The three churches, St Madoc of Ferns at Haroldston West, St Mary the Virgin at Talbenny and All Saints at Walton West have Celtic christian roots dating back 1500 years. They were built in high places apart from the communities they serve by men of prayer and contemplation. They were used as visible beacons for navigation by sea. Today they are spiritual beacons delivering light and hospitality through prayer, silence, peace presence and contemplation in our modern world.
St Madoc of Ferns, Haroldston West
drawing by Shirley Norman
Foundation of the church
The city of St David's appears nowadays to be very remote , but this was not so at the time when the monastery was founded around the middle of the 6th century . Sea communications with Ireland and other Celtic countries were very good, and many ancient roads ran westwards. Three such paths met at St David's which made it relatively easy for pilgrims to reach the monastery, and for the monks to go out on preaching tours or to visit churches in other Celtic countries.
It is against this background that we are introduced to St Madoc or St Aidan. Very probably he was a native of Connacht on the west coast of Ireland, and as a youth "desirous of becoming learned in holy scripture", he came to study for quite some time under St David at his celebrated monastery-school in Wales. He would have travelled around, preaching in the surrounding countryside, and there is a high degree of probability that he founded a church on the site of the present building. Early Celtic practice was to name the church or settlement ("llan") after the founder, or after his monastery's founder (just as the meeting places of the early Christians in the Roman Empire would be known by the names of the houses' owners). St Madoc would have been relatively unknown compared with St David at that time, so it would be assumed that a church bearing his name would almost certainly have been founded by him. There are not very many in Wales; among them are Llanmadoc on the Gower peninsula, Nolton (the neighbouring parish to the north), and Llawhaden (from Llanaeddan). The name Aeddan survives at St David's in the farm, Trefeiddan. He is in fact variously known in Ireland and Wales as Edan, Mogue, Maedoc, Maidoc, Maodhog, Moedhog and Maiduac as well as Madoc and Aidan. The name is derived from the Irish aed (fire), and an (little), and the hypocoristic version Maedoc is reached by substituting oc (young) for an, and prefixing the endearing syllable mo (my). We thus get Mo-aed-oc, Madoc.
These saints of old have a great deal to answer for, in founding their settlements away from the centres of population! Nowadays, churches are built in the midst of the community which they lead and serve but in Celtic days this was far from being a priority. Celts were a romantic and emotional people, and once they accepted the Christian religion, they wanted to give up all for it, to show themselves and others how important it was. This sort of feeling expressed itself in a desire for solitude. For the love of Christ, they would leave family and friends, even their native land, and would depart to some lonely spot where they could pray and find God undistracted. At the same time they had a great concern for the souls of their fellow men, and so, having found an isolated place to build a small cell and chapel, near a well or spring (there is a spring not fifty yards due east of the church), they would preach to all who came by, baptising converts in the clear running waters of the spring and celebrating the Offeren (Irish : Aifreann, Mass) for them every Sunday and holy day.
Eventually, when St Aeddan had been fully instructed being potent in virtues and thoroughly purified from vices, he made for Ireland. And having constructed a monastery there, which in the Irish language is called Guernin, Ferns, he led a most holy life (Rhigyfarch); Giraldus Cambrensis adds, "where he vowed to serve God, having gathered brethren together, in accordance with the form and rule, which he had learnt at Menevia from the pious father (David).
St Mary the Virgin, Talbenny
drawing by Shirley Norman
Foundation of the church
This church would almost certainly have been originally named after a Celtic saint, possibly its founder, or the founder of the monastery from which he came. This was the case both in Haroldston West (St Madoc's), and Walton West (originally St. David's), the neighbouring parishes in this united benefice.
It was common Norman practice to change Celtic dedications of churches to Saints who were more acceptable to Norman tradition. St Mary's, Talbenny is no exception. There are some 143 churches and 75 wells dedicated to St Mary in Wales - more than twice the number bearing St David's name - and the majority are situated in parts most influenced by the Normans. The Blessed Virgin was seen as Patroness of sailors, a fact which makes the Talbenny dedication both suitable and understandable.
All Saints, Walton West
drawing by Shirley Norma
Foundation of the church
As late as 1920, a representative of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments visited the church and the Report issued in 1925 described the church as being dedicated to St David. The original church building here was indeed probably dedicated to St David, because churches, or llannau, within the sphere of influence (the patria) of a Celtic saint would often be dedicated to their patronage. This would give colour to the speculation that the stone effigy now at floor level under the west window is of S. David, but it has been claimed that the figure is that of a lady, carved in the Elizabethan period.
Certainly, the dedications to All Saints is not original because such dedications became popular only after the 8th century, they were of Roman origin , and would not therefore be favourable to the Celtic Church.
There is a 19th century story of a stone being found in the tower wall, dated 993. The tower as it now stands is 14th century, and it would have been added later to the original church, so the stone was probably in the west wall of the mediaeval church.
Doubtless it is still part of the fabric of the building, and to other ancient incised stones have been incorporated in the comparatively new north aisle, one depicting a bell, and the other, the head of a lady in mediaeval costume, all that now remains of the complete figure.
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- Baptism of Christ
Thomas the Apostle
All Saints Day
3rd before Advent
Sunday before Advent
Baptism of ChristI sometimes find myself asking "Where has the church gone wrong?"
The incredible miraculous truth of the Incarnation - the fact that the transcendent God, King of the whole universe, chose to limit himself to a geographical place on earth at a` time in history in order to experience all that it means to be human in all its pain and joy and suffering and celebration, is an awesome, miraculous concept. The Incarnation means that God chose to become human in order to draw us into his divinity. It really is very simple
At the baptism of Christ the heavens opened and the Spirit descended bodily as a dove and a voice said "This is my son the beloved"
We are blessed to have the sacraments. The Eucharist, Baptism. Weddings are sacramental moments when heaven comes to earth in order to draw earth to heaven. They are moments in which if we have the ears to hear and the open eyes of the heart to see, that we are all welcomed by God for God- We are all his sons and daughters and as such we are all beloved of God.
This is a truth which the church over the centuries has chosen to keep to itself. We are all passionately loved by God all the time. He is simply waiting for us to turn and see the light pouring from heaven. The light by which we will all know ourselves as Beloved of God and offer our passionate love in return. The miracle of the Incarnation bends the laws of this universe. The reality of the sacraments also bend the laws of this universe. They are not simply social moments in which family and friends gather in church for a party. They are moments in which heaven comes to earth in order to draw earth into heaven. They are miraculous moments in which Gods passionate love for us is revealed in all its glory. The church is guilty of dumbing these incredible truths down. Of hiding behind mediocrity and simplicity rather than proclaiming the brilliance and grace of God at work in his world and in his church, through the sacramental moments during which he revels his love for us through, the changing events of our lives.
Epiphany 2Where has the church gone wrong? This question was posed last week. Our readings from this week help to underline that question. The fact is that we are all passionately beloved of God. The bible tells us over and over again and yet the position of the churches teaching in the past has been to underline the fact that we are miserable worthless sinners. No wonder people have turned away from the church and its fear based teachings.
The truth of the matter is that the soul of the christian is destined for union with God. The soul is the bride and God or the divine is the bride groom. Gods love for us is abundant beyond all imagining. The marriage at Cana, where Jesus turned the water into wine is an example of the sheer over whelming abundance of Gods love for us. At the joyful wedding Jesus quietly transforms, not a couple of bottles but six, 30 gallon jars, not half full but brim full, from water to the best possible wine.
As a symbol of Gods passionate love for us, always more than, never less than this story is a brilliant reminder of that truth. Against the backdrop of the celebration of the wedding we are reminded of Gods infinite, over flowing, abundant love for us and his yearning for us to turn and see and know that love which is pouring from heaven for us to share. I pray that we can open the eyes of our heart to this reality and truth and know ourselves as BELOVED of God in Christ through all eternity.
Epiphany 3 Luke 4:14-21Do you ever look back on events in your life and think THAT'S why that happened. In 1984 my baby son Matthew died, a cot death. It was quite the worst day of my life. But looking back now 30 years later I know that he literally gave me the rest of my career and life. I was a calligrapher at the time. Designing and producing lettering for paper contexts. When he died I desperately wanted to be able to carve him a gravestone to mark the exact spot where he lay. I had to out aside my professional calligraphy tools and start all over again learning about chisel, hammers and stone.
The outcome of the work I did to learn to carve Matthews headstone was that I worked for 20 years helping bereaved clients come to terms with their loss, by engaging their own creativity in the design of the stone. Working in this way has led me inexorably on into becoming a priest. Looking back I can honestly say Matthews death was a most precious and unexpected gift.
I wonder how it must have felt for the people in the synagogue when Jesus got up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said to them that he,was the fulfilment of that prophecy. Isaiah wrote his prophecy hundreds of years before. Now here before their eyes the people witness the fulfilment of that prophecy in Jesus himself, and the kingdom begins to break in. He came to bring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the lame to leap for joy, let the oppressed go free, to bring good news to the poor.
Time and space do not exist in God. The star of Bethlehem is present at the crucifixion, as the shadow of the cross is present at the Nativity. Jesus is alive and with us now as he was 2000 years ago. The Kingdom is still breaking in, the more so as we turn and see the glory pouring for us from heaven and manifest His love and glory in the world around us. He is here with us now to help us do business with our own blindness, deafness, captivity - our obsessions, addictions and submission to unjust systems. He is here with us now to help us make sense of the painful, tragic circumstances of our own lives and see them in a wider context of our whole lives and what such events contribute to our being. Jesus is round us, through us, with us and in us at all times and in all places. He is here in our hearts and spirits now alive and inspiring us, making sense of tradition and history and drawing it into the present, in our lives, our community and our world. Thanks be to God.
Candlemass, St Bride and the Transfiguration Luke 9:28-36Candlemass marks the end of the Christmas season. It is a service filled with light. The light of hope and expectation of a life lived in Christ. The light has come into the world, a light which no darkness can quench. The feast of St Bride or St Bridget of Kildare is,also celebrated at Candlemass.
St Brides bay in Pembrokeshire governs life in that part of the world, but not so much is known of the saint after which the bay is named. She is a figure of legend but full of inspiration and energy for us today. She was a pagan goddess of fire and fertility. She represents the turning of the wheel of life being both hag of winter and maid of summer. Dandelions are associated with her as are larks and linnets which are also known as Brides birds. Legend has it that she surfed on a turf from Kildare in Ireland to Little Haven in Pembrokeshire at the centre of St Brides bay. There is a church dedicated to her name and a nunnery was attached to it. Although what we know of St Bride is myth, legend and story, nevertheless she represents a spiritual energy which we so badly need to seek out in our busy modern world, to inspire our spiritual life and connection. God is not simply in the church, boxed up in the Bible for a Sunday. He is round us, through us, with us and in us at all times and in all places. The Celtic saints lived lives of holiness in the world. The whole world is holy, a living sacrament. And in the Transfiguration we see Jesus transformed. The light of heaven pours through his physical form as if he were a portal. We are beckoned and drawn into the light, irresistibly as we hear the words of God spoken from the cloud "This is my son whom I have chosen, listen to Him."
Jesus came to draw all things to Him. Do we dare to let go and let God, draw us and lead us into his presence and into the light of heaven.
As we pray in this elemental landscape in the water, fire, air and rock, in the company of the Celtic saints that have gone before us, we can be enlightened by their energy and holiness, and lead lives of connection with the divine and one another with the brilliant light of heaven filling our hearts.
Ash Wednesday 3 John 8:1-11 The Woman taken in AdulteryI have often wondered what it was that Jesus was writing in the sand when the elders brought the woman taken in adultery to Him, for his judgement and condemnation of her. You can imagine the scene. The Elders shouting and accusing and demanding punishment and retribution for the sins of the woman. The woman trembling with fear knowing her punishment should be death by stoning, and also bring her guilt with her.
And Jesus writes in the dust. Its not so much what he was writing thats important but that he was writing. By being absorbed in what he was doing Jesus was staying firmly in connection with the divine. He was in his own business. He was not being sucked into the noiisy, judgementality of the elders, or the fear and guilt of the woman. He was able to remain impartial and connected to the truth of his own position.
His judgement is not to be argued with. Let you who are without sin cast the first stone. The scheming manipulative minds of the elders who had set out to catch Jesus out could not stand up to this impartial, God centred reply. They sheepishly drift away while Jesus continues his drawing. When he finally looks up they have all gone and he is alone with the woman. From his impartial God centred place he says to her that he does not condemn her. "Go and do not sin again" he says.
How much better could we operate in the world without being quick to judge or condemn. If we took the time and trouble to work out what is really our business and what is other peoples and resolve to stay in God before we speak or react.
Lent 1 Luke 4:1-12 Temptation, Sin, LoveToday is St Valentine's day and combining that with Lent feels a challenge, or is it.
Temptation : if you think about it temptation arises from our weakness. Our pride, loneliness, broken fragility of all sorts leads us to be tempted. Tempted by offers of love, comfort foods, self centred behaviour. The devil can get in through the cracks of our weakness and work away at us.
Sin : The church has for so long judged and condemned people for their sinfulness. The vicar knows it all, possesses it all and the congregation are sinful no hopers unless they say it in the words of the vicar or they will be going to hell. No wonder our churches are empty.
Imagine God as a candle flame, burning brightly in the darkness, a light which no darkness can quench. As we stand facing that light we are filled with the light, glory and grace of God. As we turn with our backs to the flame, not only can we not see it but we stand in the darkness o f our own shadow. There is nothing darker than the shadow of our own ego, our pride, our wilfulness, our greed to name but three. Sin is separation. Separation from God. As we turn to Him, turn and repent and face the light and glory which is pouring for us from heaven in every moment our whole beings are filled with that light. There is no room for the darkness of our separation, or temptation to distract us.
God is Love. His passionate love is pouring forth from heaven in every moment at all times and in all places. All he is waiting for is for us to turn and see and know that reality and give our passionate love back to Him. Maybe a Valentine message from us to God could look like:
"All that I am I bring to you, all that I have I give to you"
The words from the marriage service directed to our beloved Lord and Saviour, God in Christ, from us to the Divine would be the most powerful protection from temptation, sin and the devil.
My prayer for this Lent is that we take on a closer, brighter more vibrant relationship with God in Christ and that we shine our light from that connection, into the world around us.
Lent 2 Luke 13:31-35 The tears of ChristJesus weeps over Jerusalem. The city that kills and disowns its prophets. The rejection of Christ is as heartbreaking today as it was for Christ himself. He is constantly misrepresented by the Pharisees. They deliberately choose to disempower Him and all that he represents time and time again.
