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The Feast of Pentecost – 23rd May

Dear Friends

In my former employment I used to interview teachers who wanted to become Heads of Department.  Every one of them had a CV as long as your arm – captain of inter-house needlepoint, president of a local drama society, in their holidays they had taught English in Sao Luis.  To be impressive, it seems, you must have achievements.  So, it is odd, that there is one, strangely anonymous, member of the Trinity:

God the Father, we know, 

Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

God the Son, similarly, has history (it is, indeed, exactly what he has) 

born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried…

The Spirit, however, can sound like the poor relation of the Trinity,  

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints…

In the Roman Catholic Catechism it suggests that the Spirit never speaks of itself.  It is very unusual never to speak of yourself, but it is what the Spirit does.  Like a thief in the night you cannot see the Spirit, but you can see where (s)he has been. Which is why Jesus said:

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.   John 14:17  

I might suggest that the Holy Spirit is not for those who like their lives, and everyone else’s to be tidy, and want everything to be labelled and boxed in.  We tidy at our peril, because much of the work of the Spirit is done through the messiness of life.

When the thief in the night passes through (s)he leaves behind one thing – disorder.  Where the Spirit has been what you get is abundance and variety.  Read Genesis and you will find that the Spirit gives abundance.  Genesis starts with a formless deep and the Spirit which brings out of the deep this, which is different from that, and then something else.  It is the same Spirit that has the apostles speaking in all those different tongues at Pentecost.  

The point about life in the Spirit is that it is rich and abundant, and we should learn to enjoy that.  More importantly we should learn to trust it.  Because, in the Spirit everything holds together and does not fall apart.  The great challenge is not that we should all end up the same, the challenge is that we should be different and enjoy it.  The day of Pentecost is the day that we celebrate the fact that God gives us variety.  Gives us the gifts, the imagination and the language to love both.  

In the Spirit we can forgive, explain, argue and be reconciled, we can co-operate, sympathise and love.  The day of Pentecost is the day of variety and the opportunity to see that this is where the Spirit has been.

As we come further out of lockdown let us look back and see where the Spirit has been working in the past year and we may be surprised.  (S)he has not been idle but has been working in all of the most difficult and trying circumstances we have experienced.  So let us not waste that work by trying to forget or ignore what the last year has taught us about resilience, hope, community spirit, mutual care and care for the natural world.

Let us pray that the Spirit will guide us as we come back together and look to the future. 

Every blessing

Ann

Seventh Sunday of Easter – The Sunday after Ascension

Hi everyone,

As I sit in my study at varied times one of my neighbours takes his dog out, I say takes his dog out advisedly. She wears a body harness and is a fairly stocky girl, if the weather is good she trails along behind just a little, if it is raining it gives more of an impression of being dragged along, not cruelly I hasten to add, she is a dog who unlike the “normal” picture of man and dog, gives the distinct impression she would rather not bother and stay at home! Some of you will appreciate that thought. If we as neighbours happen to meet outside, she almost drags him over so she can have a stroke and a chat. So there is something for her about the beginning and ending of a walk, I can’t say about the middle never having meet her out and about.

In our readings this week we are focusing on joy. Jesus says: “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves….So that they may have the full measure of my joy within them”. Joy is a balance in our lives it is part of the whole, underpinning our faith and way of being.

Our faith, Christianity is about good news, that is what the word Gospel literally means. Some may think that Christians are against life being good and want to stop the fun, but actually quite the opposite is true. Jesus told his followers that he came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. The Christian story is one of how we can all get more out life. As Christians we are all called by God to let others know that the path to fulfilment and real purpose in life, is found in Jesus. Jesus was accused of being too joyful at times, when he went to peoples homes and ate, and laughed with them, those who had nothing to lose and recognised God’s love for them in their

The good news is that the future city of God will be a place of Joy. When we sing hymns and songs which speak of Joy, often the words are taken from Scripture. Think of ‘You shall go out with Joy and be led forth in peace and the mountains the hills shall break forth before you.’ These words are taken from Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Oh, how we long to sing it again. Jesus encouraged us to think of the future as a time of Joy, so that it sustains us now when times are difficult. When we can be overcome with sadness and pain.

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, the forecast is filled with rain, there are many who will be rejoicing this week, not the dog though.

I have just realised that the good intention of putting a bug house on the side of the garage has not quite had the outcome I imagined. It is situated not too far away from a nesting box where the Blue Tit mum and dad are busy feeding as much as they can to hungry babies. I have just seen one of them go to the bug house and take a poor bug out then take it to the nest. Probably plenty of joy for the birds, poor old bugs.

Be Blessed Rev Georgina

Meditation

Joy may be expressed in laughter, yet it draws from a deep spring that keeps flowing long after transient laughter has died. Joy survives the fleeting happiness of this world, and overcomes the tears of our too short lives, because it trusts in the promise of the world to come. Joy enables us to be cheerful even when the world has become tired and grey with grief and worry.

