The gist of my Bible Sunday 2012 sermon

Stories are essential for our living, they fashion and fill our existence. From the earliest times we have used stories to share information and I bet that the vast majority of you as you came into church this morning shared a story from your life, from your week.

It is through stories that we learn, our children learn their first lessons and life skills through the stories they are told from their parents, or from school.

How quiet our lives would be without stories, it is our stories that bind us together.

And this morning we are celebrating ‘Bible Sunday’ the one Sunday of the year we set aside to remember the importance of the Bible and to learn anew the joy of being able to read this library of stories about God and his people.

History, parable, romance, law, heros and villains, biography, clumsy repetition and the occasional contradiction. Written by the imperfect hands of humans, but all the same inspired by God.

All of us who read and study the bible put ourselves in great risk! When we read the bible we hear the story of God and his people, we are faced with our ancestors at both their best and their worst. We run the risk of periods of disillusionment and doubt. We also run the risk of deepening our understanding, and our faith, and of receiving transforming riches with the help of Gods intellect and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We all read the bible slightly differently. The bible speaks to each one of us. And our reading changes as we do depending on our experiences and where we are in our lives at the time. Passages we read when we were younger, will have new meanings as we grow. And that is one of the wonderful things about the Bible, it is a living book. Gods living Word which aids our relationship not only with God but also with each other.

Reading the Bible is not like reading any other book. We come to the Bible to be changed, not just to gain information.

The Bible deals with the nitty gritty, it is not about the perfect people of God. It is about the imperfect, the real, worldly, the good, the bad and the ugly as well!

(Noah was a drunk; Abraham was old and a liar; Sarah laughed at God’s promises; Jacob was a deceiver; Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused; Moses had a stuttering problem and a short fuse; Miriam was a gossip; Gideon was afraid; Samson had long hair and was a womanizer; Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. Naomi was a widow; Job went bankrupt; David wasn’t even considered leadership material – his dad didn’t even consider him. Then he committed adultery; Solomon was too rich. Elijah was burned-out and suicidal; Jeremiah was depressed; Jonah ran from God; Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. John the Baptist ate bugs; Martha worried about everything; the Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once; Peter denied Christ; Thomas doubted; Zaccheus was short; John Mark was rejected by Paul; Paul himself was too religious, plus, he was a murderer, as were Moses and David. And of course, Lazarus was dead.)

Whether we like it or not, it is our history. It is our story. And in its people we can see ourselves also.

The Bible tells us the stories that we need. Not just what we want to hear, but also the stories we do not want to hear. The stories that help us to live, help us to die, help us believe that we will live again.

It teaches us of our calling, our call the be in relationship with God and in relationship with each other.

The words of the Bible change us, and as Psalm 119 says ‘Thy word is a lantern unto my feet: and a light unto my paths’.

The Word feeds and nourishes us. We are strengthened and transformed by the Word, and helps the seeds that it plants to germinate, grow and bear fruit.

We are unbelievably lucky to have such free access to the Bible and to a worshiping community. And we should learn not to take this for granted. We should take every opportunity to open the Word of God and to allow it to change us into the true people of God.

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Social Media Prayer.

Our Tweeter, who art on the interweb

retweeted be thy post

Thy followers come, thy likes be done,

on Facebook as they are on WordPress.

Give us this day, our daily tweet

And forgive us our spam, as we forgive those who spam against us.

Lead us not into Lifecasting, but deliver us from Trolls.

For thine is the homepage, the blog post and the upload.

In 140 characters.

Amen.

Wedding Sermon, Gareth and Libby.

Readings from the wedding.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a
Footprints

In our reading from St Pauls letter to the Corinthians, we find Paul talking about love. He is not talking in general, but is saying that this is the type of love that we should have for each other.
It’s a reading which is popular for weddings, because it reminds us of some of the things needed to have a long and happy marriage and those things that will harm a relationship.

You must be patient and tolerant. Kind, truthful, and trusting. Free of jealousy and envy of each other. You cannot be selfish and only think of yourself. You cannot be touchy or resentful. You must be able to forgive and forget, and not keep score of each others mistakes.

You must work together, and keep all evil away from you. You must be honest with each other.
You need to protect each other, trust each other. And when these things are done, your love will never fail.