Jesus wish for Jerusalem for Him to gather her chicks as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is a touching, homely image, which reveals Jesus true intention to bring us the path of love, the way of love.
And how must Jesus weep today at t h e sight of our world where the Kingdom of Heaven tries again and,again to break in and yet we turn our backs on it, on Him and proudly proclaim ourselves to me atheistic humanists with no need or room for God. It is heart breaking indeed and weeping is an inevitable reaction. There is nothing so dark as the shadow cast by our own ego as we stand with our back to the light of Christ, the light of heaven as it pours into our world. Turn and turn and turn and see the glory which puts for us in every moment, the glory which brings peace and eternal life.
In Lent we can share in the tears of Christ and hopefully resolve to evaporate them in the heat and the light and the glory of God's passionate love for us all if we only dare to let it into ourselves. Amen
Collect and Psalm 63:1-8
By turning and turning again and again to face the glory which is God and in our bright connection with Him in his glory, all falling short of the mark which is separation from God is no more.
Almighty God whose most dear son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain and entered not into glory before he was crucified mercifully grant, that we, talk in the way of the cross will find it none other than the way of life and peace. A paradox indeed.
Lent 4 Luke 2:33-35 Mothering SundayOur Lent course has been thinking about paradox. The paradox of the cross where the horizontal and the vertical meet in the heart of Christ which is the heart of love. Motherhood like the cross is a paradox. The brightest, lightest joy exists side by side with sorrow and pain. As mothers our own souls are pierced too.
The image of the virgin Mary as all sweetness and acceptance as the icon of motherhood to which we should all aspire has never done it for me. Yes her surrender to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation is awesome. I wish I had a fraction of her acceptance. But having to live up to the churches ideal of motherhood in the form of the virgin Mary imposes an idealism on women which is not worshipping in truth. Jesus himself gives us a realistic icon of motherhood. His self sacrificial, self emptying, kenotic love unto death is a vivid parallel with the true nature of motherhood. Love unto death. And sometimes we have to make sense of the death of a child. The joy and the pain of giving, birth, nurturing and letting go. Accompanying our children through the stages of their growing up requires for us to let go. Let go and let God. To let our children be who they are truly called to be in their divine, spiritual purpose. To worship in Spirit and in Truth calls us to recognise all of this.
The bows and flowers of the commercial mothers day seems to me to be a far cry from the spirit and truth of what it means to have mothers and to be mothers. Our beloved saviour Jesus Christ himself longs to gather the chicks under his wings like the mother hen. But they would not come to Him.<
The joy and the pain, the light and the dark, the hope and the fear, the paradox which lies at the heart of our faith, bound and held together by love, is the paradox which lies at the heart of mothering and Christ himself is with us in it all as the sword pierces our souls too. Thanks be to God.
Lent 5 John 12:1-8The story of the woman anointing Jesus feet I always find is particularly poignant . It is a vivid reminder to us of self sacrificial love. Her love for Jesus is total and she sets out to serve Him, no matter how embarrassing and tiresome everyone else at the dinner may find her actions. She is oblivious of the conditionality and judgement which the assembled diners heap upon her head. She is utterly focussed upon her service and surrender to God. She washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and anoints them with the most expensive perfume.
AND THE HOUSE WAS FILLED WITH THE FRAGRANCE OF THE PERFUME.
Judas cannot contain his indignation. He is furious that she could waste money and resources in this way. He grumbles and moans about her and yet we are told he is a thief who stole from the common purse. What misrepresentation, how unfair, how filled with judgement, conditionality and condemnation. And isn’t that so how our world operates ? Peoples good, loving sacrificial intentions judged and condemned by those with ulterior motives.
Imagine if the fragrance of the perfume was love. What if the fragrance of non judgemental, unconditional love was the fragrance which filled the house of our relationships, our communities, our countries, our world. The Kingdom would have indeed have come if we were able to practise the kind of loving service which the woman offers to Jesus. If our connection to the Divine, to God in Jesus was filled with the fragrance of divine love which we could then offer to the world at large.
Easter 5 John 20:1- 8It is said that there are only two positions for the human condition - fear and love. This passage which describes the Resurrection vividly shows us both and the consequences of living out of fear or love. The disciples rush to the tomb IN a panic to find that the impossible has become possible. The vast stone which had blocked the doorway to the tomb has been rolled away and the body of Jesus has gone.
Their fear and discombobulation is palpable,as we read the precise description of how the linen wrappings,are lying, including the one which had shrouded his head. It could be a news account of what has happened. Their fear blinds the disciples to anything more than the physical facts in front of their eyes. They wander off trying to make logical intellectual sense of what they have seen.
Mary too is blinded. Her grief issues forth in her tears. Her grief, loss and sorrow blind her physical eyes. But as she leans over to peep into the tomb the eyes of her heart reveal the angels to her and she asks where they have taken Him.
As well as being blinded by our emotions we can also be blinded by the assumptions which we make so easily. Mary blinded by her grief assumes Jesus to be the gardener. It is only as she hears Him speak her name that she realises who he is. Love replaces the fear and she connects with him as deeply and strongly as she ever had. He says do not touch me for I have not yet ascended. Mary is drawn into a whole new aspect of love for Jesus. The passionate spiritual love and connection which is eternal life. The connection through love which overcomes death, which exists through all time and space and through all eternity.
We can choose to remain separated through fear, separated from one another and from God because of fear. Or we can choose to connect through love. Connect with one another and with God in and through love. The gift of this realisation is ours as a result of Mary's first sight of the resurrected Jesus. We can choose life in the Spirit through love or death in our physical prison through fear. Christ is Risen He is Risen Indeed ALLELUIA.
Easter 7 Acts 16:16-34, Revelation 22:12-14. 20-21, John 17:20-26The passage from Acts is an amazing story. It is so exciting and gripping that we could be watching an episode of a TV soap drama. The events pile up with the slave girl and her fortune telling, paul casting out demons, the crowd attacking them and beating them,being thrown into gaol, and flogged, an earthquake shaking the foundations and throwing open the doors and the guards threatened suicide.... phew what a story. But its all out there. We are witness to these events but we are apart from them, watching as if on a TV screen.
In total contrast the passage from St John is one of the most intimate and interior passages in the Bible. The invitation is to step right in to God in Christ. We are ONE with Christ who is one with God and so we are drawn into being one in God, in the ONENESS of all being. It is a truly remarkable passage, God loved Christ before the foundation of the world and we are drawn into that reality. Time and space dont exist when we know that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, what was what is and what is to come are telescoped into this moment right here and right now. We are in Christ and Christ is in God and the whole company of Heaven, all those who have gone before us are gathered up into the Now into the Oneness.
And none of this can be understood with our minds, our intellect. It is through the eyes of our hearts, in love that we can perceive the love with which God loves us and offer that love out to all those gathered around us in our families, our schools, our communities and our world. The mystery is an internal mystery which we can ponder in our hearts and enter into with our souls and beings.
Pentecost Acts 2:1-21I have been in services where the vicar has done some pretty gimmicky stuff to try to explain the coming of the holy spirit. Helium filled balloons and lighting big fires that needed the fire brigade calling are two such events
But there is nothing gimmicky about the Holy Spirit. The rushing wind which filled the whole house and the tongues of flame resting upon individuals are dramatic to imagine. But they are not things that only happened 2000 years ago to people in the Bible. If we have the eyes of our hearts open and the ears of our spirit open through our imagination and creativity the inspiration of the spirit is as vivid and immediate as it was for those early Christians.
The Holy Spirit is wild and free. It challenges us in ways we might find uncomfortable. Its so much easier to come to church through habit and familiarity. The Risen Living Lord of Life and Love and Light is not a passive meek and mild figure. In conjunction with the Holy Spirit breathing inspiration and courage into our beings Christianity becomes a path of the most radical transformation and even transfiguration. Do we dare to let go and let God.
To put ourselves into the flow of the Trinitarian Gods YES to life love and light in all that we do and be. That is the beating heart of our Christian religion. It is the beating heart that the world needs to know to help it in its own transformation from what was to what is to come.
Thomas The Apostle John 20:24-29Thomas is a real case. But the events of the crucifixion were the most tumultuous, cataclysmic events for the followers of Jesus Christ. Their beloved Lord and Master was murdered on the cross of shame and ignominy a criminals death, despised and rejected by the world he came to serve with His message of Love and connection. Its not surprising after such distressing events that Thomas has a cynical, petulant disbelief of all that the other disciples are telling him. Can't you hear our own atheistic, scientific, humanistic, narcissistic world saying the same kind of thing. "I WONT believe unless I can put my fingers into the marks of the nails and my hand into the wound in his side".
I know plenty of people who would say belief is for those infantile individuals who need to believe in something bigger and outside of themselves We scientists are grown up, we have empirical proof we don't need God or religion.
When the world appears to be collapsing around us and no one knows what the future holds or how to move forward FAITH can be a deeply sustaining thing. Imagine our faith as a deep green pool in a sunlit grove, filled with dappled light. The surface of the pool reflects the sky. We can dip our fingers into its cool silkiness. We can feel calmed and soothed by its peace and presence. As we peep into the pool we see the reflection of our faces. But we don't become fixated on our own reflection like Narcissus. We don’t remain fixated on our own physical material appearance like so much of our consumer society. As we peer deeply into the pool we are drawn into contemplating its green depths. Like the Cloud of Unknowing which veils the face of God the depths of the pool can give no answers, but we can sit in the peaceful presence of God open to the movement of his grace and love in our hearts and above all His Peace. The pool of our faith can offer us the Peace of God which passes all understanding. The deep peace that comes from our silent resting in God, in love. When the world is confused and things seem to be melting and collapsing around us, our connection with the Divine in silence and in love becomes really important, for our own sanity clarity and for the sake of the bigger picture. Amen
8th Sunday after Trinity 8 Luke 10:38-42The story of Martha and Mary has much to offer us all. We all have varying degrees of each in our persona!pities - the active and the contemplative. To achieve a balance of both sides of ourselves is the ideal.
It is so easy to be driven to be busy, busy busy and the Protestant work ethic conspires to make sure that busyness is best. And then there's the driver of guilt. We OUGHT to do this that and the other. So we rush around like headless chickens trying to get everything done out of our own strength for ourselves.
But the paradox is that incredible action can be born out of stillness. Time spent peacefully connecting with God in Christ through contemplative prayer can inspire and focus our action in a remarkable and productive way.
Martha's anxiety to satisfy what she sees as what Jesus most needs, food and drink distracts her from his wider prayerful purpose. Mary on the other hand sits at his feet surrendered to his prayerful presence and connecting with him in silence and in love. Jesus remark is that she has chosen the better part.
Contemplation is not about sleep. On the contrary one is perched on the edge of one seat, open to the wind of the spirit rushing past, open to the deep listening and inspiration of God. From that deep and good connection we can set forth in Gods world, to work for His people in His way rather than being limited by our own assumptions and preoccupations as to how the world should be and work.
9th Sunday after Trinity Luke 11:1- 4The Lords Prayer is a truly remarkable piece of writing. And yet we rattle through it and do we really think about it. It is at once the most enormous and awesome perspective and an intimate loving personal connection.
Our Father : what do we think about when we say the word Father - a distant judgemental, Scary figure, a man with a long white beard ? Or do we see an infinitely loving figure who is there to watch over us, to love us unconditionally, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves ? God is a God of love. "Those who live in love live in God and God lives in them."
Who art in Heaven. Where do we see heaven and what is it for us ? Do we see heaven as ,a place out there where we go when we die if we have been good or is it right here and right now ? As we live lives of humility, love and connection we usher in the reality of heaven on earth right here and right now. Living by awareness, in praise ,and thanks giving we can transform our mundane world into the likeness of heaven.
Hallowed be thy name. The name of God is ultimately powerful, redeeming and creating. The I AM which is the name of God needs to be treated with due reverence for what it really is, rightly hallowed, treated as holy.
Thy kingdom come thy will be done. Your will not mine be done prays Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are not and God is. Surrendering to his healing presence in our lives, turned to face Him and His glory will transform our beings and or whole world.
Give us this day our daily bread. Realise that God gives not only our bread but every thing which we need to nourish and sustain our physical and spiritual lives. We are in Him and he is in us.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us. Sin is when we stand with our back to the light. As we do this we can only see the darkness of our own shadows, our ego and nothing is darker than the shadow of our own will, the shadow of having it all our own way. As we turn to the light the darkness of separation and our own willfulness is destroyed by the brilliance of the glory of the light of God in Christ.
As we forgive and let go we are released from the slavery of non forgiveness which can eat us up from the inside and hold us prisoner to our fears.
Lead us not into temptation. Temptation is a form of distraction and there is so much of that in our world. Distractions of body, mind and spirit in our material World, constant temptation, constant distraction.
For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen
What an enormous and all encompassing vision. Science tells us the world began with the big bang. But what came before that. The kingdom of god, the power and the glory are good enough for me as an explanation for what was, what is and what is to come. Science has a long way to go before it can answer all these questions. Until then as William Blake said "Imagination is eternity" In this universe and through all others in our multiverse the light and love of God reign supreme for ever and ever through all eternity. That is what we are saying when we pray as Jesus taught us in the Lords Prayer.
Thanks be to God. Amen
10th Sunday after Trinity Luke 12:13 - 21, Colossians 3:1-11Set your eyes on the things that are above not on the things which are below.
That is a dangerously counter cultural statement. In a world where appearance is everything we are deemed to be peculiar if we seek a spiritual path which turns its back on the things of this world. In a materialist society where everything needs to be bigger and flashier and more expensive than your neighbours, to suggest that none of this is important and our interior spiritual life is where we should be concentrating is definitely unusual and uncomfortable. We none of us want to look at the vanity which is our toil on this earth for material gain.
And the truth is we can take nothing with us except our spiritual selves. Who we truly are, not who we are as defined by our wealth and status. The man in the gospel story realises too late the reality of this truth. After storing up his treasures on earth his life is demanded of him and he stands naked and trembling in the reality of his own mortality.
