to carry out a strange ritual and then claim that bread and wine have been turned into the body and blood of a dead man, and then we eat it. So what are we actually doing in church every week? Firstly, we are carrying on with a ritual that was begun by the very earliest Christians. It has its roots in the story of the Last Supper, some churches still refer to communion as the Lords supper, but its meaning goes beyond what happened in a room in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. At that first Lords supper, the disciples had no idea of how not just their world, but the whole world was about to be radically changed. Jesus may have been acting a bit odd and saying strange things that they didn't really fully understand, but that was just Jesus. We have the advantage of coming to the sacrament knowing the full story, not just the breaking of bread, but the breaking of the old world order. It is not just a recreation of the last supper, it is a celebration of the death and the resurrection. Within the mass is the very core of our faith, God became man, died and rose again. It should be something that unites all Christians. Yet, it has become something that can be a big marker of division between the denominations. Over the centuries different groups have developed different ways of thinking about the mass, even about what they call it, and about how important it is. To me as an anglo-catholic receiving the Eucharist on a weekly basis is a key foundation to my faith and my relationship with God. It's what I feel gives me the strength to go out into the world each week and try to live my life in God's way. To my Scottish Presbyterian mother in law, it's nice, but she can take it or leave it. If she never receives it again it she says it won't bother her. We also disagree about what it taking place when we celebrate mass, or the Lords supper. For her the bread is just bread and can be fed to the birds or used to make sandwiches afterwards, the grape juice is just grape juice and can be poured down the sink. The catholic tradition in the church takes a rather different view. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Now, at first glance this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. It still looks and tastes like bread and wine. I am sure if you carried out a scientific analysis, the results would show bread and wine. So how can it be the body and blood? At this point I am tempted by two easy answers, it's a holy mystery we will never understand in this life or it says so in the bible so it must be true. That would be an easy, but I feel unsatisfactory way out. In a time and place where more people are growing up without any knowledge of religious faith and belief being passed on, we need to try and find a way to articulate what it is we do in church and why it is so important, to explain to outsiders the things we say and do that to them might appear slightly weird. This is the point at which I start to think I've set myself an impossible task. However, I will try by looking at the philosophical terms of substance and accident. The substance is fundamentally what a thing is, accidents can be seen as the way things are sensed. So, an example which I hope might make is a bit clearer. I am a person, that is my substance. Nothing I can do will change that. The fact that I have white skin, brown hair and hazel eyes are all accidents. I can change any of those things and whilst the accidents or appearance has changed, the fundamental substance remains the same, I am still a person. So, how does this relate to the bread and wine at the mass? Well, this is where God, as He has a tendency of doing, turns things upside down. Usually it is the accidents, or appearances of things that change but the substance stays the same. At the mass it is argued that the opposite happens, the bread and wine keep their appearance of bread and wine but their substance changes to that of the body and blood. How it happens is indeed a divine mystery, as to why it happens, well, it is a gift from God that can revive and strengthen us when the burdens that we carry feel too heavy, when we look at the world around us and see so much pain and suffering that it seems almost impossible to go on. A sip of wine and a small piece of bread cannot give us the strengthen we need, but the body and blood of Christ can. I hope what I have said makes some sense, but I think the poet John Betjeman managed to say in a few lines what I have tried to say in rather more words tonight. The God who became man in Palestine Lives today in bread and wine. Amen

Sunday, 20 November 2016

My thoughts on Christ the King

Sermon on Christ the King 20/11/2016

Readings:
Jeremiah 23: 1-6
Colossians 1: 11-20
Luke 23: 33-43

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today is Christ the King, what do we think of when we hear the word King?
If, like me, you are a fan of Disney, you night think of the Lion King, if you are a bit of a fashionista you might think about the fashionable clothes a king would wear. If you are a bit of an egotist you might think about having people bow to you and obey you if you were King.

In general good Kings are seen as people to be respected, looked up to and possibly admired by the people they lead, and in return they expect their subjects to work with them to help build a good and just society. However, a bad king, or any bad leader can also spell disaster.

The people of Israel had a bit of a mixed experience of monarchy. To start with they had no king, but were ruled by judges and prophets. Then the people decided they wanted a king and Samuel appointed Saul, who started well but ended up a bit mad, he was succeed by David. Who after a bit of adultery and murder was succeeded by his son Soloman.

At the end of Soloman's reign Israel split into two countries Israel and Judah, both led by Kings. There were some good kings and some bad kings. During the time of Jeremiah, Jehoiachin came to the throne of Judah. Jehoiachin was generally considered a bad king as it was under his rule that Judah was conquered by Babylon and many Israelites were forced into exile.