And we have come together today, because we believe this is what Gareth and Libby have together. We believe that they have this true love which Paul speaks of, and we are here to celebrate with them as they declare their love and trust and faithfulness will last for all time.
We pray together, that over their years together, they may be reminded of these qualities, so that their love will NEVER fail.

We all know the marriage vows quite well, most of us will know them because we have made them ourselves, or we know them from TV. And so we know that part of them say ‘To have and to hold, from this day forward’ and they end ‘for as long as we both shall live’ and they have some of these qualities of love in the middle of them.

This promise is for life, it’s a promise to be with, and to walk with that person, for the rest of your lives.

And its quite fitting that Libby chose one of her favourite poems to be read out today, Footprints.
It talks about our walk with God, and two sets of footprints in the sand.

After today, there will be three sets of footprints in the sand. And at times, when you look back, you may only see two. Because you are called to walk with each other during the good times, and to carry each other through the bad.

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Friends

A few weeks ago, one of the churches within the area I work in decided to create a ‘Friends’ group to help look after the building and fabric. Its one of those churches whose congregation has almost completely merged with the neighbouring church, so much so that although I have been here for a year and four months, I would not be able to tell who is from which church. This was an important decision for the congregation and it shows that they are acknowledging the new place of some of the churches within the new Ministry Area of Bro Ardudwy Uchaf.

Being one of the most geeky and computer able people in the parish, I designed them a flyer with membership form, and so far 60 have been printed and been taken by people who have been in the church, or from one of the local cafes. This is really good news, although it does mean using more ink! I hope we see members joining soon, I can’t see any other way this church is going to remain open otherwise, it needs serious work doing to it, and the PCC just cannot afford it.

We have been very lucky in that the most urgent work we have been able to have grants to do the work. This will start later this month, but that means we will not be holding services there any more until the work is done.

The church is lovely, and has strong local history. I hope that people do see its worth as a building and a place of worship. It would be a shame if we had to close it.

The membership form is on the website, if anyone is interested. Image

Franciscan Blessing

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

A few weeks ago while browsing the blogging world, I came across this blessing, known as a Franciscan blessing, but accredited to either a Benedictine nun, or a Dominican brother, depending on which site you visit. It hit me when I read it for the first time, and has stayed with me, so I wanted to share it with you.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore. AMEN.

Restless Discomfort. It was the first line that did it, restless discomfort. It doesn’t sound like something you should be praying for. I could imagine how well it would go down when I lead intercessions on a Sunday morning to pray that we be given a restless discomfort. However it SHOULD be something we regularly pray for. So often in the church we fall into the trap of being comfortable with our surroundings and what goes on in our churches. We think, ‘ye, we’re ok’ when we should be stepping back to look at the wider picture and how we can be more effective, and reach more people with the gospel message. I sometimes feel this way about the wider diocese. It is so easy to look inward, and to get wrapped up with internal politics and our own situation. We NEED a restless discomfort about easy answers and superficial relationships!!!

Holy Anger. Another powerful phrase, another aspect we need to regain in the church today. When we are in the trap of easy answers and half-truths, when we cannot see past our own situation, we miss the events where we could truly have effect. Injustice, oppression, exploitation, it is easy to say the right words and to make the sounds a church should make, but as Christians and followers of Christ, we should be people of action. It is easy to talk about the troubles of our world, but much harder to allow them to affect you, and to touch your heart.

Isaiah speaks of the correct way of worshipping and honouring God, of the right way of acting in the world. ‘To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free’ (Ish 58:6). Holy anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation so that we can work for justice, freedom, and peace. What are we to do?

Isaiah continues on in chapter 58, to ‘share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless into your house’. Not just sending the means to bring an end to a situation, but connecting with people, allowing the situations to touch your heart.Holy anger at the wrongs in our world and a passion and drive to BE the hands that bring justice, freedom and peace to those in greatest trouble. If Isaiah doesn’t convince you, even with the list of benefits he continues on to describe, then the example Jesus showed us in acting for those oppressed and those at the lowest points of our society should give you some motivation in praying this.