The remnant which remains of Christianity has an important job to do for the world. Holding the space for us all to know the truth of today's readings. Our true selves are his with God in Christ and not in the material gain and appearance which we strive so hard for on this earth. And we hold that space not so much by speaking but by holding in our hearts the reality of the cross of Christ where the horizontal and vertical meet in the heart of love. The cross which brings together joy and suffering in a selfless outpouring of love to the world. A struggling suffering world which labours obliviously under the chains of narcissism, materialism and the false self separated from God and His eternal non judgemental, unconditional, freely outpouring love.Thanks be to God. Amen
11th Sunday after Trinity Hebrews 11: 1-3 8-16, Luke 12: 32-40FAITH is a delicate blossom which needs nurturing and caring for if it is to survive. But what a strength it is if we have it. It is like a fabulous flower with a rich and fragrant scent. If we live by faith we do not have to say very much. Its not about strident evangelism, you have to believe what I say or you are going to hell. Its about how we BE in the world and how we DO things rather than anything we might SAY. The fragrance of the perfume can permeate the world from us. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is insanity by the laws of science, requiring as it does empirical proof for everything before it can believe. Art is another matter. William Blake the great poet said "Imagination is Eternity ". I choose to believe in the miracles precisely because they defy the laws of this universe. How exciting is that. Faith is in the same league. Faith offers us infinite possibility and peace. Faith helps us to grow and blossom in the fruits of the spirit through our connection with God in Christ. Faith enables us to make purses for ourselves which do not wear out, which help us to find the unfailing treasure in heaven.
St David said "Remember the little things and keep the faith".
I pray that we can focus on our faith, growing in it and offering it to the world through silence and prayerful living.
12th Sunday after Trinity Luke 12:49-56Jesus said "I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled".
There is nothing complacent or comfortable about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. God in Christ is a demanding lover. He demands nothing less than everything from us and in return he offers us so much more than we desire or think we can ask for. He demands our total transformation. From our false selves to our true selves.
There is nothing more heavenly than a new born baby. They come into this world with nothing. William Wordsworth said "We come trailing clouds of glory" And so we do, heavenly Glory. The process of life is a process of covering over that glory, of hiding who and what we really are. Convention demands of us conventional behaviour - a proper job, appearance both personal and material and a host of shoulds and oughts. Christ is not taken in by any of this. The fire of which he speaks is a purifying, transforming fire. A fire which burns off the dross of who and what we think we are, revealing the truth of our God given reality. As we are willing to let go and let God in our lives and in our world we can become the very fullness of who we are in God. As we connect in silence and prayer with God in Christ so we feed our divine human and are better able to reach out in connection with one another and the whole of creation, through our universal human values of love respect, humility and compassion.
Transformation through divine love was Jesus' agenda my prayer is that we are able to open our hearts and embrace that reality more fully as we transform from our false selves to the glory of our true selves.
13th Sunday after Trinity Isaiah 58: 9-14, Psalm 103:1-8Bless the lord o my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name.
What a wonderful and joyous shout of joy and acclamation. Wouldn't it be so good if we could lead our lives filled with this level of joy and positivity.
Life in our modern, hectic, noisy, frightening world is very distracting. Its not easy to lead our lives in a calm and centred way. And yet if we can cultivate an attitude of peace and joy we will find our own lives filled with divine possibility and offer that possibility into the world around us. In God the impossible becomes possible.
The reading from Isaiah offers us another wonderful insight. The lord will guide us through the parched places and we shall become like a watered garden. If we rely on the glory and grace of god at work in our lives we will become verdant, abundant, healed human beings. If only we can be open to this reality.
Gardens are fragrant places full of blossoming trees and beautiful f!owners. We too can be rich and fragrant in Gods blessing. As we practise our positivity and our gratitude, as we say bless the Lord o my soul, we will offer the fragrance of our divine connection into our world and those around us.
God is indeed great and as we leads lives in his blessing and out of his blessing we will be ushering the reality of his kingdom come on earth right here and right now
20th Sunday after Trinity 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15, Luke17 : 11-19Being very ill is not a good thing. But all dark clouds have a silver lining and for me being very ill has brought me closer to God. Thank goodness for hospitals, doctors, nurses, drugs, oxygen. All these things played their part in making me well again. I was so ill I couldn’t read or talk. I could only lie with my eyes closed giving thanks for the oxygen which made breathing possible. I was aware of God in Christ, round me, through me with me and in me; sustaining me, comforting me and filling me with light and peace. The peace of God which passes all understanding.
Poor old Naaman in the reading from Kings really suffers. His will and determination keep him from doing what's needed to cure himself. He postures and resists before eventually surrendering and finding himself cured. He too gives thanks and acknowledgement to God. "Now I know there is no God in all the earth except in Israel" he says in humility.
The gospel reading tells us of the ten lepers whom Jesus heals. Nothing dramatic but as they go on their way they find themselves healed and made whole. It a s the one who returns to Jesus full of thanksgiving and praise, who recognises the miracle which Jesus has done. And it is to him that Jesus says "Your faith has made you well."
We need science, medicine, doctors and all that the medical profession offers us. But at the end of the day, the will to live, the very spark of life itself is as much a spiritual undertaking as a physical one. An attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving for the miracle of life itself connects us with the divine. Living our lives to the full in every second, not necessarily in frantic doing, but in BEING ; aware of the presence of the divine presence within us all, will stand us in good stead as we stand on the very edge of this world and are called into the next.
In the name of the Glory which is God in Christ Amen
21st Sunday after Trinity Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:4-4:5, Luke18:1-8I have been thinking about simplicity. Things are incredibly simple but our human state always renders things far more complicated. Jacobs life is clearly not straight forward with his two wives, two maids and eleven children. They set out on a journey but the real complication comes when Jacob meets God in the form of an angel and wrestles with Him all night long. Rather than turning and seeing clearly and surrendering to God without a struggle Jacob ends up wounded but seeing the truth in the end.
Isn’t that how it is so often for us? We have our own plans and projects our own wills and determination our own way of running things. We are often too self absorbed to notice God when he calls. How much more simple would our lives be if we could surrender more easily to the God of love. Putting our own egos and desires to one side and living more closely with God, the Kingdom of Heaven could manifest in our hearts, in our lives and in our world.
23rd Sunday after Trinity Bible Sunday Isaiah 45:22-25, Psalm 119: 129-136, Luke 4:16-24I always find Bible Sunday rather daunting. It seems key to me that we work out ways of being true to our tradition, being deeply rooted in our tradition, but going out into our world and relating to all those we meet from our tradition but without imposing it upon any one.
The fulfilment of prophecy is a very exciting event. The reading from Isaiah roots us squarely in the tradition. The living tradition which is also the first and greatest commandment "I am God and there is no other" - " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength."
When Jesus stands up in the synagogue and proclaims that the scripture has been fulfilled there is a strong sense of prophecy and the strength of the Living tradition in its realisation. The word of God is a wonderful and inspiring thing. How we handle that word out in our plural world where fundamentalism can lead to violent conflict and even killing is a question which we all need to contemplate deeply.
To be rooted in our living tradition, to know the reality of God in Christ in our lives and to understand that God is in every thing and every thing is in God is the essence of our Christian faith. To LIVE that out in the world in silence and in presence is vital if we are not to cause division and distress amongst all those who we meet. It is incumbent upon us all to understand how to be Christians in the living sense of that word, in a world of many faiths, atheism and humanism.
If we can be Christians living in the big picture relating to the Cosmic Christ king of the whole multi verse, we will offer a model of diversity and inclusivity which is able to inspire, uphold, enable and empower those around us accepting them as they truly are without judgement or condemnation. That is the model which Christ himself offered us in his lifetime on earth and offers us through the action of the spirit, as the living risen Lord of light and life and love, right here and right now and through all eternity.
All Saints Day Service of Light and Memory Little Gidding by TS Eliot. Psalm 149. Ephesians 1 :11-23. Luke 6: 20-31Life is Eternal. Love is Immortal. These are concepts which our modern cynical scientific, atheistic age find hard to really own. But at moments like this when we remember the names of our loved ones who have gone before us, into the cloud of witnesses, the company of heaven; and light candles in their memory it is an important part of that knowing.
Death is nothing at all have only slipped into the next room. I find that sentiment difficult because for those of us left behind to make sense of death it is a big deal. And we have to find a way through. Find hope, find joy even as we work out how we lead the rest of our lives without that person.
In the gospel Jesus tells us blessed are the poor. He doesn’t mean just physically poor. But those who are poor in spirit and pure in heart are the ones whose own egoic way of life has been put on one side. They are open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, open to the inspiration of God in Jesus Christ. They have put their own wills, projects, need for human superiority both material and personal on one side and are able to hear and act upon the will of God. As we all surrender to the light and glory of God we will know his peace and love in our hearts and know the reality of His Kingdom stretching through all eternity.
The saints surround us, especially in this Celtic land. St David, St Bride, St Madoc, St Non. Saints are people who knew the presence and glory of God in their lives. In Ephesians Paul reminds us that Christ is the fullness which fills all in all. God is in every thing and everything is in God. The Celtic saints knew the sanctity of all being. Everything for them was holy : the landscape, the sea, the rocks the earth, the animals. The oneness of all being in God was how they led their lives. The communion of saints is with us now in the glory that pours from heaven, with the cloud of witnesses and the whole company of heaven.
As we remember all those who have gone before us let us know the reality of eternal life and the sanctity of the whole of creation.
TS Eliot quotes another Saint, St Julian of Norwich. She expresses these truths most beautifully and we would all do well to treasure these words and ponder them in our hearts :
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time......
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in - folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one." (T S Eliot 'Little Gidding')
Let us open our hearts and minds and beings to the glory and presence of God in our lives and in our works and strive for the growing of His kingdom right here and right now, as we follow our paths to joining Him in heaven with all our loved ones who have gone before.
3rd Sunday before Advent Job 19: 23-27a. Psalm 17: 1-9Collect: Almighty Father whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son the king of all : govern the hearts and minds of those in authority and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin to be subject to your just and gentle rule ....
What a week we have had and what a week we have to come. Last week saw the election of the first woman bishop in the Church in Wales. What an exciting moment but also for many people a very challenging moment. A bitter sweetness which accompanies all major change but a cause for celebration and joy nevertheless.
Then the High court ruling on Brexit and the frenzied tabloid press reaction. We live in truly dramatic times. The American Presidential Election is an event that will touch us all. It is living proof of the reality of the Oneness of all being. Events on one side of the world touch those on the other, whether they are natural phenomena or political man made situations.
How are we supposed to think about these changes about the march of progress and the tumultuous events that surround us. At times like these it is good to remember Gods presence close to us round us through us, with us, and in us at all times and in all places. "Keep me, as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wing" the psalmist says.
Prayer is all that we have. Steadfast silent, open communion with God from the heart in prayer is essential for us all. To hold the whole quivering creation up to God , in prayer. Earth comes to heaven as heaven comes to earth. Its in troubling moments like these that we need to know the sanctity of all things. God is in everything and everything is in God. It is at times like these that we need to pray for the broken to be restored to wholeness of life and pray as our post communion collect suggests: look with compassion on the anguish of this world and by your healing power make whole both peoples and nations through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Remembrance Sunday Micah 4:1-2, Luke 21:5-9What a time we have had of it over the past few weeks. Weeks in which we have seen the impossible become possible. And the impossibilities we have witnessed seem to shake our world at it's roots. What does our democratic values base look like post Brexit and post Trump.
When we read some of the Bible we feel the roots of the world shaking. As atheistic humanists we can dismiss these passages as unrealistic attempts control the faithful through fear. Our Micah reading and the gospel both have elements of this about them.
The roots of our world were well and truly shaken by the atrocities of the First and Second world wars and by every other war waged since to this very day. The unspeakable waste of life caused the reformation of our societies and of us as individual human beings.
At times like this when the whole fabric of our world is quivering and shaking, the whole of creation feels on the edge, the reality of God as our rock and our refuge feels important.
The whole of our world, the whole of creation and particularly the human race, is but a speck of dust in the enormity of the cosmos and in the face of the God of love. At times like this we are called to pray. To connect to the God who is love and to one another with compassion respect and love. We neglect to love our environment at our peril. We neglect to love one another at our peril.
Remembrance Sunday is a sombre moment for reflection on the past and it is a moment to look forward to creation a new world. A world of love, compassionate connection and above all a world of peace.
My prayer for us all is that through our corporate prayer and connection we can usher in the peace of God which passes all understanding. The peace of body, mind and spirit and that knowing that peace we are able to offer it to the whole struggling groaning creation which surrounds us.
THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU NOW AND THROUGH ALL ETERNITY
Sunday before Advent Psalm 46Be still then and know that I am God
We are living through tumultuous times in every way. And now the weather has enjoined with tremendous wind and rain.
It is at times like these that we really need to remember that God all e is our rock and our refuge. That he will keep us as the apple of his eye and hide us under the shadow of his wings.
It is at times like this as we experience political upheaval and turmoil that we have to find the inner resources and connect with the God of love and peace.
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know
Try this little meditation which leads us into silence and stillness through the words of Psalm 46. As we sit with open heart and mind and soul in silence we can connect with the peace and care and love of God in a very direct way. We can experience God in Christ round us through us with us and in at all times and in all places as we connect with his strength and presence.
We live in a wonderful world. God is in everything and everything is in god. The Celtic saints and sages remind us of this. The Celtics blessings offer us another fruitful starting point for contemplation.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the prince of peace to you.
Surrounded as we are by Gods bountiful goodness as we concentrate on that we can indeed hide under the shadow of his wing and know ourselves as the apple of His eye. The God of love yearns for us to love Him and in that love lies our peace and growth no matter how the world around us rails and screams and seeks to distract and destabilise us. My prayer for us all is that we find ways in which to BE in Gods presence and know His love and strength in our hearts.
Advent SundayCast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light
I find myself contemplating the armour of light often. Zipping myself in protecting myself from the dark powers and distractions of this world and turning to Him in glory. Working in Christ for Christ's world, out of his protection and love surrounded by His glory woven into the armour of light.
In my vision one day I saw the armour of light with brilliant bright patches. What came to me was that these brighter patches were my imperfections, my wounds. In our wounds are our glory. They offer us opportunity to grow and deepen in faith and wisdom. They offer us opportunities for understanding and compassion for our fellow humans, allowing us to draw along side them not judging or condemning them but offering our peaceful presence in the midst of the turmoil they are undergoing.
Judgemental condemnation which is the hall mark of fundamentalist religion, does not sit comfortably with the first commandment : to love the lord our god with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength and our neighbour as ourselves. How can one dwell in that commandment and condemn homosexual relating as,an abomination because it says so in Leviticus. How can one draw alongside our gay brothers and sisters sons and daughters with compassion, love and understanding whilst condemning them as an abomination because that's what the old testament says.
