Thursday, 24 May 2018

Circling the City

On Pentecost a group of about twenty of us from Amersham joined hunderds of others in London to 'Circle the City for Christian Aid.  We walked the six miles and visited over a dozen churches to get our booklet stamped!  It was a wonderful occasion, held in perfect weather.  The fellowship was nourishing, the churches inspiring and the cause worthwhile.  Can't think of a better way of spending the afternoon of Pentecost Sunday - the Church on the move - all seemed appropriate somehow!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Prayer - but not as we may know it!

This week our church, along with the two others in our Ecumenical Covenant, has been engaged in a Week of Accompanied Prayer.  Every day people from our congregations have been meeting members of The Team who have been accompanying them on what is basically a ‘retreat’ in everyday life.

Alongside this our church sanctuary has been turned into a sacred space full of ‘prayer stations’.  These have been beautifully and imaginatively prepared.  Each station invites us to spend time ‘praying’ in a multitude of ways.  It’s been a space open to all and some have called in a number of times.

I ‘visited’ a few of the stations on Sunday, Tuesday and today.  One was a Scrabble board, full now of words of faith made up each day by those who sat at that table and pondered what was important to them.  This morning I lingered at the ‘Spirit’ table and drank some of the fruit juice that represented the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ I most longed for in my own life.  At another table, full of broken pieces, I learnt of the Japanese tradition of valuing a broken pot that had been lovingly put back together again – and in so doing, to appreciate that it’s often in our own ‘brokenness’ that we learn the most about God, others and ourselves.

These ‘stations’ have been a real blessing and a wonderful gift to many of us this week.  Just another example of the breadth of prayer in which we can all engage. 

There is no one way to pray – I realised that yet again as I moved from table to table in our Sanctuary this week – appreciating that each one was ‘holy ground’.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ascension - at St Pauls!

On Monday, on one of the hottest days of the year so far, we climbed the three hundred steps up to the highest gallery of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.  It was our own ascension moment – come three days early! 

Now, our audio guide informed us by the time we were half way up, (at Whispering Gallery level) that by the time the cathedral was nearing completion, its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was no longer able to climb the scaffolding and inspect the work.  Instead, he was hauled up to the dizzy heights of the dome in a basket!  It all seemed incredibly precarious!

I’ve tried to imagine the scene since. This wonderful architect, who had lived long enough to see his vision for the new St Paul’s become a reality, standing in the Whispering Gallery looking down.  What, I wonder, did he say now his job in its creation was almost complete?

I’d like to think he said something like:  Well, I’ve given you the framework, here’s your new House of God, now fill it with prayer and praise, fill it with music and service.

Now I know Jesus didn’t ascend in a basket but maybe the essence of what he said to his disciples just before being taken from their sight wasn’t so very different:  I’ve given you a framework and this is what the Kingdom of God looks like.  Remember the stories I’ve told you, the moments of compassion we’ve shared and the experiences that have bound us together.  This is what the Kingdom of God feels like – now continue to live it out.

Ascension, it’s both the break in the road and the continuation of the journey.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Funerals – maybe we are loved more than we know!?

Perhaps, like many churches, as winter ended we found ourselves having quite a number of funerals - five in quick succession.

We miss these dear friends as many were central people in our community. Yet we also rejoice in the faith they showed, recognising that we are called now to pick up the baton and show a similar commitment as we continue to run the race.

The overriding impression I have of the funeral services we held recently is the sheer number of people who have joined us on these occasions.

In the planning stages the families have often been quite conservative about the number of mourners they thought would show up - yet on the day itself I regularly spoke with stewards who anticipated running out of service sheets.

It’s been super to welcome so many people to these services as we have come to give thanks for a friend’s life and it’s a real testimony to the idea that ‘no man is an island’ and that all our lives are interconnected.

At the last service at which I officiated a granddaughter spoke of the positive world her grandma created. She said she always came away feeling better for being in grandma’s world. 

I thought that was a wonderful tribute.

These spring funerals have taught me that, just maybe, we are loved by far more people than any of us realise.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

On St George's Day - one of 353,000 new arrivals hits the headlines!

So, our country has a new prince – who seems to have arrived remarkably promptly on Monday morning just after 11 o’clock.  It’s lovely news for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and for the nation.

UNICEF estimate that every day the world welcomes 353,000 new citizens, that's 4 babies born every minute!  Interesting to put that into context with the figure of 155,000 daily deaths.