The Gift of Tears We don’t often think of tears as a gift or a blessing. Most of the time when we cry, it is over a situation that has upset or hurt us. Sometimes we cry out of frustration, or sometimes out of despair or loneliness. There are many occasions when we find ourselves shedding a tear and quickly wiping it away, hoping that no one saw. It is not often acceptable to cry in public, not in our society. First of all it’s seen as a sign of weakness, and our society is constantly telling us we need to be strong and independent. Many people feel very uncomfortable around crying, unsettled and unsure of what, if anything, they can do. We would rather people cry in the privacy of their homes. But we are called to be with those who suffer, and those in need.

To cry can be a great relief. If we are honest, we all feel much better after a good cry, and what a great gift to be able to cry with others, to be alongside others in a time of need and to help them find joy. Pray for the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation or the loss of all they cherish. How many people in this world are in pain? Who are rejected? Who starve physically, emotionally, spiritually? Who lose all they love and care about? What a joy to be there for people to be a comfort to them, to help them turn their situations from pain to joy.

Foolishness. In a world when we are constantly told to grow up and be serious, to pray for foolishness just seems wrong. Foolishness to dream that our world can be better. Foolishness to follow Christ in his actions and deeds. Foolishness to believe that we really can me a difference. But of course we can make a difference, and we will if we pray and do what the first three parts of this blessing talk about. Of course we can make a difference if we are restless about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, and seek truth and love deeply. Of course we can make a difference if we work tirelessly for justice, freedom and peace. Of course we can make a difference if we reach out to people and offer them comfort and work to bring them joy.

We CAN make a difference, we just need enough foolishness to believe it and with God’s grace we CAN do what the rest of the world claim cannot be done.

Restless discomfort, Holy anger, the Gift of Tears, and Foolishness, these are things we should truly pray for. I hope that you are able to pray this, and make it a prayer by which you live your life.

23rd Spetember: Baptism Sermon

I decided to talk about the importance of asking questions.

No matter how many questions I asked, I would never know everything about you. For you to know anything about me, you would have to ask me questions. But what would happen if I answered in riddles? Or answered using all the longest words I could find out of a thesaurus? You probably wouldn’t understand what I was trying to tell you. You wouldn’t know what I wanted you to know.

This is how the disciples felt in today’s passage from the gospel according to Mark (9.30-37), Jesus had been telling them that people who hated him would come and get him, and they would kill him. But this would not be the end, he would raise again.

The disciples were really confused and didn’t understand what he was telling them. But rather then ask him, they argued among themselves. They were too scared to ask him.

Once they were settled for the night, Jesus gathered the twelve together,

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

The disciples didn’t ask the questions they wanted to ask, but instead of Jesus telling them off, he reminded them that all are welcome to come to him, all are welcome to come and ask the questions they need to ask, all are welcome, just as they are.

This is something we need to remember, that just because we are baptised does not mean we have all the answers, we all have questions, and we all need to grow in our faith. We do not magically learn stuff, we learn through asking questions, and we should never not ask.

30th September: Harvest Family Service

Harvest is a time where most of our crops, fruit and vegetables are picked and ready to eat. Over the last few weeks thousands of farmers have been working hard to collect in all the food before cold and bad weather sets in.

The plants have spent months growing big and strong and producing its fruits, with the help of Gods sun and rain, and all the other things he has given us. We sang about some of them in our first hymn, can anyone remember them? (modern version of we plough the fields and scatter)

I know we are surrounded by farms here, but i wonder if we really know and appreciate all that goes into collecting in the food.

I have a game for us to play, to help us think about all the hard work humans have to do after God has done all of his bits. So I want you to split into two teams. Taking turns, someone from each team will have to act out an action, and the rest of us will have to guess what they are doing. The team with the most points will win a prize!

READY?

1. Picking fruit

2. Climbing trees

3. Digging

4. Hoeing

5. Weeding

6. Fruit sorting

7. Pruning

8. Cutting a tree down

So we know lots of hard work goes into getting the food that we eat! But we need to remember that it is a gift from God. God gives us all these good things to enjoy.

What do we do when we are given a present?

We say thank you. So for our prayers today, we are going to say thank you for all the good things God gives us.

(both teams won and everyone got chocolate buttons).