We need too reinterpret doctrine and tradition afresh for every generation by rooting ourselves in the absolute reality of the first commandment. From that position of love of god and knowing his passionate love for us, we will be able to make a meaningful and compassionate contribution to the evolution of humanity. By knowing our own imperfections and woundedness and knowing them as woven into the fabric which is our armour of light we will work out of humility in Christ's strength for His people in His world. Amen
3rd Sunday of AdventOne of the central themes of Advent is that of transformation. The wonderful advent readings are full of them. Isaiah says the desert will blossom and bloom, the crooked paths will be made straight, the hungry shall be fed the deaf shall hear, the blind will see and the lame will leap for joy. The transformation from sorrow and sighing to joy praise and thanksgiving is the promise of the light of advent. The light which is coming into the world is a light that no darkness can quench, the light of Christ. The Magnificat is a song of praise and thanksgiving which celebrates those transformations of which Isaiah speaks in his prophesy.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ into our world is a promise. The promise of eternal life. The promise of transformation.
So why is there still so much sorrow pain and deprivation in the world. Humanity is stubborn. It wants it its own way. Unbridled growth and expansion at the expense of the environment. Looking to self interest rather than awareness of the needs of other vulnerable human beings.
Transformation in our human dimension is only possible as we put our self interest and greed aside and attend to the pain and needs of the whole of creation. If we were able to do that on a global the transformation which is the promise of the Light of Christ would be able to manifest in our personal lives and in our world.
4th Sunday of AdventPeople have often said to me "We can’t believe in miracles because they defy the laws of the universe." These people are often scientists, intellectuals, academics but also people who describe themselves as atheists and humanists. My reaction as an artist with mystical leanings is to say "Thank God for miracles BECAUSE they defy the laws of this universe."
William Blake said imagination is eternity. How uninspiring and controlling and fear driven is the mind set which says that the laws of this universe are the defining laws for human existence.
One of the greatest miracles of all time is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Cosmic Christ, King of the whole universe, as a tiny vulnerable baby in a manger in a stable. Not as a king in a palace off marble and gold, but in a stable surrounded by the beasts who represent the whole of creation. He was small vulnerable and at terrible risk and in all of that fear loneliness and danger he can share with us in the vulnerability of our humanity. Jesus Christ became human in order to draw us all into his divinity.
And none of this would have been possible without the listening patience, surrender and obedience of Mary. Obedience to whom and to what. A young woman is found to be pregnant before her marriage and the Holy Spirit is the cause of her pregnancy. Mary’s obedience to God, her surrender to god, her Let it be done to me as you have said, leads her into direct conflict with the rules of the time, convention, morality, decency. She listens to God and through her surrender she enables the miracle of the Incarnation to happen. Thank goodness Joseph also listens carefully to the message of the angel and he too is obedient to the words of God through the angel and does not cast Mary off but agrees to play his part in the amazing miracle which is the Incarnation.
We all have Virgin hearts waiting to be interpenetrated by the Holy Spirit if we dare to put our vested interest on one side, our focus on convention and rules and really listen to what the spirit is whispering in our hearts.
The Incarnation is an amazing miracle which occurred as a result of Marys listening surrendered obedience to God. My prayer for us all is that we find the quiet time to really listen to what God is asking from us all. Time to be silent in open hearted open minded, deep listening attention to the nudging of the Holy Spirit rather than being limited by our awareness of the limitations of our world, its laws, conventions and expectations. The true meaning of Christmas and the miracle of the birth of Christ is not the consumer frenzy, noise and bright lights, but is about an open hearted surrender to God in Christ through our loving listening attention and obedience to Him.
Advent ReflectionsThese pieces formed our contemplations in the advent Saturday morning on the 3rd December. For those who were not able to be there I offer them now to inspire your advent thinking and preparation.
Genesis chapter 1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was on the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said “Let there be Light “ and there was light. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light : they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death upon them hath the light has shined.
The beginning of Genesis – the very start of the Bible- what a dramatic moment – an enormous moment – a cosmic moment. The earth was formless and empty – can we empty our minds of all our daily chattering thoughts, still our being, empty and open ourselves to the earth without form – to the sheer darkness of the darkness, the total absence of light – the NOTHING. The sheer nothingness of nothing –the pregnant pause – the darkness – the silence and space which contains the EVERYTHING. And the Spirit of God was hovering on the waters, The Spirit – the energy – the potential poised in the darkness – the potentiality of the whole of creation. And God said “ Let there be light and there was light “ Science might describe the moment as the bib Bang when the nothing explodes into the everything, into Being and that Being is pure brilliant light.
The True light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. The light which no darkness could quench.
The incarnational consequence of the light – the Being of light –is to drive out the darkness – to enlighten those who dwelt in the shadow of death, Those for whom, death is the ending – the nothing of the abyss awaits. The coming of the light of Christ – the true light in the world is the promise of eternal life. This is the light which no darkness can quench, No assertion of aetheistic humanism can stand form against the true light which will never be put out. The Light of the Divine in Jesus Christ – spiritual enlightenment, connection to Him and with Him is the light which no darkness can extinguish.
The Lord is my light and salvation, of whom shall I be afraid? Praise the Lord o my soul. O lord my God you are very great: you are clothed with splendour and majesty. He wraps himself in light as in a garment, he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers and flames of fire his servants.
A song of praise and thanksgiving. An acclamation of praise. An affirmation of faith. The sentiments of this psalm paint a fabulous cosmic picture for us. God wrapped in light as in a garment, he rides on the wings of the wind. In this vision we ride with him – we enter His world where the winds are his messengers and the flames of fire his servants. We are drawn by this writing into Gods presence but drawn into this presence with the elements of this world which become his transcendent companions, Our surroundings are sacred, the environment is holy – God is in everything and everything is in God. In this psalm we are united with God in the strength of the natural world around us.
Reading from Psalm 130
O Lord you have searched me out and know me .
You know when I sit down and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O Lord. Where can I flee from your presence ? If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is light to you.
Our relationship with God is intimate and whole – he knows us better than we know ourselves - - it was he who knit us together in our mothers womb. Where in all our physical world can we go to escape God ? This psalm, brilliantly expresses the indivisibility of our relationship with God – he is round us, through us, with us and in us at all times and in all places. We and God are ONE in the Oneness of all being in LIFE, LIGHT AND LOVE
We think we can run from him – we think we can hide – we think that we can retreat into the darkness, but the darkness is as bright as the day for Him. The wonderful light filled truth is that God loves us passionately and wants no more than for us to turn to Him and see that truth loving him in return.
From Isaiah 60: 1-3
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the
glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples. But the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
What a brilliant hope filled vision of the reality of the things to come. The light of faith can guide us as we turn to God and know his brilliance in our lives we also know that this is all that really matters. No matter what darkness and fear stalks our human world, the brilliance and glory of God are more powerful than any of the dark. The light and brightness of God is the reality to which we are beckoned, drawn by the light of the Spirit. The promise of the light of Christ is a complete promise the promise of the resurrection to eternal life. This light is stronger and brighter than any darkness which might seem to threaten to overcome us.
Reading Four from Psalm 36 v5
Your Love O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies, your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep, O Lord you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love Both high and low among men find refuge under the shadow of your wings. They feast in the abundance of your house; you give them to drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
A song of praise and thanksgiving for Gods love and righteousness. The physical dimensions of our world- the heights of heaven and the depths of the earth cannot contain the majesty and glory of god. His love is unfailing. He is our rock and our refuge. He can hide us under the shadow of his wings. He gives us the fountain of the water of eternal life. He is glory upon glory, iin his light we see light. The Light of God in Christ is total light brighter than all our earthly lights put together – the sun the moon and the stars. The inner spiritual light of Christ is the light which enlightens us, which reveals the truth to us, which inspires us with His presence and Being.
Reading Five from 1 Thessalonians 5: 5
But you brothers and sisters are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or darkness.
But since we belong to the day let us put on faith and love as a breast plate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and
put on the armour of light.
To put on the armour of light. Put away the deeds of darkness. The fabric of the armour of light shines brilliantly, more brilliantly as a result of our woundedness. In our wounds are our glory. In our woundedness we are able to draw alongside others who suffer and cry. Clothed in the armour of light, with Love as a breast plate we can minister to those around us in an open hearted open minded way whilst being rooted in the love and light of Christ. Supported and protected by him we can work for him, for his people in his world. Let us put away the deeds of darkness, the judgement and conditionality which divides us from one another and with compassion and humility work in Christ for Christ.
Reading Six from The Gospel of St John 1: 1-14
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen His glory, the Glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
The Beginning of the Gospel of Saint John is a massive reading. A bookend to the beginning of Genesis. Here creation is described in and through Christ the Word. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shining ion the darkness, the light which no darkness could understand. The word became flesh and dwelt among us – the light which no darkness could quench was coming into the world incarnated as a human divine being – God made man in order to draw us to the light the light of God in Christ. The incarnation in which the Creator transcendent God chose to limit himself to a place on earth at a time in history, born in a lowly stable in a manger full of straw, not as a king in palace of marble. He came in human form to experience all that it means to be human in all its pain and sorrow as well as its joy and celebration. We are called to His glory, called to His light, called into the Enlightenment of His grace and truth.
The season of Advent invites us to contemplate the coming of the light of the Incarnation, These readings reflect that light and our waiting for its coming, our yearning to meet it. I pray that we can open our hearts and minds to the reality of the light of Christ in our world and the true meaning of the run up to Christmas.
Creator God of love, kindle in us the fire of your spirit that when the Lord comes again we may shine as lights before Him who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God now and for ever.
Christmas Day John 1:1-14In school, the kids often say to me how can you believe in what the bible says at the beginning of Genesis and what the scientists tell us about evolution. And I say it isn't either or. Its both and. Genesis describes creation with an imaginative, poetic account of the Spirit brooding on the face of the deep and God saying "let there be light" and there was light. And we know from the scientists the reality of evolution and the existence of dinosaurs. There are two different ways of describing the same thing, the creation of the universe.
The beginning of the Gospel of St John is describing the nature of God - the Trinitarian god father son and holy spirit. We cannot understand this passage with our logical thinking brains. As we hold the words in our minds and spirits we can be inspired by the miracle of the incarnation. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The cosmic Christ, King of the universe, King of the multi verse, chose to limit himself to a geographical place on earth, to a time in history, to experience all that it means to be human. In all its joy and celebration as well as all its sorrow, fear and dying. He didn't incarnate as a human king in a palace of marble and gold but as a tiny vulnerable baby in a manger of straw in a stable surrounded by the animals which represent the whole of creation, in order to experience all that it means to be human.
Jesus Christ came to bring us the path of love, the way of love. And the world didn't recognize him. The world rejected Him and he died the death of a criminal on a cross. But with Him, with the Word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us the light came into the world. The light which no darkness can quench. He brought us the path of love, which is connection, which is peace.
As our world seems to be fracturing, falling apart, with the rise of aggressive nationalism and environmental exploitation and destruction, we need the connecting force of the light and love of Christ more than ever before in human history. May the light, love and peace of Christ fill you this Christmas and for ever. May the miracle of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ inspire you and empower you now and through the years to come. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our beloved Lord and Saviour, bringer of love and grace and peace.
New Years Day Day Luke 2:15-21Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The start of a new year, a new day a new dawn. As the year turns we face a number of challenges in all sorts of ways. But challenge can become opportunity. At a time when all around us seems to be breaking apart, fracturing, splitting asunder, we need to find ways of creating harmony, union, communion. In politics, in environmental matters, in global relations and in and between religions, there seem to be forces at work intent on dividing and fracturing. We are all capable of visioning, of co creating a future of peace and harmony honouring and respecting the whole of creation and the planet itself. We are capable of it and we need to combine our higher energies of light, love and life to create a deep peace on earth, more urgently now than ever before in the history of human kind.
Mary is a wonderful example to us of surrender and love, humility and patience. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ our Lord into physical form in a place on earth at a time in history, is an incredible on going miracle. It is a miracle surrounded by miracles of which Mary is the beginning. The star which shone at his birth to guide, the angels who appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds willingness to listen, believe and then set out on an uncomfortable, inconvenient journey, leaving their flocks by night. All these miracles combine to serve the greatest miracle of all - that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Heaven came to earth in order to draw earth to heaven.
And Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. It is in the language of God, in the silence that we will find inspiration and insight. In our silent prayer, letting go and letting God we will be able to negotiate the difficulties which face us. As we turn and see the glory pouring from heaven and fill ourselves with that heavenly light of non judgemental, unconditional love we will create peace and harmony within ourselves and in the strength of Christ be able to offer that peace and harmony to the world around us.
Pondering these things in our hearts, in silence rather than being too quick with our own human thoughts and words we will work in and through Christ. to create a world of respect for difference but also of deep strong peace.
The deep peace of the running wave be with you, the deep peace of the flowing air be with you, the deep peace of the quiet earth be with you, the deep peace of the shining stars be with you, the deep peace of the prince of peace be with you now and through all eternity. Amen.
EpiphanyOne of the advantages of having "grown up" children is that Christmas becomes less demanding. We do this thing where you have a partner and you just buy presents for your one partner. And stockings too .... Gone are the days which saw me wrapping five stockings worth of presents because with our new system you are responsible for one item in the stockings only.
The amazing thing about this is that I have spent a lot of time over Christmas reflecting upon the TRUE meaning of Christmas, the true meaning of gift; rather than frantically trying to meet a material, consumer agenda of what Christmas SHOULD be.
The awesome miracle which is the essence of Christmas is that God gave to us in Jesus Christ the gift of himself. The transcendent creator god chose to limit himself to a place on earth, to a time in history to experience all that it means to be human, in all its joy and celebration and in all its sorrow and pain. Anything that we experience, God in Christ has experienced before us, has suffered before us and in our suffering now he suffers with us now. That is the miracle of the Incarnation the true gift of Christmas.
And of course the three wise men saw the amazing star. The six pointed star which represents earth coming to heaven as heaven comes to earth. They saw the star at its rising and in faith they followed it. An uncomfortable, inconvenient journey but they persevered. Even though they were mistaken, looking for the baby King in the palace of Herod. Where else would you look for a king but in a palace of marble and stone and gold and jewels. But the King of heaven, the Cosmic Christ king of the whole universe was born in a manger full of hay, in a stable, surrounded by the beasts which represent the whole of creation.
