Monday, 30 March 2015

The Sound of Silence

A post Palm Sunday Reflection

Yesterday was Palm Sunday
and, rather than focussing on the Triumphant Entry to Jerusalem
we moved into the events of Thursday & Friday of Holy Week

the entry reading was used as a call to worship
and for the children's message

and then... we  moved to the Passion Narrative in Matthew
chapters 26 & 27 
It was scripted for three voices
and, during the reading we sang vesres from  there is a green hill far away

it was a long reading

and, all who felt able were asked to remain standing

As the reading progressed I was surprised to see everyone on their feet.

Some, who struggle day to day, kept on standing, gripping the rail in front of them, but determined to carry the honour...

the emotion was tangible 

As the reading climaxed, and Jesus breathed his last, we fell into silence.... a long, long minute. 

The silence broken, by the single chord to indicate the next verse... "There was no other good enough..." and all round I could see eyes filling, heads bowing, as, as if for the very first time, the gospel words were brought into our reality. 

The reading finished. And, the next hymn, seated, was The Servant King. 

In theory, there was to be a short reflection.

I had a few headings,  I had planned to go without notes, because writing about Good Friday is such an emotional, astonishing event, and I had felt the Spirit prompting earlier in the week, to trust her. 

The Spirit was more tangible, more present, for the whole congregation. 

I stood, and said, "the scriptures and the hymns have said it all - let's just reflect for a moment.... I can add nothing."

Holy Spirit - holy presence in our midst

we thank you

walk with us this Holy Week

as we remember once more


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Forward and Back: sermon March 22

Sermon & Annual Report 
Matthew 25: 31-46: The Sheep & Goats - Final Judgement. 

“Whatever you did, for the least of these; that you did for me”
Over the past few weeks we have watched the final chapters of Jesus life unfold; his parables get stronger, more scary, more difficult to understand. His stories become harder to relate to; harder to accept; harder to hear... because we don’t want to identify with the complacent wedding guest who didn’t make an effort; or the silly girls who weren’t prepared; or the lazy servant who couldn’t be bothered. And we certainly don’t want to identify with the “others” the goats of this world.
We don’t want to be considered, uncaring, or selfish, or mean, or ungenerous with time or money. We don’t want to be thrown out, locked out, disowned – we do not want to be punished.
And yet, here we are, a week before the start of Holy Week; a week before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd went wild! And children sang; and all was right with the world – or so it seemed. For we of course have the wisdom of hindsight. We know, that all was not quite as rosy as it appeared, and in that same week, those who had cheered and shouted alleluia, would be baying for blood, jeering, and shouting instead “Crucify!”

The truth is, we like they, are both saint and sinner, every day.
We have our blessed moments
And our cursed ones
We have joy and love and compassion
And we also have anger, and resentment and indifference.
We are human.