At the start of our first reading this morning, Jeremiah is speaking out against this current king, whose decisions have led to the destruction and scattering of the flock, the people of Judah. However, it isn't all bad news, even when it seems like the world is ending, he also has a word of hope, whatever it may feel like, God has not abandoned his people but will come and gather them together again. He will provide for them a righteous and good leader.

Jeremiah's vision is of a king who will reign wisely, who shall be in charge executing justice and righteousness. As Christians we tend to read these lines as pointing forward to Christ. Yet the reading from Luke's gospel this morning isn't exactly a great description of a King. Instead of a crown of gold and jewels He has a crown of thorns. Instead of people bowing down and worshipping this King, they are mocking him. He isn't sitting on a grand throne, but is nailed to a cross. In the words of Luci Shaw “he wore purple only once, and that was an irony.” This doesn’t seem like the great king of Jeremiah's vision, or to fit into any expectation of what a good king should be. This is a King that looks defeated rather than one who is going to have a glorious reign.

Yet despite all this, he still shows certain signs of kingship. He speaks to the penitent thief with a voice of authority “today you will be with me in paradise.” No ifs, no buts, this is what will be. We may be in what looks like a nightmare situation but the King still has the authority to lead us through it to something better.

Another trait that is often associated with great Kings is mercy. Even when on the cross suffering unimaginable agony, Jesus still acts with mercy, saying Father forgive them. We have become so used to hearing this statement, this story, that I think, it has perhaps lost some of it's impact. God's forgiveness is available for everyone, everyone means everyone. It doesn't just mean the people we like and agree with, it means the people we hate, the people we think have done terrible things. It means Donald Trump, it means the leaders of Islamic State. I find this one of the hardest aspects of Christianity to deal with, that God, the God that I love and that loves me, can also love those that hate and want to harm others, that have committed crimes too terrible to think about. Our human nature wants revenge, we want what we see as justice, we want those that have caused pain made to feel pain. Yet the truth is that God's mercy can reach them to, we are all loved by God.

In both the US election and the UK brexit vote there seems to have been a splitting of people into “them” and “us”, everyone in the us group is right and good and only acting out of the best possible reasons, everyone in the them group is evil, nasty, racist and only acting out of stupidity or self interest. Coventry Cathedral has a famous litany of reconciliation, however I found another litany about forgiveness on the internet this week:
“Whenever we speak of them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we ignore speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't condemn speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we stay silent in the face of speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't speak on behalf of the silenced in talk of them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't offer an alternative vision that re imagines the idea of them and us, Lord forgive us”
We need to seek to understand the concerns of them and work with them to address those concerns. It is only through forgiveness and the coming together of them and us that the fractured wounds of our society can begin to heal.

What does it mean for us today to be subjects of Christ the King? We seem to be living through times of massive change and upheaval, where the unthinkable is becoming reality. I know there are many people who are worried, scared and upset at the direction the world seems to be moving in. It's all very well to say God's in charge, it all work out right in the end, all we have to do is sit tight. Well, God may be in charge, but a king needs his people to help enact his will. As the subjects of Christ the King, we need to stand up for the values of the kingdom of Christ. Love for one another, including those we disagree with, justice that is tempered with mercy, help for our neighbour, and forgiving those whose actions and words have hurt us. Not an easy task, at times it might even seem an impossible task. Later on in this service we will pray the words, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is up to us the subjects of Christ the King, to try and make that line reality.

Christ is not King of this earthly world yet and that means we are also called to follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah, to speak out against those in authority, or those with a loud voice, when they act in ways that go against the kingdom values of Justice, mercy, forgiveness and love of our neighbour.

To be subjects of Christ the King means we all have a calling, to work and act, in whatever way we can, in the situations we are in, to bring the kingdom of Christ into reality.

Amen

from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

This Mornings Sermon

Morning Prayer 25th November 2015
Waiting in Hope

Readings: Isaiah 19
                Matthew 10:16-33

Over the past few weeks the lectionary for morning prayer has had readings from Isaiah, and I must admit a lot of it hasn't exactly been cheerful. As far as today's reading goes, well, I wouldn't want to be in Egypt at the time Isaiah is talking about.

War, drought, famine, unwise rulers leading the country out of the right path. Isaiah's prophesy was written to address issues thousands of years ago.

But how much has changed since then?In some ways lots, in order to find out recent news stories relating to Egypt I could use Google, something Isaiah couldn't do.

Yet the results of that Google search of news stories from the last month included stories of tension between different groups of people in Egypt, farmers concerned that their crops won't provide enough, and criticism of leaders for the decisions they take. It all sounds very like the Isaiah prophecy.

When surrounded by such an onslaught of bad news it would be easy to slide into despair to believe that things will only get worse.

That God has forgotten us, all that stuff about a loving God who provides for your every need if you only ask him, seems like an impossible fairy talevwhen faced with the world situation today. Extremist groups seem able to strike at will, and we only seem to care when it comes close tbo us.