The Kings lay before Him their gifts of gold for riches, frankincense for spiritual clarity and purity and myrrh for the pain and sorrow in which Jesus would die.
Love came down at Christmas. Jesus Christ came to bring us the path of love, the way of love. And like the light coming into the world, the world knew him not. It rejected his message of love. Love the unifying force of the whole universe. Jesus became human to draw us by love into His divinity. As we turn to face God, the glory which is streaming from heaven, so we will know His passionate love for us. And,as we receive that divine love we will be able to offer it to the world as respect, communication and union. We will be able to love our neighbours and also our enemies.
The true gift of Christmas is Gods gift to us of himself. God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. Let us pray for love to manifest in our world bringing healing, forgiveness and peace. Amen
Epiphany 2 Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-14, Corinthians 12:1-9WHO ARE YOU ?Christmas is a time for watching films and DVDs are one of my favourite past times. I have been watching the version of Alice in Wonderland which has Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. The story is one in which Alice who finds her real life a tiresome and demanding living up to the conventional expectations of her mother, her family and her class a constricting and suffocating affair. Her journey through Underland leads her through a series of character revealing adventures in which she has to reclaim her "muchness" in order to slay her demons.
Its a story which we would all do well to ponder. And of course the caterpillar sitting on his toadstool as we all know so well asks the question "WHO ARE YOU?' And the truth is that who we are in our own puny human strength, our own egoic wilfulness is quite a different thing to who we are in our Divine form, in our God given truth. Life is a process of stripping away our false self. Our determination to be the boss of us and to have it all our own way. to allow ourselves to be driven by convention, having a "proper" job, by fashion, by the media, by money and status. If we are able to sit very quietly in the silence, silence being the language of God, and listen to his whispered nudgings and promptings we would be able to step into our God given truth, reality and "muchness".
We would be able to say with the psalmist. "I waited patiently for the Lord, he stooped to me and heard my cry, he lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set me upon a high cliff and made my footing sure." "I love to do your will O God your law is deep in my heart."
For the truth is that God knew us before we were born. We cannot escape that fact "God knew me before I was born while I was in my mothers womb he named me."
If we were able to be truly aware of that miracle we would surely realise that we labour in vain out of our own strength, all is vanity.
My prayer for us all is that we really know our relationship with God and dependance upon Him, the ONE God who is LOVE creator, redeemer and sustainer. One God many paths but in essence those paths are the path of love and love leads to Union. Love through the Divine leads to our being able to love our neighbours but also our enemies. To become the ONENESS OF ALL BEING which is what our life in Christ calls us to be.
Epiphany 3 1 Corinthians 1:18The cross is folly to those who are perishing, to those who are being saved it is the power of God.
The cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. More importantly it is the sign and symbol of the incredible transforming power of God in Jesus Christ. Crucifixion was a hideous barbaric form of execution and the cross a symbol of that death and torture. It is also a very simple form where the horizontal and the vertical meet. They meet at the heart of Christ, the heart which is love. A complete transformation has occurred which is through death on the cross the living risen living lord of light and life and love has leaped bringing us the promise of resurrection to eternal life.
At times such as these when our political systems seem to be delivering mad, even insane solutions, when we stand on the brink of no one knows what the reality of the glory of the cross of Christ offers us a firm footing, reminds us that Gods promises are for ever and always and divine love is eternal
Love is the power which holds all things together. Love doesn’t mean pink, fluffy soppy, romantic love. Divine love is capable of ruthless compassion. Divine love wants nothing better than for us to find ourselves as who we truly are in our authentic divine selves. Stripped of the trappings of this world, our ego and our wilful self centeredness we are free to be who we really are in God. We are aware of the light and the truth of the love which Jesus came to bring us. The love which connects and creates. The love which lies at the heart of the cross of Christ, the transformed instrument of torture. It is as as we enter into the transformation that we are able to love not only our neighbours but also love our enemies.
In our delicate, fragile, splintered , broken world which seems set on a path of more fracturedness and separation the binding force of the cross of Christ with its power to draw all things to itself is needed more now than ever before.
May the cross of the son of God, which is mightier than all the hosts of satan
And more glorious than all the hosts of heaven abide with us
In our going out and our coming in, by day and by night
May it guard guide and protect us
From the assaults of evil spirits, from the snares of the devil
From all things that beguile our souls and bodies may it deliver us
Now and through all eternity
Epiphany 4 1 John 1:1Today we celebrated Candlemas to mark the end of our Christmas season.
The gospel reading and sermon were designed to be a meditation on the light, the candles which we all held in the Palm of our hand.
In the beginning was the word. The light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world, the light which no darkness can quench, full of grace and truth.
And the truth is that the light of God in Christ IS there in every moment for us all whether we choose to see it and believe it or not. Our spiritual journey is the process of divesting ourselves of the layers of hardness of heart which separate our true selves from the light of the divine.
As we open our hearts to the brilliance of the light we are filled with the grace and truth of the divine. It is our choice, our free will whether we allow the light in or keep it out, but the truth is that the light IS there for ever and always.
And we can't understand the mystery of these things with our intellectual thinking minds. We understand them in our hearts and souls as we open our hearts and souls to the reality of God in our midst : Emmanuel God with us.
Much of the teachings of the church across the centuries has tried to keep the people separate from God. Needing a priest to intercede on our behalf. The truth is that we all have a personal relationship with the divine and that is a mystery. Through word and sacrament, prayer and contemplation we enter into the living presence of God. As we work on our spiritual journey the reality of a life in Christ becomes a graced truth for us all.
My prayer for us all as we come to the end of this Christmas season, is that we really know the light which is coming into the world, the light which no darkness can quench as the glorious presence of Christ in our hearts and in our lives now and through all eternity.
4th Sunday before Lent Matthew 5:13-20Immortal Invisible, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Last Sunday we celebrated Candlemas, the end of our Christmas season. The theme of the service was of course Light and we lit several candles to inspire our meditation around the miracle which is the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Candlemas is of course also the feast of St Bride. The wonderful Irish Saint who was a pagan Goddess before she was Christianised. Her attributes include Fire and the Sun, so she is indeed a figure of Light. She is also a Saint for whom the big picture, the enormity of the Sun and fire, combine with the tiny. In her case the Linnet and the dandelion are also her attributes. Like St David who said Keep the Faith and Remember the Little Things, St Bride is also a saint of the microcosm and the macrocosm. She holds in tension for us the infinite and the eternal and focusses us into the tiny and immediate. Both are expressions of our wonderful creation on which we depend for our physical life and existence.
The truth is that all creation, the environment itself is sacred. God is in Everything and Everything is in God. It is as we know our environment as the sacred Holy thing that it is, that we will honour and respect it and treat it accordingly with reverence, enabling it to sustain the complex life on this planet through all the ages to come.
God is beyond words. God is beyond human understanding and intellectual thought. We have to find metaphors to speak about God and one of the most powerful is Light.
The wonderful words of the Hymn Immortal Invisible speak of the light inaccessible hiding God from our sight. As we sit in the silence of prayer with open hearts and minds we can connect to the light which is God. We can know the translucent transformation which is the light shining in this beautiful Pembrokeshire landscape, shining onto the sea and bouncing back into the sky, filling us with the luminosity and transforming lightness of being which places us close to God. It is in our contemplative prayer that we will know the Silence of Eternity Interpreted by Love. We will hear the still small voice of Calm speaking through the earthquake, wind and fire, the tumult noise and distraction of our frightening noisy modern world.
In todays Gospel, Jesus urges us to know that we are the light of the world. He urges us to know that the light placed on the lamp stand gives light to the whole house.
So it is for us, who know the light, life and love of Jesus Christ. We are called to connect with the Divine in love and receive Divine love into our hearts and from that place of connection offer our love out horizontally to the world around us ; to our friends and neighbours, our local communities, our national communities, our global communities and to the whole of our environment and all the creatures of creation which share the Biosphere which we call Home.
My prayer for us all is that we find the time to sit in silence and love, to connect with God in Christ and to know the love and light of the Divine in our hearts, in the very core of our beings.
We ask this in the name of the ONE who is love, creator, redeemer, sustainer Amen
3rd Sunday before Lent Deuteronomy: 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37What a difficult gospel reading. Its full of don’ts and the fearful consequences of behaving in this way. I find things that encourage me to DO more are far more effective than the fearful consequences of DON’T. For example the Beatitudes which appear a little earlier in Matthew mean so much more to me.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. That gives me something positive to work with.
On the mountain Jesus gathered his disciples. Jesus is often up the mountain: praying alone, transfiguring, teaching. He's often been up a mountain before something important happens for example he walks on the water. Mountains offer us peace, solitude and connection with God. We all need our mountain places to retreat to in order to have a vibrant living prayerful connection.
Our three Havens Beacon Churches are all situated on hills above the centres of population. They are sites of christian witness in the landscape reaching back across thousands of years. P!aces of prayerful presence. As we worship and connect with god through prayer and sacrament in these places we can take our prayerful inspiration forth into the world to connect with all those around us in our villages, towns nations and in our world. My prayer for us all is that we shine the light of god in Christ in the world as a positive YES to god and one another in love.
2nd Sunday before Lent Genesis 1:1-23, Psalm 136:1-9, Romans 8:16-24, Matthew 6:25-34What an incredible piece of writing the beginning of the Bible is. It is a vivid imaginative account of the creation of the world. It is an account which to my mind sits very comfortably along side the scientific theory of the big bang. Its another way of expressing, of explaining the incredible miracle that creation suddenly sprang into being. From the absolute darkness and silence of the nothing, the everything of creation sprang into being. And while the scientists can't tell us, for all their cleverness, what existed before the big bang, the account in Genesis is a brilliant way of explaining how creation came into being.
And what a minutely detailed account it is. The creation is an event which should leave us in no doubt about its brilliance and our right response to it should be one of infinite gratitude. The psalm is a glorious shout of joy and recognition of the miracle of creation.
God has put humanity in dominion over the whole of creation, but great power comes with great responsibility. The Genesis account of creation should also make us question our footprint on the delicate fabric of our wonderful world.
The teeming seas, the variety of birds, land animals and plants are all illustrated for us and cause us to reflect upon the state of environmental degradation that humanity has caused in the name of development, expansion and unbridled growth.
And the truth is we are not simply physical beings in a physical world. No matter how we might deny it, insisting upon being atheistic humanists, scientists and non believers, there is a spirit shaped hole in us all. Faith is delicate. It needs nurturing with open hearted open mindedness as a fruit of the spirit. The rewards of faith include peace of mind, a sense of security and rootedness. It is faith which brings the peace of God which passes all at understanding. It is faith which will enable our spiritual growth and inspire our creative response.
In the Gospel passage Jesus reminds us of the sheer unrivalled beauty of the flowers of the field, or as William Blake would say "to see a heaven in a wild flower " If we have the ears of faith to hear what Christ is saying "do not be troubled, do not worry" we will find peace in our troubled world.
The peace of God which passes all understanding is a deep and lasting peace. It is a peace which will enable us to put vested on one side and vision creative solutions for the creation of a sustainable world in which all beings will not only merely survive but actually thrive.
The Genesis account of creation is the explosion out of the nothing of the everything. As we live our lives in the noise and clamour of the everything of our modern world, we need to know that the silence and peace of God which seems as if it is a radical emptiness the nothing underpins it all.
In the Nothing is the Everything, as in the Everything is the Nothing. My prayer for us all is that we find the peace and stillness of the nothing, through faith which will sustain and power us through the everything of our existence.
Next before Lent Matthew 17:1-9 The TransfigurationWhat an incredible vision the Transfiguration presents for us. And yet its a very brief account. But it opens out into an amazing all encompassing vision of the relationship of heaven and earth if we dare to sit with it with the eyes and ears of our hearts open wide in the stillness and silence which is where God can speak to us.
Jesus is often going up the mountain alone to pray. Going up the mountain with the disciples in order to teach them. And here he is going up the mountain with Peter James and John and they experience the most amazing vision and hear the word of God spoken from the cloud.
It is a brief descriptive passage but we are told that Jesus face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white.
He is transfigured, almost as if he becomes a portal. His physical body becomes for us a window through which the light of heaven pours into our physical world. Jesus Christ stands at the intersection of heaven and earth.
Peters reaction is one of fear and amazement. His plan is to build three shelters to possess the glory of heaven, to contain it to control it. Is this our reaction I wonder. Capture the transforming glory and brilliance of the living risen lord and keep it locked away in a box in a church for a Sunday. Safely locked away from our everyday life where his transforming presence and glory is more than we can bear. Do we dare to live in the light, truth and grace of the reality of Jesus Christ in every moment in our physical world?
The sacrament of the Eucharist is a moment when heaven comes to earth and earth comes to heaven. As we celebrate it together week by week we are standing in the light of the Transfigured Lord. Do we see it as this or do we partake with the eyes of our hearts closed to the grace and glory which is pouring from heaven through it for us. Our Lent course is an exploration of the sacrament of the Eucharist and may help you to understand this better.
And the voice spoke from the cloud. "this is my Son the beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him"
We all need our mountains. Quiet places where we can go and shut the door. Away from the bustle and noise of every day life. A rock on the cliff, a tree in the garden, our mountain places can be found in all kinds of ways. But they are places dear to us in which we can really LISTEN for the whispered nudgings of God in our hearts. Places where we can enter into the glory of our risen Lord and Saviour where we can hear his love for us and return our love to Him.
My prayer for us all this Lent is that we take on the challenge of sitting in our quiet places. Sitting in the silence of the northing and know it as the light and peace of the everything in Christ.
May you have a blessed and light filled Lent love from Diana
Ash Wednesday John 8:3-11 The woman taken in adulteryJesus Christ does not judge us. Jesus Christ does not condemn us. He sits with us at our own level in patient loving silence. He bends down to us. In answer to those who judge and condemn he simply writes in the sand. He does not react. He does not get angry, defend or attack. I Always wonder what did he write in the sand. But its not what he wrote but the fact that he wrote. He put himself in a contemplative place. Open to the grievances and wiles of those who would trick him and open to the life threatening plight of the woman.
His simple statement "Let those of you without sin cast the first stone" holds up a mirror to the teachers and Pharisees. He simply challenges them and they melt away.
To the woman he says "go and sin no more" Sin is simply what happens when we turn away from the light and brilliance of Christ. When we chose to stand with our back to his light stand in the darkness of the shadow of our own wilfulness and desire.. If we can keep the light of Christ in mind in every moment of our being.....If we can turn into that light whenever any distraction seeks to claim us......If we can live our physical lives on this earth in the light and peace and brightness of his presence, we will move into a less separated and sinful way of being.