And so to this year just past, and the year to come. How can we weave together the Gospel message with the reality of being church here in Earlston in this 21st century world?
We have achieved much: Messy Church has gone from strength to strength; we are reaching families we would never normally see, and they are learning about Jesus and God’s amazing love for them.
Last year was busy – really busy!
I took more funerals than ever; and I conducted three weddings – here and in Stow.
We welcomed new members; we welcomed babies into God’s family and through the sacrament of baptism, we welcomed young Milly Burnham Boyle in a wonderful celebration of her faith.
The relationship I have been building with our schools has grown and developed, and is going from strength to strength. I am invited in for assemblies and class room visits and the schools come here for their special services too.
We have also been looking for ways to live out our mission statement:
 “We are moved by faith to be recognised by all as the mainspring of the community, and so to bring its members closer to God”
Thus began our newest project: The Community Cafe. This will be launched on Wednesday 15th April and will then be open every Wednesday morning, for coffee and biscuits; chat and friendship. There will be a dedicated area for children; we plan to have a table with newspapers and board games available too. We hope to have a rota of helpers, and look forward to welcoming lots of friends, old and new who would welcome an opportunity to gather together in comfort.
In everything we do; as individuals and as a church there are things to remember, things to be aware of and things that guide and motivate us. And, in many ways, these “doom and gloom” scriptures we have been immersed in over the past few weeks are part of that too. Not so that we go and do good so that God will reward us – that really isn’t what Jesus’ message was about at all...
As I was bringing to mind the right words to conclude with today I was reminded of one of my favoured philosophical authors: Thomas Merton, 20th Century monk, theologian and spiritual writer. In his diaries he wrote of a pure “God-moment” walking along the street one day he was suddenly struck by the realisation: I love all the people: it was a godly revelation, that he could look along the street at individuals he did not, and likely would not ever know, but know in his own heart that God enabled him to love. A couple of years later he developed this idea further writing:
“To discover all the social implications of the Gospel, not by studying them, but by living them, and to unite myself explicitly with those who foresee and work for a social order – a transformation of the world – according to these principles: primacy of the person (...justice liberty, peace...) primacy of wisdom and love (...against materialism, hedonism etc.)” (Merton: June 1960; extract in Intimate Merton; Lion Books 1999)
This is what Jesus is trying to make his disciples understand through his teaching: to act and live out the gospel – God loves us. So we are able to love and give love and if we truly love, then we will naturally act in a manner that reflects that love. Not for any motivation other than to love others.
This is what our hope is in our mission statement, in our forward planning, in our hopes for the future of not only the church in Earlston, but the Community in Earlston. Church folk, village folk; new arrivals and multi-generational folk, all together, regardless, living and loving together.
Whatever we do, for anyone, we are doing in love, for God in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

New Growth

I've never tried to grow an Amaryllis before
but this was a  gift at Christmas
in the past week, each morning I have been able to see how much it's grown...

This morning, in the sunshine streaming in through the window
I can see that the bud is just beginning to split at the top
another day or two and I will have a flower...

Watching growth
quick or slow
Plant or person
is such an adventure
A God given gift

Holy God
thank you for growth
New  and old
plant and human

thank you for the blessing it brings
and thank you that I am able to see it
know it, appreciate it, value it

amen & amen 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Good Morning!

Good morning world!
The light slowly grows
shadows disperse
and grey fades away 

the garden becomes visible
the trees pointing their still 
naked branches skywards 
birds visible on the branches
gathering, chattering
sharing the dawn news

below the grass is growing
greening  the land
proving  that the seasons turn
life returns to the earth

The snowdrops are finished
their heads drooping now
the pristine white replaced by 
paper thin fading heads
In their place so much more life!

Daffs, nodding their heads
green shoots everywhere
flowers bursting into life
early blossoms
buds swelling, getting ready
to open and show off their beauty.

Oh Spring! 
welcome back 
Come, show us your colours
Your life
your hope
Life is returned
the ground awakes
and time, days, seasons
move on
Good Morning world!
Good morning God!! 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Matter of Choice

Matthew 25: 1-30 parables of Bridesmaids & Talents
Sermon 15th March 2015

I want to tell you a story; it’s a traditional story, one passed down from family to family, generation to generation. It is about families, and friendship, and honour, and ritual, and tradition.
It is ageless, timeless: a tale that works across the ages.

Some girls were getting ready for an event – they knew it was coming, but it was a surprise party; they knew generally when it would be, but the final call would be very short notice, and they would just have enough time to drop everything, get on the party things and run... and it was one of those events where if you weren’t there from the start – you would miss it. No late entry – everyone knew the rules, no exceptions. It was up to each of them to choose how to prepare, what to have in advance, how to use the time and resources they had.

Meantime – across the way there were three chaps; they were getting ready for the return of the big boss; he’d been away for a long time, and they knew he was going to come back –they just didn’t know when. Before he’d left, the big boss had set each of them a task; the boss was a firm man, but fair. He’d looked at his chaps and considered their abilities, what they could and couldn’t cope with. He’d worked out how much responsibility each of them could handle and he had set each one a task. It was up to them to choose what to do, and each knew that when he returned, the boss would want a full explanation of how they’d used their time and talents.