There has been seemingly non stop news coverage of the Paris attacks and people pledging solidarity with France. Yet within days of the Paris attacksbthere were at least 200, possibly up to 2000 people killed by Boko Harem in Nigeria and  I don't even know how may will have died in Iraq and Syria in the past week. There has been little news coverage of these terrorist attacks, I have seen no one pledge to stand with innocent Nigerians, or Iraqi's or Syrian's.

The start of our reading from Matthew isn't much better, we are told to go out like sheep amongst wolves.

I don't know a lot about looking after sheep but I suspect if I sent them out among wolves I would end up with very few sheep and a lot of well fed wolves. Not a very comforting image really.
We are then told, in an echo of Isaiah, that families will be torn apart, parents against children and siblings against each other.
People will be forced to flee, as they have been in Iraq and Syria, it all seems very dark and depressing.

Where is the God that cares for each of his children as much as he cares for a common bird? Does He really care that much that He counts the hairs on the head of each one of us, even as we are attacked and murdered. Even Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that recent events make him question God.

When considering all the problems in the world today it can seem a massive unsolvable mountain. A burden that is too heavy for us each to carry without it pushing us down into despair.

.Recently I have been reading the book  Treasures of Darkness  by Jane Grayshon. The author is someone who has suffered from repeated bouts of serious illness, requiring hospitalisation, surgery and on more than one occasion leaving her close to death.  She writes about her struggles to find God in the darkness. In one section she realises that the real problem isn't the pain and illness but the despair that it brings
“ A flicker of new understanding dawned on me. Despair. YesvI thought to myself. Thats my real enemy. More than the pain which takes over my body. Despair eats into my very soul. Instead of thinking of my enemies as surgeons or pain doing nasty things to me. I should think of them as despair which does nasty things in me. Suddenly I saw that suffering was not my worst enemy.  My enemies were those things which crept unseen into my soul and fed despair.”

Jesus cautions us that it is not what destroys the body that we need to fear but what destroys the soul. To counter act the despair which seems to be all around usbin these days of 24hr news we need to go out and clearly proclaim the gospel message of hope for a better future. The recent controversy over the Lord's prayer advert, that has been banned in cinemas, seems to say that there are those who would rather us religious types just shut up and stayed quietly whispering in the darkness, where the rest of the world can ignore us.

But Jesus calls us to go out and proclaim a message of hope. A message which may not be listened to and which to proclaim may have consequences for us, hopefully not include flogging, but may well include hostile reactions and verbal ridicule. We are to face this and to remember that God is with us and will  empower us to live out our faith publicly in a world that seems to want less and less to do with it, but which has an ever greater need for the message of hope to combat the despair.

When we look around the world today it can be easy to find things that will feed the feeling of despair and hopelessness in us. Isaiah talks of the expectant hope that one day Egypt will be at peace and counted equal with Assyria and Israel .

A highway will exist between Egypt and Assyrian and people move peacefully between them. Assyria is in what is now northern Iraq, an area controlled by Islamic State. Peaceful travel may not be possible there at the moment, but Isaiah gives us hope that one day there will be peace.

As we move into Advent, the season of waiting for the saviours arrival, we need to wait in expectant hope, and share that hope with those around us, to feed the souls of the world with hope and not despair.

Amen



from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Thursday, 22 October 2015

It's Not How You Say It, It's What You Say That's Important

It seems to me that negative comments and experiences have a deeper impact than positive ones. One of the ideas on the McGuire course for people who stammer is the idea of cancellation, if you have a bad experience you try and do a similar activity but with a positive outcome to override the bad one. However, I think I would need 1000 positive experiences to over ride each bad one.

Recently with my speech therapist we have done some work looking at how my speech affects how I see things. This has made me see that some fairly small negative events from the past are still affecting me today. I was teased by a few kids at school, to this day I am still terrified of talking to teenagers. The teacher in charge of special needs told me that I shouldn't take performing arts GCSE as I would fail it because of my stammer. I took it anyway and got a C, but despite having proved him wrong I still have days when I feel my stammer means I will fail at something. Someone told me people won't want to talk to you because you stammer, I still struggle to start conversations because what if I stammer and the other person then doesn't want to talk to me?

My speech therapist set me the task of finding evidence to support these assumptions. How much evidence did I find to support these assumptions? None, not a thing, I stammered people still talked to me, teenagers didn't tease me, people know that I stammer and still have casual small talk conversations with me and don't run away screaming.

Despite this I still struggle with the thought that my speech has to be perfect and if I let even one stammer get in that will be all anyone will notice. The other week I was leading the intercessions at church, I stammered a little bit not much, but I still sat down thinking that I had messed it up. Then someone came up to me after the service and said thank you, your prayers were really good. To at least one person in that congregation the words that I had said had been more important than the way that I said them.