At the Manse we have a new puppy and a member of our family commented this week that whilst she looks a bit like a teddy bear its amazing to realise she’s actually ALIVE!  It seemed to have come as something of a revelation!

Well, every new life feels a bit like a wonderful miracle.  I think the Sunday TV serial ‘Call the Midwife’ knows a thing or two about touching the heart strings and making even the most desperate situation seem just that little bit more bearable with the news of a new arrival in the family.

The bible charts the whole of life with ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’ featuring in both Testaments.  Significant births include the longed for, yet slightly unexpected arrival of Isaac and Samuel, to the highly chronicled stories of John and Jesus’ entry into the world.

Over recent days, as we have anticipated, and then experienced,the arrival of this new royal child there has been a sort of inference in some reporting that as he is only fifth in line to the throne his arrival isn’t as important as that of Prince George’s in July 2013.

Well, in an historical context I suppose we understand that.  Yet in a family and personal sense the birth of this (at the time of writing) unnamed youngster is of equal and precious worth alongside that of his siblings.

Whether children are born into our lives, adopted, fostered, or befriended – whether we are a parent, aunt or uncle or a friendly and encouraging presence – we give thanks for them and value our limited role in their development.

As an old hymn puts it;

Father, in your presence kneeling,
All our heart’s desire revealing,
to your love, in faith, appealing –
For our children, Lord, we pray.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The day I almost worked for Marks and Spencer!

This week I ventured over to Wycombe and popped into Marks and Spencer. 

I was having a ‘happy’ time just wandering around minding my own business when this man comes over to me with a shirt in hand complaining that it had a label indicating the chest size but not the neck measurements.  ‘Oh, is that right’, I said.  ‘Yes’, he replied, ‘So what do you think I should do?’ 

Well, as our acquaintance was less than a minute old I thought this rather odd being entrusted so soon in our unexpected friendship with his wardrobe requirements!

Eventually – well after another fifteen seconds – I had to put him out of his misery and tell him I too was a customer!  His remorse was instant as he apologised profusely telling me he thought I was staff.  I’m still trying to work out why!!

There are a couple of cases of mistaken identity to be found in the Easter story. 

On the Emmaus road the dejected followers of Jesus spent the entire journey thinking they were speaking to a stranger rather than their Lord.  And most strikingly, perhaps, is Mary at the Garden Tomb supposing that her early morning conversation was with the ‘gardener’.

Jesus turned up – but, for a time at least, wasn’t recognised.

Maybe it’s not too different today.  We look for God in cathedrals and chapels yet so often miss his incarnational presence in the so called ‘ordinary’ and ‘mundane’ aspects of our lives. 

So, if I see you in Marks and Spencer – I still don’t know the equivalent neck measurements to chest sizes – so its better if you ask someone else!


Thursday, 12 April 2018

Continuing Resurrection

Over the last few weeks, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4th 1968, many churches have been remembering the life and ministry of Martin Luther King.

This spell bindingly eloquent Baptist minister from the Deep South of the United States played a seminal role in the story of the advancement of civil rights in that country and during this 50th anniversary I’ve heard interviews with people who knew him and they have not only wanted to speak of the day he died but the life he lived.  They have wanted to help us understand his message and passion.  They have wanted to continue his work – of striving in a non-violent way – towards the goal of mutual respect and representation.

And that, it seems to me, is Luke’s agenda in the lectionary passage from Acts that is set for this coming Sunday – it’s the passage in which Peter and John healed a lame man at the temple and then went on to preach a sermon about Jesus and his death and resurrection.

This isn’t just plain reporting.  This is interpretation.

Luke gives Peter’s sermon an edge and fills in the dots. And that was an accepted way of writing history in those days.  You didn’t only tell the story of your hero, you gave them a speech that explained their passion and reasoning; that made them come alive.

I think there is no doubt that Peter isn’t just giving the crowd a history lesson about Jesus – he is proclaiming and then living out the message that the work of Jesus, his spirit and presence is still around.  Indeed, he says of himself and John: We are witnesses to all that has happened.

The supporters of Martin Luther King passionately want his work to carry on; the disciples of Jesus Christ want nothing less for their Lord and Master.

Circling the City

On Pentecost a group of about twenty of us from Amersham joined hunderds of others in London to 'Circle the...