My prayer for us all this Lent is that we become more aware of the light of Christ in our lives and turn to Him moment by moment to live out of His peace and presence. We ask this in the name of our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ.
Lent 1 Matthew 4:1-11Jesus went up into the wilderness alone to fast and to pray for forty days and forty nights. Then the devil came to tempt him. Thank goodness I have never had to stand before the devil personified, but there are plenty of ways in which he can work his poison into us through cracks and chinks in our armour of light.
Those cracks and chinks are formed by our woundedness, our neediness which makes us feel less than totally loved. If we turn to another human being to know ourselves as loved, we lay ourselves open to the possibility of the devil working through our weakness. What seems like love and charity from another can so easily become a form of manipulation and control.
The truth is that God in Christ is our rock and our refuge. The world treats temptation lightly. Advertisers use it seductively to sell chocolate and ice cream. The secular world looks on pityingly if we dare to mention temptation or the devil. You poor pathetic Christians, surely you don't believe in that religious twaddle.
But the truth is its not about our puny human strength pitting itself against the devil. The power of our self will in Lent making it possible to give things up. We do what we do during Lent in the power, strength, peace and glory of Christ. It is in HIM that we can stand firm. And when temptations arise we need to turn, turn, turn again away from the darkness of sin which is simply separation from the Divine, into the light of the glory which is pouring for us in every moment from heaven. The light and peace and strength and grace of Jesus Christ be with you that s Lent and always. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our beloved Lord and Saviour Amen Holy God, Holy and strong, Holy and Immortal, have mercy upon us.
Lent 2 Psalm 121, John 3:1-17God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
What an incredible gift God made to us. He gave not only his son but he gave us himself. The Trinity is an endless scintillating dance of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. An endless outpouring of love from one to the other to the other. Yes Jesus died on the cross. He suffered the ignominy of death on thee cross, an instrument of torture, a criminals death. The Incarnation meant that God chose to limit himself to a time in history and a place on earth to experience all that it meant to be human, in order to draw us into His Divinity. And then the miracle of the resurrection. How could we not be in a state of righteousness. Right relationship with God. As we turn and see the glory which is pouring for us from heaven in every moment we stand in right relationship with God. We are filled with His life and light and love.
And the reality of eternal life is a very real thing. For Christians who believe, eternal life is the ultimate reality. And in the psalm the whole landscape is imbued with the light and glory of God. I will lift up my eyes to the hills whence cometh my help. The glory shines through the landscape. The glory of the Lord is round about us. The interpenetration of matter by spirit is the reality of the Oneness of all being.
My prayer for us all this Lent is that we can all enter into righteousness right relationship with God and find his glory shining through all things for all eternity.
Lent 4 Mothering Sunday Luke 2:33-35Mothering Sunday always feels to me like a mixed blessing. Mothering and being mothered is a bitter sweet experience. Great pain and sorrow goes hand in hand with great joy and celebration. Much like the very heart of the cross itself. And its so easy to sit back in the secular, atheistic expression of the commercial mothering Sunday. All flowers and chocolates and a rose tinted romantic view of the whole mothering thing. But is it really like that?
My own mother died in 1984 aged 56 after 17 years of being an invalid. She needed caring for 24/7. When she died it was such a relief I found I couldn't even cry for her. I have done since thank goodness but it was a very difficult experience in which I had to mother my mother.
Then having children isn't the bed of roses some people would have us believe. Walking along side our children as they learn through their own pain and suffering is a harrowing bitter sweetness. Nothing romantic about that.
Then there is the very real pain of those who for whatever reason can't or don't have children of their own. For them mothering Sunday is an intimately painful celebration.
All this led me to wondering - who is our mother. Surely we care for each other with compassion and nurturing love which could be described as mothering.
Jesus himself is described in the bible as being like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings. Ultimately Jesus cares for us all. He loves us
passionately and without reserve. He longs for us to turn and see and know Him as the one that cares for us and loves us through all eternity.
As he hung on the cross betrayed and scorned he drew all humanity to him to the heart of the cross which is love in the heart of Christ. He died because he brought us love, the path of love the way of love.
My prayer for us all is that we should turn and see and know the glory which is pouring for us from heaven. The glory which is the love of Christ there for us all, this day and every day through all eternity. Let us all know the everlasting arms of the love of Christ nurturing us and sustaining us for ever.
Lent 5 Raising of Lazarus John 11 : 1- 45The story of the raising of Lazarus is real page turning, seat gripping stuff. Its on a par with a fast moving detective story and we can engage with it at many levels.
The outer level is where we are watching the events as if they were on the telly. We experience frustration at Jesus slow departure for Bethany do come along he's going to die. Disbelief at what he says this isn't about death its about the glory of God. What IS he talking about I expect the disciples said. The arriving too late the we TOLD you so. The grief the reproaches, the tears. And then the horror. He's been dead FOUR days he will stink. And then the dead man emerging swathed in bandages. The stuff of horror movies.
But then there's the level as we are on the INSIDE of the story. We see it from Jesus point of view with our benefit of hindsight as to the way the story goes. His death and more importantly his resurrection to eternal life, the gift which he gives us, means we see the whole story with different eyes. With eyes that know the glory of Christ's living risen presence.
The question is do we dare to bring our broken fractured selves into His glorious risen presence right here and right now. We all have events and deeds in our life which we prefer to keep hidden under sticking plasters and bandages. Hidden from ourselves let alone those around us and definitely not Christ himself. And yet if we dare to take off our bandages unbind ourselves and let ourselves go, the healing power of Christ WILL restore us to wholeness and forgiveness.
My prayer for us this passion and easter tide is that we dare to let go and let God. We dare to bring our wounded selves to the power and glory of Christ the wounded healer. We dare to hear his words to Lazarus
"Unbind him and let him go" spoken into our ears for us. The living risen lord of life and light and love wants nothing more for us than that we should know His love in our hearts and lives, healing us of all past hurts and wounds and setting us free in His power and glory for all eternity Amen
Easter Day John 20:1-15A recent survey by the Church of England has discovered that 25% of those surveyed who claimed to be practising Christians regularly attending church, didn't believe in the Resurrection. A bishop commented on this saying that he didn't want people believing with a "Sunday school" faith, he would rather they didnt believe. This set me thinking about the nature of faith, hope and belief.
My mother got ill when I was 11 and was I'll for 17 years before she died. I hoped against hope with my immature hope that she would get better, be cured. When she died I couldn't even cry. It was a relief that she had died after such a long debilitating illness which demanded so much of us all in the family. But with her also died my sense of hope. Hope seemed utterly hopeless.
But hope is all that we have in the face of our fragile, broken world. A world in which the Great Barrier Reef has suffered irrevocable bleaching along two thirds of its length and the surviving third is to have massive ore carrying cargo ships driven through it. A world in which the mother of all bombs has recently been unleashed against IS. A world of great inequality, disease, famine and war. We need a mature sense of hope which is capable of surrendering and accepting it is as it is, whilst being rooted in a mature transforming faith. A faith which knows God, the Divine as the root and ground of our being, the ocean in which we live and move and have our being.
A mature faith a mature hope is also capable of a mature relationship with the word of God and doctrine. If we read the Bible literally expecting black and white answers of course we will find it difficult to believe in the resurrection. Science technology and logic defy the possibility of such an event. But in the silence and mystery, awe and wonder of a relationship with god which is about being open hearted in love, waiting upon God in love and silence, the reality of the resurrection takes on a very different appearance.
The risen, living lord of life, light and love is a reality in our hearts, in our lives and in our world if we dare to turn to Him and recognise Him. We need to remove our spiritual sunglasses to perceive the glory which pours for us from heaven in every single moment.
Mary Magdalene loved Jesus passionately. But blinded by her tears and grief she cannot recognise him. She assumes he is the gardener. Its when he speaks her name that she realises who he is. How blinded are we by our prejudices, assumptions, scientific mindset and disbelief ? So blind we can say we don't believe in the resurrection. What a bleak and empty vision that says we die and go into the ground to push up the daisies.
A mature hope, a mature faith and a creative open imaginative reading of Gods word will fill us with the love of the risen living lord. As we turn, see and recognise the living risen lord in our hearts, in our lives and in our world we will be able to offer and share that love in Christ with all those we meet. Amen.
Easter 4 John 10:1-10 Psalm 23Good Shepherd Sunday is one of my less favourite occasions. Having been involved in the keeping of sheep I have to say they are my less favourite animals. They have daggy backsides and need their rotting feet trimming and contrary to expectation they are highly intelligent. They always find the way out of the field most especially as lunch is being put on the table. Having slaved over a hot stove for hours, knife and fork poised the phone goes. Everyone has to drop everything because the sheep are all over the main road.
I don't think sheep is a good euphemism for our intelligent, creative, skilfull, willing congregations whom we are seeking to enable and empower through local ministry to take responsibility for their own spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of their own churches. Even Jesus's own disciples found it hard to understand what he is saying so John tells us.
The Psalm by contrast is a wonderful poetic illustration of the sheer overflowing goodness of God. Reading it in the bigger picture with and in God we will never be in need, without peace, without the reality of divine love and eternal life. It is a true of wonderful uplifting piece of writing which offers comfort and connection at countless funerals.
Jesus is indeed the gate. But the gate, the portal I like to remember him as is Transfiguration. The light and glory of the kingdom of heaven pour through his physical form inspiring us and drawing us through Him inexorably into the light and love of God both in this world and the next. Jesus is indeed the gate through which we are all invited by his loving saving presence.
Easter 5 John 14 : 1-14In my father's house are many mansions.
Gods love for us is unconditional and non judgemental. We are all welcome in Gods house. There is abundant room and love for us all. No one is to be left out. We choose to exclude ourselves. We refuse to turn and see the light and glory of God pouring from heaven for us in every moment. We choose not to listen to his whispered welcome, in favour of being in control of every thing ourselves. Our doubt, our fear, our scepticism separate us from the love of God and separate us from the reality which is that he passionately loves us all and longs for us to turn and see and know his let he in our lives, in our hearts and in our world.
No matter how we choose to step away from god his light shines in the darkness, the light which no darkness can quench. Contemplating our own mortality, offering some form of connection for bereaved people at funerals or contemplating the degradation and destruction of our precious environment Gods promise of a place in his house is a comfort and a blessing. Jesus' gift to us of sternal life is the ultimate gift of his death and resurrection. For those of us who do believe, it is incumbent upon us, all to take that faith to strengthen us as we go about in the world in his healing presence and light. We do not need to speak about it so much as to be it, in a non judgemental, unconditional loving, listening availability for all whom we meet along the way, offering union in communion in and through His love, light and life.
Pentecost Acts 2:1-21, 1 Cors 12: 3b-13, John 20:19-23What dramatic events surround the coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost.
Rushing winds, tongues of flame, talking in tongues and foreign languages.
Prophesies and dreams and all manner of portents filling the heavens.
The pace of the reading from Acts is relentless, filled with action and drama.
The second reading from Corinthians reminds us of the different varieties of the fruits and gifts of the spirit. How we are each inspired breathing in the breath of the Spirit, to be come the fullness of our divine potential in different ways. We all have something to offer and each is different and together we make up the body of Christ the fullness of the potential of humanity if we can work together in mutual love and respect.
The Gospel presents a quieter more contemplative view of the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives. He came into the room despite the locked doors and he said
"Peace be with you" He came to remind the frightened, exhausted disciples that His peace is with us always. It is as we work in and out of and through his peace that we have something important and concrete to offer to the world. As we open ourselves, our hearts minds and spirits to the reality of Christ's presence in our lives we can step into his peace. Filled with his spirit and offering our individual gifts of the spirit to the world we can lead lives infused with his strength and presence. As we do we offer gifts of love and connection with one another, with the divine and with the whole world around us. Amen
Trinity Sunday Isaiah 40:12-17, 2 Cors 13:1-13, Matthew 28:16-20The Trinity can be seen as the very essence, the beating heart if our christian faith and Tradition. The Creed is a wonderful attempt by early Christian Theologians to sum up the heart of our faith. It is almost like a badge of belonging and at its heart lies the Trinity One God In Three Persons. God the father the enormous transcendent creator god chose to limit himself to human form. And so the Incarnation of the son Jesus Christ our Lord is God in a geographical place on earth at a time in history. Jesus became human to draw us into the divine. Jesus became human to experience all that it means to be human in all its joy and celebration and sorrow and pain. What an amazing description of the immanent, intimate god who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. And then there is the Holy Spirit working between us and god and us and one another. The third person of the One god.
The Trinity is like a multi faceted jewel. As you turn it it catches the light on its different faces, first one and then another. It is a constantly scintillating dance between the three in One. And the connection between the three is a constantly out pouring of love. The love that binds everything together. The live which Jesus came to teach us.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and, all your mind and all your strength and your neighbour as yourself. Love your enemies. Jesus path of love the way of love lies at the very heart of the dance or the Trinity at the very heart of our Christian faith. My prayer for us all is that we be aware of this grace filled truth and try to live it out on our earth. Amen.
Trinity 3 Romans 6:12-23. Matthew 40-42Whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
The God of the Trinity is an amazing and strengthening reality in the fearful turbulence, noise and distraction of our struggling world.
Yes we are called tone in the image of Christ, take up our cross and follow Him, but the incarnation is only one part of the miracle which is the God of the Trinity. One God in three persons. A brilliant scintillating dance one part with a other reflecting its light and glory into our world in every moment.
Paul says in Romans "I am speaking to you in human terms because of your natural limitations " I find this kind of talk so frustrating. There are no limitations in God and we are called to be in God be in His glory. We face problems in our world like never before in the history of humanity. Problems with the environment, political systems, war, famine, migration, inequality on a scale we have not experienced before. Now like never before we have to turn to Christ become more Christ like in his image. But we also need to bind to ourselves the strong name of the Trinity. As we become aware of the scale and the power of the Trinity, the love relationship which lies at the heart of Christianity we will be able to work out of the peace, love and strength who h we need to engage with the problems which face us and our world. Face them with compassion and creativity rather than shutting down obliviously because of our fragile human weakness and fear.
Let us turn and turn and turn again into the light and glory of the Trinity so that all darkness is driven from us and we channel that light and glory into our world through our prayer, presence and action.
We ask this in Jesus name Amen
Trinity 8 Feast of the Transfiguration Matthew 17:1-9Jesus went up onto the mountain alone to pray. Have you noticed how often this comes in the Bible ? And after praying he performs some of his greatest miracles, feeding the 5000 and walking on the water.
The Transfiguration is a truly wonderful event in which he takes Peter, James and John with him up the mountain to pray. Contemplative prayer, prayer of the heart in silent connection with God is catching. It is something we can literally catch from another person. Maybe Jesus was hoping to impart the importance of silent prayer to these disciples.
What happens is the most glorious and amazing vision in which Jesus himself becomes the portal to heaven. He is transformed and his physical body becomes the doorway through which the light of heaven pours into our own three dimensional world. The glory of heaven becomes manifest in front of our eyes.
The reaction of the disciples is oh so human. Peters reaction to the vision of Elijah and Moses is to say let me build three shelters. And the truth is we cannot contain the glory of heaven in our human structures. We can't shut the glory of Heaven of God in Jesus Christ, up in a church for a Sunday, for our Sunday prayers. Jesus was the most incredibly powerful transforming agent our world has ever known. Trying to tame him and keep him under control is a sad delusion of our small minded humanity.
The second reaction of the disciples is fear. Crushing, paralysing fear. They simply cannot bear to behold the glory which shines through Christ and they throw themselves face down on the ground. Only when Jesus touches their shoulders do they look up and see him standing alone. In their human frailty they fail to see the glory and know its reality, through Christ in their lives.
My prayer for us all is that we are able to open the eyes of our hearts and see the glory which is pouring from heaven all around us. That we know the reality of Christ's glory in our hearts, our lives, our communities, our world Amen
Trinity 14 Psalm 103:1-13, Romans 14:1-22, Matt 18:21-35Forgiveness is such a very difficult thing. And its hard to know that forgiveness is about us releasing ourselves from the horror and torture of grudge bearing and resentment which goes hand in hand with non forgiveness.
Jesus says we have to forgive 70 times 7. That sounds to me like really hard work. In our frail, broken humanness forgiveness really isn't easy. While we approach it as something we have to do to someone else we can drive ourselves mad. I HAVE to forgive this person and they haven't even said sorry. They haven’t even recognised that they've treated you in a way that needs an apology. Its SO UNFAIR. Don't you know that pesky cycle. And one feels more and more horrid inside and less and less able to forgive.
It is as we relate to God in Christ turning into His light and glory in every minute of every day that forgiveness will happen. As we turn to face our lord and saviour in love, with a softened open heart, open to his love and grace, forgiveness will happen. Not because we try hard to do it but because as we turn into his light and glory his grace can work in our hearts bringing us his peace and light. Forgiveness will happen without us noticing. Because in Him the impossible becomes possible. As we surrender ourselves into His love His grace will move through us and into the world around us.
My prayer for us all is that we find the ability to surrender to Gods loving embrace which is always there for us. Knowing our union with Him we will find that nothing else matters except being in Him. As we open to His grace we will find ourselves free to be the fullness of who we really are in His divine presence
free from the torture to which non forgiveness can condemn us. By practising the first commandment"
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength and you neighbour as yourself "
we will also be able to love and forgive our enemies. Amen
Trinity 15Was seem to be living through strange and turbulent times. For the first time in recorded history three hurricanes appeared on the map at the same time. Earthquakes in Mexico, Bali and off the coast of California. Volcanoes erupting in Mexico and expected in Bali. Nuclear missiles and threats being bandied about by Trump and North Korea. It’s a world full of panic and noise and bluster.
Silence is a counter cultural concept. When are we invited to sit in silence and connect with the divine? In fact the media would like to promote panic and distress at the expense of Gods language of silence and the peace it can bring us
An article in the press this week made the following observation.
"Religious beliefs are typically incompatible with scientific evidence and observable reality but are not considered to be delusions. Why not?"
It went on to point out that Rees Mogg’s extreme and unpleasant views are based on his Catholic beliefs. Theresa May is a vicar’s daughter. And Trump emphasises his religious inclinations to justify his bad behaviour.
If you talk to God you are religious. If God talks to you you are psychotic. Psychosis is defined as a loss of contact with reality. A typical manifestation s people experiencing hallucination nations - perceiving something that isn't actually there. Or delusions. - unquestionably believing something that is demonstrably not true. Delusional beliefs are incompatible with reality.
What is illusion and what is reality? We are all encouraged to be good consumers. The world economy relies upon our consumption. And yet we are consuming at a completely unsustainable rate. Currently we need a planet and a half to maintain current rates of consumption. Clearly this is unsustainable. What is reality and what is delusion?
"The world that calls the sacred delusional is in an increasingly fragile delusion which is in deep crisis hence its shrill tone and sense of panic" Father Silouan
As people of faith, as Christians we are privileged to have tools and beliefs that can sustain us in the face of such a panic stricken world. My prayer for us all is that we come to a deep understanding of the reality, that in the nothing is in the everything. Through our silent contemplative connection with God in Christ we can offer His strength, life, light and love to the groaning suffering world. Through our intimate connection in love with God in Christ we can be a prayerful, stabilising presence in our fragile world. Not as a result of what we say but how we be and what we do. Our sacramental, mystical, symbolic lives will help us stand connected to God and one another in love and light fearlessly offering our inspiration into the fear filled, oblivious, consuming world. Amen
Trinity 16 Ezekiel 18: 1-4, 25-32. Phillippians 2:1-13. Matt 21:23-32Hypocrisy and self righteousness are unattractive traits which are often levelled at the church. When we are inward looking and failing to connect what goes on in our churches with what goes on outside them I think we are most likely to be accused of this.
Jesus said " love the lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength and your neighbour as yourself "
By knowing ourselves we can know God. We need to be truthful and authentic in our understanding of ourselves, our strengths and gifts as well as being aware of our less strong points our weaknesses and our failings.
Traditionally the church has emphasised the sheer sinfulness of its congregations and the moral and spiritual superiority of the vicar. We are all in this together as brothers and sisters of humanity. We all need to be honest and open. We need to know that the ultimate end of our spiritual journey is union with God. We need to be honest in our understanding of ourselves and be able to love ourselves. Not in a narcissistic proud I'm better than any one else kind of way. But in an honest and humble appreciation of who we truly are in the sight of God. Only by acknowledging our gifts humbly will we be able to use them for the good of our groaning struggling world.
Jesus Christ practised kinotic self emptying. He decreased so that we could increase. So we could be in his image. Offering our fruits of the spirit in a harvest offering to our groaning, struggling, suffering world. Our gifts of courage, wisdom, creativity, imagination patience, compassion, peace and love. Pouring these qualities into our world through our prayer, and behaving with deep humility and authentic awareness of who we really are in God we will not be guilty of the hypocrisy and self righteousness which colours much of official religion of all creeds. Amen
Trinity 17 Phil's : 3 :4-14, Matt 21: 33-46Collect : Almighty God you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you : pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself and so bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face ...
Our souls are made for union. Union with God. The God of all creation, of all that is. We are restless troubled beings until we turn and face the light and know that truth in our hearts. The Divine one who is love calls us beckons to us, whispers to us. But who are we. Do we stop to sit quietly in the silence and nothingness which is the very heart of us and know that we are not and the divine presence is, flooding us with light and truth and grace.
As Thomas Merton puts it so brilliantly
At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion.
A point of pure truth
A point or spark which belongs entirely to God
Which is never at our disposal
From which God disposes of our lives
Which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own Ind
Or the brutalities of our own will.
This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty
is the pure glory of God is in us
It a s like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.
It is in everybody and if we could see it
We would see these billions of points of light
Coming together in the face and blaze of a sun
That would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.
I have no program for this seeing.
It is only given.
BUT THE GATE OF HEAVEN IS EVERYWHERE.
from Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander Thomas Merton
copyright the Abbey of Gethsemane 1966
My prayer for us all is that we are able to sit in the silence, the nothingness and the truth of who we really are and know the presence of the Divine in our lives.
This will lead us to find rest for our troubled hearts in union with the One who is Love. Amen
Trinity 18 Psalm 23, Phil's 4: 1-9The Lords my shepherd I shall not want
The words of this psalm are so familiar to us. Frequently used at funerals its words speak to our human frailty from across the ages. Words of comfort and peace. They are words which resonate with the biggest possible picture. We can rely on the strength, presence and peace of God if we are prepared to turn to him in humility and surrender to his presence in our lives. As we do that we shall want for nothing. God is our everything.
He leads us by still waters,
not rushing, turbulent, troubling waters but still deep cool, healing waters. Waters of refreshment, healing, purifying and eternal.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil.
Death is but a mere shadow for God who is all light, all brightness and glory.
We have nothing to fear as we face the transformation which is death, with God at our side. As we move into the glory of the eternal, in the presence of God no evil can touch us. Upon him we can rely utterly.
Our cups run over with goodness and mercy. God is love and it is into the light and glory of that divine love we step as we stand on the very brink of this world before we step into the next.
We will indeed live in the house of the Lord for ever as we know our selves connected with him and in him.
All of this brings peace. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding. We do not know this peace with our intellectual minds. We know it in our hearts. Gods peace and love are beyond any intellectual understanding we know them through faith, in the very fabric of our hearts.
In these troubling times for our world, at a time when many people are leaving us to transcend through death to a higher plain these words offer us comfort peace and hope. Amen
Trinity 19 Isiah 45:1-7, psalm 96, 1 These 1:1-10, Matt 22:15-22The collect today contains this wonderful phrase :
"Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts "
In order for God to be able to inter penetrate our hearts we have to be open hearted, open to the possibility of him moving through us and in us. Broken heartedness is something we instinctively shut ourselves away from. We would rather hermetically seal our hearts, lock them away in an iron bound wooden box than accept them being painfully broken. And yet being human breaks us in so many ways. Illness, ending relationships, death all put us into brokenhearted ness.
Christianity is a paradox. At the heart of our religion lies death. Death on a cross - the ignominious symbol of torture and execution. And yet without Christ's willingness to surrender to his death, his open hearted acceptance of what God asked of him, we would not have had the resurrection, the story would never have been complete.
And so it is for us. Broken heartedness, sorrow and pain carve our hearts deeply. The deeper our hearts are carved by pain the more love they can contain. The transformation for us, in embracing life with an open heart, is that we can hear God speak directly into our hearts and we are able to serve our world and our neighbour from the authentic place of knowing that pain.
We don't have to wear our hearts on our sleeves, but the fabric of our being is shot through with suffering which enables us to walk closer to others who have suffered. To empathise with them and offer our presence and being in their lives in silent companionship of comfort and prayer. In our wounds is our glory.
My prayer for us all is that we dare to unwrap our tightly sealed hearts and offer our brokenness to the world in communion with all other broken people and in communion with the glory of the god of the trinity which shines in our world in every moment if we have the eyes to see it. Then we will truly be able to sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord and bless his name. Amen
Bible Sunday Nehemiah 8 : 1-6, 8-12. Psalm 119: 9-16, Cols 3:12-17, Matt 24:30-35Bible Sunday is not my favourite. But the Bible is a truly amazing book. Its not so much a book as a library. It contains history, poetry, teaching, wisdom, love poetry, the words of Jesus Christ himself and the Acts and Epistles of Paul, to name a few. And we have to remember when it was written and for whom. What was appropriate for a target audience 2000 years ago is unlikely to be completely right for a target audience in the 21st century.
Somehow we have to interweave all that is brilliant from the tradition, the history, with what it takes to make the church available and relevant for us now. How can we use the bible to draw alongside people where they are, and speak in words that they can hear. I would suggest that taking every word of the bible as literal truth is not helpful in our scientific, post christian, atheistic humanistic world view. That is not to say that the Bible is irrelevant. Its not. But how can we engage with it in a realistic way which inspires those who we come across in our every day lives.
Prophesy did not just come to an end, as they shut the Bible and said job done. We, are perfectly able to engage with the living risen lord of light and love and life, right here and now, if we are prepared to be silent and still, sitting in the sheer silence which is the language of God, with the ears and eyes of our hearts open to his whispered nudgings.
As we contemplate single sentences ie "through patience and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life." From today's collect.
As we contemplate this and bring to mind the universal human values which lie at the heart of our Havens Beacon Churches vision : non judgemental, unconditional, loving, listening, welcome, for all we are drawing upon tradition, bringing all that is good of our faith and doctrine, forward into our modern context of being available and relevant.
We are all capable of having an intense, personal, inspiring relationship with our beloved Lord and Saviour. The vicar can't do it for you. Together through prayer and open hearted loving listening to Christ himself, we can all vision a future for ourselves and for our worshipping communities. We do it together.
We can use the tradition and glory of our living faith, informing it with our biblical reading and contemplation. We are not slaves to it. We are not bound by it. We do not need to use it as fundamentalists do, whose narrow minded insistence in black and white truth causes sad and contentious divisions.
We need to use it to grow, but we need to have the inspiration of the LIVING RISEN Lord working round us, through us, with us and in us at all times and in all places, if we are to vision a spiritual future for ourselves and for our churches. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen
AdventWe didn't have an Advent course as such but the advent sermons connected as if they were a course. People were given a little book which contained a form of evening prayer. My suggestion was that as a church family we could light a candle at 6 each evening and pray together, knowing that others would be doing the same across the Benefice of our Havens Beacon Churches.
I gave out a little journal. The task was to write down three Gratitude's each day - three things for which we could say we were truly grateful. Gratitude is a form of positive energy which along with praise can put us into an upward spiral of positive thought and being.
The theme of Advent was TRANSFORMATION.
As it says in Isaiah 40 :1-11
Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill laid low, the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
The theme of our Advent transformation was that we should open ourselves to the transforming power and potential of our lives in Christ. To be prepared to examine ourselves honestly and unflinchingly, noticing when we are motivated by our own will and ambition, rather than surrendering ourselves to the will of God working through us.
We each had a paper flame shape on which we were to write how we would like God to transform us, what we were prepared to offer up to Him for His transforming love to purge and purify.
Christmas DayThe Christmas sermons were on the subject of the enduring and endearing symbol of the crib representing the miracle of the incarnation of Christ our Lord. The fact that the transcendent God chose to limit himself to a time in history, to a geographical place on earth, to become human in order to draw us into his divinity, is nothing short of miraculous. It is all about Gift. Gods gift of himself to humanity. But its not just a baby lying in that stable manger it is the Cosmic Christ King of the whole universe. The whole of creation is gathered at his stable bedside. The ox and the ass and the sheep, the angels the shepherds and the wise men. The Holy family of Mary And Joseph and Jesus. The whole of creation is gathered here and we are invited to gather with them, through faith. In the glorious light of heaven which streams from the manger bed. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. There are symbols within symbols within symbols. The light was coming into the world the light which no darkness could quench, full of grace and truth.