Sometimes when I speak I will get stuck and stammer, whilst therapy and techniques might help reduce it, it will always be there. However, I need to remember that that is not the defining thing about what I am saying. It is the words that I say that are important and should be listened to, not the way that I say it.

from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Day 16: 13/09/15

Managed a good nights sleep despite the noise from the bar. After breakfast headed out to try and find Ascension, the english speaking  anglican church in Munich. First stop was the train station to put our bags in a locker. A train load of migrants ( I use that term because I do not know if they are eccomic migrants or refugees, or most likely a mix.) had just arrived and were been kept on the platform by police. I assume until it was sorted out where they needed to go.

Heading outside to the tram stop, we found the tram wasn't running. Instead we had to take the U bahn to somewhere we could connect with the replacement bus. Once on the bus, I noticed a woman in a smart dress and nice hat who just looked anglican. We got of at the same stop and when we heard her speak to someone in english asked for directions. She was indeed anglican and we chatted to her whilst walking the rest of the way to church. I enjoyed the service, we had some good hymns, and a bishop preaching. Ascension is also doing all it can to help the migrants, many of whom are housed in a nearby army barracks. Over coffee we got chatting with a guy who used to live in Coventry and amn ordanand from Oxford.

After church we went for lunch at the hofbrau beer garden, not the main beer hall in town. After a very plesant lunch we made our way into town and had a drink at Le Clou, where the bar man was looking great in full traditional dress and a fantastic mustache. After that went to Augustiner am Dom before walking to the train station.

At the train station it was very busy, there were migrants looking ready to camp out in the station. We got our bags and then had time for a quick beer. In the bar we got chatting to a bloke who told us all trains had been cancelled and germany was bringing back boarder controls with Austria. From what I saw I would say that the numbers arriving are simply too big for one country, or even for Europe to cope with.  This needs a worldwide solution.

Luckily the S bahn was still running and we could get to the airport. Checked in fine, but at security me, my tablet and the inside of my bags all had to be swipe tested. Luckily I was clear and could continue to the lounge and something to eat.



from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Day 15: 12/09/15 Kitzbuhel to Munich

Final breakfast in Kitzbuhel before Rob gave us a lift to the station. The train to Worgl was fine. Then we changed to the train for Kufstein, this weekend is the Rosenheim Herbst fest. The train was packed full of people in dirdnls and lederhosen. When we got to Kufstein, we moved quickly to try and beat the rush for the Munich train and managed to get seats. The train got fuller as we moved towards Rosenheim, but then became much emptier.

Arrived in Munich with no problems. Having seen the news reports of refugees arriving in Munich last week I wasn''t sure what to expect but everything seemed normal. Checked in at euro youth hotel. In our younger days we have stayed in their dorms, but have a double ensuite room this time. The room isn't ready till 2pm so we put our bags in the luggage room and went in search of lunch. Bayern Munich were playing at home so places were busy. We got a table at Augstiner am Platz.

After lunch we went back to the hostel. The room is nicer and larger than I was expecting. It is quite large with a double bed, a single bed, couch, table and chairs. It even has a TV, but not really any English channels. After settling in we went in search of liquid refreshment, the weather been rathr hot, this was not beer. Instead we had a lovely ice cream milkshake. We then went for a walk in the Englischergarten. At one point it was very English as there was a game of cricket being played. We also saw the surfers, yes in Muniuch city centre you can go surfing! There are a couple of points on the river where waves have been made, one for expert and one for beginners. We found an ice cream stand and had an ice cream before heading back for a rest.

In the evening we got the U bahn out to Rotkreuz Platz and went for a meal. The beerhall was getting into the mood for Oktoberfest, with pretzels and blue and white ribbons hanging from the ceiling. Aftert dinner we headed back into town and a beer at Augustiner am Dom, where one of the bar staff actually recognised us. After that headed back to the hotel, where the bar was very full and noisy, so showing our age we gave it a miss.



from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Day 14: 11/09/15 Kitzbuhel

Had a lie in to start with this morning, then decided to walk out the lake. Had a walk around the lake and then turned of to go up through the woods to Steuerberg. Here there is a  very  nice restraunt where we had lunch.  As we were having lunch, some classic cars arrived, including one very old looking one. Walked back down to the lake through the woods and headed back to Kktzbuhel, stopping for coffee and cake on the way.

Once back attempted to sort out the packing. I am sure everything fitted in better on the way out. Packing nearly finished we checked the skis and topped up the edge waxing, ready for when we come back in winter.

We then went to Flannigans and had a few drinks whilst watching the end of the crickett, where England beat Australia again. Went to Huberbrau for dinner. I tried the blood sausage grostel for the first time and very tasty it was too. Finished the evening at glockenspiel and Sigi's.



from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness