Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent Tool Kit

A Lent Sermon preached at Belaugh, St. Peter

Children are feeding Spring lambs at Wroxham Barns

Lent – it is the Old English word for Spring.  
Please when you hear the word Lent think Spring. Spring and the connotations of Spring – New Life, Spring Cleaning and Springing Forward
My prayer this Lent is for a new Spring time for the Church.

On this first Sunday of Lent I propose a Lent Toolkit. It contains 5 items:

1) Readiness to Change
The only person I can legitimately change is me. It would be so much nicer if only our loved ones, friends, neighbours, fellow Christians, all those others were nicer, kinder, more honest, more helpful... etc... Yes, that maybe true, but the only person you can change is you! The bride who at her church wedding vowed Aisle, Altar, Hymn was well out of order! We will do well if we try not follow her example!

2)  Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a concept that is all the rage these days. The word is borrowed from Buddhist practice describing a state of mind that stands back from one’s self and observes what is going on – your thought patterns, your attitudes, how you behave. Mindfulness is the trendy word, but we have its equivalent in the Christian Tradition where it has been called Self-Examination. I prefer to use Mindfulness rather than Self- Examination because the word examination suggests passing and failing. Mindfulness is a tool to helps us get better at being Christians

3) A Handbook.
Its always good to have some written instructions and I think the handbook in your Tool Kit for Lent should set out some of the sources of help:
                        a) List of helpful books -  from the Bible to books like Bishop Graham’s the Lent Factor and, of course, do include novels. One can learn so much from novels. Maybe you will add some films and plays too!
                        b) The handbook should have a chapter about Serendipity. Many people who take Lent seriously speak about the Serendipity of books, how they seem to read the right thing at the right time, something unexpected that takes their understanding forward by leaps and bounds.
                        c) At the centre the handbook must have a section on the crucial importance of giving time and attention.  Without sufficient time and attention nothing at all will happen!  If and when you do you will notice that
                        d) God does and will provide
                        c) Finally, the handbook should remind you that you are not on your own. Others tread and have trod the same path. Lent groups can help, so to can formal arrangements with spiritual directors or a soul friend, then there’s chatting with friends on the way and, even, listening to sermons can help!

4) Help with Diagnosis
Consideration of 7 Deadly Sins  provide a way self diagnosis of the disease that afflicts the soul. Highlighting  what needs to be changed and how to make an honest confession.  Lastly, ,

5) Medication for the Ills of the Soul
Practice of the 7 Virtues can be an appropriate penance and a prescription to be used against the disease of the 7 Deadly Sins

So here is the proposed toolkit. It contains mindfulness, a willingness to change one’s self, a handbook, something for both self diagnosis and self medication.

Finally,  a thought about the Good Shepherd and Wroxham Barns. As I speak there will be a shed full of children and orphaned lambs to be fed. Ian Russell and his team are brilliant at what they do every one of the children in that shed will get to feed a lamb.  Think of those lambs and their enthusiasm to drink deep of  all that goodness and grow!  So it must be with you in Lent if there is to be a Springtime of the church. Holy Communion is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. Let us drink in all that goodness and grow.

Note - the above owes much to Kenneth Bailey and in particular his book "The Good Shepherd" IVP 2014. It is in the form of a chiasm that goes:

Lent/Spring /lambs
         1) Readiness to change
         2) Mindfullnes/How am I behaving (inside and out)?/Diagnosis
                                                             b)  serendipity
                HANDBOOK                           Central Point - Make time/give attention
                                                              b) God will provide/serendipity
                                                              a) resources/others/not on our own
        2)Diagnosis/7 Deadly Sins
        1) Help to change

Lent/Spring /lambs

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Another Simeon Moment

Anna and I were at the Big God Shop on Sunday. It was a week after Candlemass so I wasn't expecting lights to enlighten anyone really! 

Back in the day Simeon had argued passionately for the ordination of women. Twenty years ago he had participated in the first ordination service at Norwich Cathedral.  From time to time he had wondered if he had got it wrong.

The readings and teaching focused on God as Creator and the involvement of, the feminine, Wisdom. Oh and then he saw what was plainly before his eyes:
Jane, the Dean was presiding, beside her his friend Angela was acting as sub-deacon. There were two lady servers and his former religious, fiddle-playing, friend Janet was an acolyte. 
There was not a completely female cast among the ministers. The preacher was male, as was the deacon as were some of the readers and the intercessor. It was just  that things were balanced female and male ordained and lay.
That is the way he'd imagined it would be. The way it will be in God's future 

He's not quite ready to go in peace but he did catch a glimpse of glory!

Friday, February 06, 2015

A Food Pilgrimage - Norwich

Do your praying where ever!  You choose -  the great out doors, a church, cathedral! Is there a mosque or a synagogue?
Then head north up Magdalene Street. Half way up on the left hand side you will find Ruth's Kitchen.

The tag line is "Jerusalem Street Food"!
Jerusalem means City of Peace
There is little difference in the Hebrew Shalom and the Arabic Salam.

How we need peace

There's a warm welcome in Ruth's Kitchen  and I have never tasted better falafal north of the Mediterranean.

Religion can divide food unites!

Jew, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist all need to eat, all appreciate a warm welcome. You'll find it here!

As I ate falafel and mezze I found my mind straying to Isaiah a prophet of all three Abrahamic religions 
In my heart I sang as I ate

 A Song of the New Jerusalem

1Arise, shine out, for your light has come, 
the glory of the Lord is rising upon you.
2Though night still covers the earth, 
and darkness the peoples;
3Above you the Holy One arises, 
and above you God's glory appears.
4The nations will come to your light, 
and kings to your dawning brightness.
5Your gates will lie open continually, 
shut neither by day nor by night.
6The sound of violence shall be heard no longer in your land, 
or ruin and devastation within your borders.
7You will call your walls, Salvation, 
and your gates, Praise.
8No more will the sun give you daylight, 
nor moonlight shine upon you;
9But the Lord will be your everlasting light, 
your God will be your splendour.
10For you shall be called the city of God, 
the dwelling of the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 60.1-3, 11a, 18, 19, 14b

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Candlemass Simeon Moment

Truth to tell the Family Service was a little long. There had been a baptism. It was great to welcome Ruben into the Family of the Church. My role was working the CD player for the songs!

When it was all over I needed to loosen up so I thought I'd teach some of the children the Butterfly Song with actions. It was fun!

It was only afterwards, when I reflected about it, I realised I had recreated the Simeon in the Temple thing engaging with and rejoicing in and with a new generation of the Servants of God who were going to make a difference.

Me? I'm a white beard but still a child of God,  not quite ready for my Nunc Dimitis, and trusting in the next generation to take things forward. What a lucky old man I am - "And I just thank you father for making me me!"