My prayer for us all this Christmas is that we are able to read beyond the outer appearance to the inner symbolism and beyond that to the eternal grace and truth which Jesus Christ came to bring us in love.
Christmas 1Call me humbug if you like but I really dislike the razzmatazz of New Year celebrations. For me it is the awesome miracle of the Incarnation which is the central message of Christmas, the gift of God, of himself to his creation. That is nothing short of amazing and incredible and should bring forth from us the most amazing cry of praise and Thanksgiving. The wonderful psalm 148 is exactly that. A hymn of praise and thanksgiving. The whole of creation gives praise for the wondrous deeds of God in creation
Praise ye the Lord from the heavens
Praise him from the heights
Praise him you angels
Praise him sun and moon praise him you shining stars
Fire and hail, snow and fog
Wild beasts and all cattle
Feeling this grand winged birds
Kings of the earth and all peoples ........ Alleluia
The great shout of triumph.
Christmas does not end with the post present wrapping paper being thrown away. The Incarnation is Gods gift to us all, for ever and always. His love for us is more than we can ever know.
Surely our response, out of love, in love with our Creator and for the whole of creation is a resounding YES to God in Thanksgiving and praise for the eternal gift.
News & Events
This is our fire installation a Walton West church. A creative workshop produced these decorations and the whole congregation contributed thoughts on the flames and stars. Thins they would like to offer to God for transformation on the flames for the purging fire of love. Thoughts of glory in the everyday were put on the stars.
Part of our fire fall installation at Walton West
Detail of stars and flames and candles
ARISTS IN RESIDENCE - ST MADOC’S CHURCH, HAROLDSTON WEST, SUMMER 2017
ROGATION RIDE - BEATING THE BOUNDS
Sunday 21st May 2017
West Roose Local Ministry Area Rogation Celebrations
Bikes and horses assemble
What a wonderful way to get to know the diverse communities of our new Ministry Area. We were graced with near perfect weather, sunshine and a cooling breeze. People in their churches offering hospitality and welcome to a travelling band of pilgrims making their way round the whole area. There were riders on horses, cyclists, walkers and travellers by car. Visiting eight of our nine churches we said rogation prayers at each.
Outdoor Eucharist with horses & bikes at Walwyns Castle
There was delicious breakfast at Walwyns Castle, bacon sausage and egg sandwiches well fortified the travellers and worshippers alike.This was followed by an outdoor eucharist and the horses stood very quietly as if imbibing the holy atmosphere. Those who were not up to the physical exercise were able to take part by car and enjoy the hospitality and connection as the whole group came together at the churches.
Riders gathering for Rogation prayers at Walton West Church
Then on at a spanking pace to Robeston where we had sherry, juice and more prayers before setting off cross country down green lanes and through fields. We crossed Sandy Haven, waded rivers and more green lanes and through rhododendrons to arrive at St Ishmael's for coffee and biscuits.
Phew! Resting At Marloes
On then to Dale for Iunch, Marloe’s just for prayers, to St Brides for tea.
Resting in the sun at St Brides
Sitting with the horses in the sun resting and chatting with the wonderful view of the Castle and the sparkling turquoise waters of St Brides Bay as we made new friends and renewed acquaintances there was a wonderful sense of enlarged community.
Worship Then Feast In The Barn
Our final stop was Talbenny church with its stunning cliff top location and the wind to go with it. We then repaired to Redlands farm for a feast in a barn with evening Thanksgiving service. The food was delicious and 75 people gathered from across our new ministry area to chat, eat and worship together. Not quite feeding the 5000 but the sense of connection, celebration and thanksgiving for the stunning landscape in which we are privileged to live, work and worship, felt inspiring and uplifting.
As an exercise in increasing awareness and a sense of connection between our diverse parishes it was a great success. There were more than a few who suggested it should become an annual event. Its one thing looking at an area of country on a map but quite another to actually physically engage with it on the ground. Our connection with the area, the landscape and one another has been vibrantly inspired by this day of hospitality, prayer and community.
Mary WhitewrightIt is with great sadness that we report the sudden but peaceful death of Mary Whitewright who was among other things Church Warden of All Saints Church Walton West. Her funeral will be at 2:00pm on Thursday 17th November at St Mary the Virgin Church Talbenny
Advent Reflection MorningI was an invited to lead a retreat day at Ty Pererin for St Davids cathedral. The day was called:
The Still Point Of The Turning World : Silence and Stillness in Prayer and Liturgy.The day took the form of a guided meditation on the Lords Prayer and four short sentences from the liturgy. I am thinking to offer this day as a reflection for Advent in the Havens Beacon Churches.
The date for this event will be Sat 3rd December 10:00am till 1:00pm.
Venue will be the Rectory in Walton and the morning will conclude with a Celebration of Holy Communion in Walton West church.
If you are interested in taking part in this event please let Rev Diana know by
e mail diana.hoare540@btinternet. com or by phone 07989432280 or 01437781809.
SUMMER ARTISTS PROGRAMME ST MADOCS CHURCH HAROLDSTON WESTIn the spirit of making our Havens Beacon Churches available and relevant a programme of Artists in Residence is being prepared for Haroldston West church. Artists have been invited to come and working the church and exhibit some of their work. Everyone is warmth invited to visit the church, see the exhibitions and chat with the artists. The programme will begin in July and run through to September. There will be a Portaloo sited in the church yard and tea and coffee making facilities. So please do call in and visit.
THE SUMMER ARTISTS PROGRAMME
◀ Download the Summer Artists Programme.
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19th to the 21st July
STONE CARVING & CALLIGRAPHY - Diana the vicar will be working on stone carving
QUIET DAY St Madoc’s way the Path Through the Woods
Starting in the car park in Broad Haven at 10:30am we will walk reflectively up through the woods to the church. We will pause along the way for meditative moments. A quiet time in the church and churchyard with a packed lunch. Walking reflectively through the woods back to the carpark estimated finish time 3:00pm. All welcome
A POTTER AND CARD DESIGNER will be working in the church 10:30am to 3:00pm.
3rd to 6th August
A PAINTER will be working in the church 10:30am to 3:00pm
mid August date TBC
A SHROPSHIRE PAINTER will be working
QUIET DAY a walk through the woods. 10:30am to 3:00pm meet in carpark Broad Haven
22nd to 24th August
WEAVING Andrew Johnson 10:30am to 3:00pm
31st August to 2nd September
FELT, EMBROIDERY, TAPESTRY Diana the vicar 10:3am0 to 3:00pm
QUIET DAY TBC 10:30am to 3:00pm
23rd to 27th September
STONE CARVER Lottie O'Leary
Come and see the artists at work and look at their exhibited work. Enjoy the peaceful and beautiful surroundings of this ancient church. Experience the prayerful presence as art and spirituality come together. TEA AND COFFEE WILL BE AVAILABLE AS WELL AS A TOILET
WORD FROM THE VICARThe last weekend of May proved to be hectic. It was the beginning of the Havens Festival Week and included a weekend of events in our wonderful churches.
On the Friday night the Little Haven Festival Choir arrived in time to begin rehearsing. This choir was brought together especially for the concert event in Walton West church and consisted of many singers who were associated with Winchester Cathedral.This was followed by a lovely meal of home made shepherd’s pie, lasagne, fish pie, chicken casserole and vegetarian options which had been very generously cooked and donated by parishioners of the Haven Beacon Churches. The choir continued their hard work rehearsing on the Saturday afternoon. They enjoyed a delicious tea which had again been donated by various parish members, before convening at the church for a delightful concert of secular and sacred pieces in two parts with an interval for wine and nibbles. The pieces were short and to the point and the whole performance left one wanting more rather than feeling bored or overwhelmed. It finished with a delightful rendering of "I do like to be beside the seaside" with an impromptu double bass accompaniment which was very skilfully rendered considering it had been completely unprepared. One piece had been specially written by the accompanist for the occasion. It was a setting to music of the words which appear in the church porch and dedicated to Rev Diana.
The Sunday morning saw the choir singing at the joint Eucharist service in Talbenny church. This was well supported and the church was full. The 20 strong choir sat on the stone seats beyond the arch and led a moving service which included the congregation and choir together singing the hymn How Great Thou Art. The singing was wonderful and inspiring. The choir remarked afterwards how moved they had been by the service and how spiritually alive it felt to some cathedral worship. They were thrilled to have discovered Pembrokeshire which certainly excelled itself with the beautiful weather.
The Sunday evening saw the Sea Service. The vicar arrived in one of two Pilot Gigs which had come from Porthgain, and strode up the beach with her robes in a black bag on her shoulder. After a quick change from rower to priest the service went well accompanied by the wonderful Goodwick Brass Band. Tea and Welsh Cakes had been on sale organised by the churches from a gazebo on the front. A good crowd had turned out and the choir were still around and added to the lusty singing. After the service the vicar ran back down the beach to rejoin the Gigs which then rowed out round Stack Rocks.
Monday evening saw the Poetry Reading and Harp evening in Talbenny. The Hymn of St Bride is a prose poem for three voices about St Bride, Christian Saint and pagan Goddess. The poem was interspersed with the playing of a young Welsh Harpist, Anna Phillips which was inspiring and provided a lovely contrast to the poem itself. This event was well supported and we enjoyed another beautiful evening.
Whilst these events were intended as fundraising for the the three Havens Beacon Churches, money was not the main focus. The aim of raising the profile of the churches, as places and people wanting to make the buildings available and relevant, through a non judgemental, unconditional. loving. listening, welcome for all was just as important. This was achieved. The feedback from the visiting choir was one of amazement : at the hospitality and welcome they had received, at the spiritual experience they had been part of, at the community spirit which filled them with joy and not least the wonderful landscape of this special part of Pembrokeshire. They are very keen to come again. I hope this is just the beginning of events which will help to increase our working together in the Havens in the years to come,
With love to you all
REFLECTION LEADING UP TO LENT 2016
Lent feels a difficult time. We are supposed to examine ourselves and acknowledge our sinful wretchedness. No wonder people feel challenged by the church and its practices. If we all know ourselves as loved by God in Christ we could come to the question of "sin" from a different angle. Knowing myself as loved totally by Christ I can stop and examine those moments when I take my off the God of love. Those moments when my own busyness and projects get in the way of my knowing God. God is always there. If he seems far away it's because I have chosen to put myself first. Standing with my back to the light of the candle, the light which is God, I stand in the darkest shadow, the shadow of my self. That is separation. That separation is what the church calls sin. If I do things MY way I am much more likely to go astray than if I stand facing the light of the glory and act out of God's strength rather than my own.
How would it be if for Lent we took something ON rather than giving something UP. Take some time to sit silently, going inside, listening to the inspiration of the Spirit to guide us. Maybe read an "improving" book. Maybe do something for someone else. As we take on endeavours who knows we might need to eat more chocolate to have the energy !
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with a service of Ashing in Walton church. Please do come to mark the beginning of Lent and keep an eye out for events leading through Lent up to Easter.
With love to you all
New signs for all 3 churches were unveiled in December.
VICARS THOUGHT FOR THE MONTHChristmas is over. The new Year has begun. New opportunities, New challenges for us all as we work together to invigorate and support our church communities. The miracle of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is in our hearts, in our lives and in our work as church together, in the wider community and in the world at large. We have wonderful, precious, ancient churches from which to work. We have peaceful oases of prayer, tradition and inspiration to offer to those who come looking for calm and connection with the divine. Together we will find ways of growing our churches and making them relevant and available in our world today. I very much look forward to working with you all as we move forward into 2016. Please do be in touch with any ideas.
LENT COURSEAsh Wednesday is on 10th February 2016. I am planning to run a Lent course so please look for sign up sheets, more details to follow.
JOINT PCC MEETING 14th January Bowen Hall Little Haven. 7:00pmPlease do come as many of you as possible to share ideas for the coming year.
BISHOPS VISIT : 29th February 2016Bishop Wyn will be visiting our group of churches on this day. He wants to see as much as possible. We have yet to firm up a timetable for the visit but he will go into the school. He wants to see the churches and learn about any projects we are engaged in. Ideas welcome and any one who can be around on that day would be much appreciated. He will celebrate a eucharist, we will give him lunch and we will have prayer to conclude the visit. Watch this space.
ST. BRIDES BAY BEACONSThere will be a beacon lighting event on the Whitsun weekend at the beginning of the Little Haven Festival week at the beginning of May. Beacons will be lit right round the Bay. People are responding with enthusiasm and rowing boats and others are keen to be involved. Any ideas, please be in touch.
VISITING CHOIR : On the 28th May 2016My sister is bringing a visiting choir of about 20 people to sing a concert in Walton. I have undertaken to put them up so will be asking for hosts for the Friday and Saturday nights of that weekend. Please consider extending hospitality. They are not charging us to sing. I would like this to be a joint fund raising effort. Please do be in touch and watch out for details.
POP UP CAFE HAROLDSTONThis one day event will be in conjunction with a guided walk from Broad Haven beach through Haroldston woods led by the Parks Wardens. This will be during Little Haven Festival week. I thought we could put some art work in the church and maybe some children's drawing, colouring, eye spy sheets there too. Any more ideas, volunteers ?
Please do be in touch if you have any thoughts. I hope you will be excited by the possibilities which these events offer us.
Revd Diana Hoare & Toby
New vicar appointed
We have a new vicar and the Revd Diana Hoare is no stranger to Pembrokeshire.
Diana first came to the area in 1998 with her five children. But three years later, her call to the priesthood took her back to her native Herefordshire where she trained for ordination. But she never lost touch with her Welsh connections and now, after 10 years in the Marches, she has returned, accompanied by her piebald horse, Toby.
“It feels like a homecoming,” she says. “I come from a farming background, which feels important in rural ministry. My hope is to find ways in which the Church can be more available and relevant to more people in our hectic, noisy modern world.”
Diana is also an accomplished craftsperson – calligraphy, carving and sculpture; and she plans to continue practising her art alongside her new role. “My post in Walton West is half time so I will have time to continue my work as an artist and craftsperson. I plan to offer courses in lettering, carving and watercolour and quiet days and retreats exploring spirituality and creativity with particular reference to contemplative prayer.”
And in her free time? Expect to see her on the slipway in Porthgain, where she rows a gig for the local club and has competed in the world championships in Cornwall for the past three years.
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