Time passed by...
It was a long wait.
Everything carried on, just as before.
People came and went
Work was done,
Hours and days went by...

Until finally!
The cry came up!
Are you ready?
The party is about to start!
Are you ready?
The boss is on his way!

What a kerfuffle!!
The girls flew round the house
Dresses, and shoes, and jewellery...
And, most important of all – for it was their role to provide the light – the oil lamps.
Half of the girls, grabbed their lamps, topped them up, trimmed the wicks and they were ready to go... they turned and looked at the others – what’s holding you up? Come on!!! Let’s get going they cried, and looked on in amazement at their friends.
The other girls were panic stricken!
“Lend me some oil”! one cried.
Then another, and another!
The girls were horrified – WHAT?!
Why don’t you have any?
Why didn’t you get extra?
How did you think you’d manage?

What a kerfuffle!
The guys ran round the house
Clean shirts, hair brushed, and talents collected for inspection...
The first had worked hard, he’d doubled his tally; he had made a great effort, he hoped the boss would be pleased. The second, hand done the same, he’d worked, and used his brain and his resources, he too had doubled his tally – he hoped the boss would be proud of the effort. The third, shuffled in, head bowed, hands trembling. He hadn’t really done much; in fact, really, if he was totally honest – he’d done nothing. Just hidden away, kept his head down, and he was ready to simply return his talent... his one solitary talent, unused, uncared for, too afraid to make an effort, too scared to step out, too worried to do anything at all.
The others looked at him – “are you serious?” They asked.
Why didn’t you do something?
Make an effort?
You know the boss, you know he is fair. Yet you didn’t even try... come on!!

The girls who were ready, went off to the party
The girls who didn’t think ahead, got left behind, locked out, excluded; they may not have known the hour – but they knew what was needed.

The guys who worked, were greeted and congratulated – rewarded and promoted.
The guy who let fear and doubt take over was chastised!
The boss, was firm but fair
But, laziness; apathy, indifference and idleness are not qualities to aspire to – nor are they worth rewarding: he was thrown out, excluded. He may not have known when the boss was coming, but he knew what was needed.      

Both the girls and the boys had choices to make
Some chose wisely
Others did not

In life, we all make choices; we can choose to work, to be fair, to be prepared when can. We can choose to follow blindly, or step out on our own.
We can choose to step into the light, or we can hide away in the darkness
It is up to us, for God calls each and every one of us
And we can choose to answer
God loves us, and wants only the best for us
God wants us to love God, and all humanity – God will never force us – it is up to us to choose.
We know that one day there will be a reckoning – we will meet God face to face, and we will answer for how we used our time, our talents, how well we prepared and worked... this is not a secret!
It is all just a matter of choice

How will you choose? 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Rainbow Promise

Cheerful spring flowers
a bouquet to cheer
in  rainbow colours
to remind me
to remind you
to remind the world
God's love is eternal and everlasting
Praise the Lord! 


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Another Day Dawns

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. (Isa 28,29)

Days sometimes feel long
and  wearying
and yet,
In faith, in God
 there is hope, there is resilience
there can be comfort
Holy God
I thank you for faith, for hope, for love
give strength to the weary
bring hope to the lost
fill breaking hearts with love

this day and always 

Monday, 2 March 2015

View from here

I am having an unexpected trip
I stand in my parents garden
The sun warms my back
Over the wall is the sand dunes and eventually the sea

It is blowy but the spring sun is working its hardest 

I am thankful for this quiet time
This thin time
This unpredictable time

Who knows what will come
Who knows what else will happen
For now peace reigns

And, in my heart I repeat the mantra
God has this, God has this

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sunday Morning.... A prayer

Hold us O God
Hold us tight
Keep all darkness at bay
Shed your unquencheable light

Help us O God
Help us to know
That in all things you are with us
Wherever we go

Holy God, this Lenten Sunday morning
We turn our thoughts to you
 We gather to worship in many different places
Formal and informal
Familiar gatherings
Or visiting in new venues

Wherever we gather
Home or away
Meet us
Be with us
Hear our prayers
Receive our worship

This day and always