 

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter – 9th May

loveDear Friends

“Love each other, as I have loved you”.  This is Jesus’ command to his disciples in our reading from John’s gospel today.  Jesus then repeats, “This is my command: love each other”.  This is such a straightforward command, and yet, we as humans and as a church have so often complicated it by setting conditions on our love.

Who then are we meant to love?  Our family, our friends, the other members of our church community?  Well, yes, of course, but is there anyone else?  That is for us to decide for ourselves, but perhaps I can set some things out.

Every time we have a communion service, the celebrant will say these words:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

The first commandment is this:
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’

 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

First of all, Jesus states that all laws and prophecies must now be based on these two commandments to love God and to love our neighbour.

Secondly, when asked in Luke’s gospel, “who is my neighbour?”, Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable it is the despised Samaritan who is the only one to show mercy to the injured traveller, a Jew, who the Samaritan would normally have been meant to despise in return.  Those who passed the injured man by, were representatives of the church, men who should have been examples of mercy and grace.
In last week’s reading from Acts we read of the encounter between the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip.  This encounter is God given and the Ethiopian is converted to Christianity.  However, as a black man and with dubious sexuality, he would have been a very problematical figure for Philip, but Philip did not hesitate when he was commanded to speak with him and explain the good news of Jesus Christ.

In both of these examples, the parable of the Good Samaritan and Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, we see people who would be considered ‘beyond the pale’, both demonstrating and receiving a loving response to need.

Who then is our neighbour who are we commanded to love?  I leave that with you.

Then, how do we love?  Well, let us return to our reading from John’s gospel for today:

“Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

So Jesus is telling us that if we keep his commands to love God and our neighbour as ourselves, we will remain in his love and in God’s love, and we will be following his example. We love by following the example of Jesus. In his life, again and again, Jesus loves those considered unlovable by others, and yet loved by God.  Do we take him as our example, or do we keep within our safe and unchallenging boundaries? 

This reading from John’s gospel is often used on Remembrance Sunday. We are not going to be asked to show our love by dying for others, but we are being asked to show our love for others by putting aside our own self-interest, prejudices and assumptions, just like the Good Samaritan and Philip.

Like them, we do not always get to choose who we are being asked to love. Only God does that.

Again, it is up to you how you respond.

Every blessing

Ann

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter – 2nd May

Hi everyone,

We are well and truly coming to the point of returning to Church for worship and looking forward to being able to sing, to sit near our friends and stay to chat over coffee afterwards as well. Might be a way down the line yet, but for me at least it feels like we are moving in the right direction. If you would like someone to accompany you the first time you return to Church please let us know.

Anyone who has a grapevine in the garden will know the hardness of pruning it. Once the fruit cluster has formed you need to cut the branch off three leaves ahead of the cluster, this stops the vine from continuing to waste energy on producing leaf, of which it does quite madly, and concentrate the sugars into developing the grapes to the very best. It seems a bit drastic but, to produce something worth having it needs to happen. Our grapes are luscious and when my French friends came last, two years ago, I had to show them the vine to prove they had grown in my garden!

In our reading today Jesus is describing how each part of the plant is vital none of it can function or produce fruit without the other parts, he is redefining to his listeners the traditional symbolism, in this passage Jesus is the vine not Israel, he is the middle ground between God the gardener and the community of the branches us. God is the source and power for all Jesus’ work, therefore, Jesus is the true vine because he comes from God. If we live in God and God is in us, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength for daily living and sharing, that the fruit of the community will be stronger and sweeter and more powerful. We are a community and we all need each other, to build ourselves up, to encourage and challenge each other, to worship together and be inspired. That has been one of the hardest things this past year, sitting (or standing) and singing on our own, saying the words of our liturgy on our own, no familiar faces around us, being isolated in our homes as we worship. There is of course the time and need to pray and read Scripture on our own, but there is that other quality that comes from raising our voices together, being witnesses together, sharing our story together that binds us together in the vine.

I thought I would share with you these thought and a meditation from Revd Dr Joan Crossley:  The encounter between the Ethiopian traveller and Philip recounted in the reading from Acts, is a wonderful example of the collision of two cultures. Philip, a follower of the Lord Jesus from a Jewish background, met up with a high ranking financial advisor to the queen of the Ethiopians. Philip was just embarking upon what would be an exciting life of evangelism and travel, and this meeting, apparently a chance, one would kick-start him on his life’s work. In fact the life-changing meeting was ordained by God, as we are told that an angel decided the direction that Philip’s journey would take.

We have always tended to read the meeting from the perspective of what the Ethiopian learnt from Philip. Of course, it was profoundly valuable for the Ethiopian, since it converted him to Christianity. But we can see that Philip too was changed by the stranger. Philip was challenged by the directness of the questions fired at him, and was forced to address deep questions about the faith. He might also have been thrown by the spontaneity and enthusiasm of the Ethiopian “here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptised here and now?”

The encounter reminds us of the experiences of the wonderful Missionary women and men who have gone out across the world to spread the name of Jesus. When they get home, they are frequently scathing of the legalistic and solemn approach to faith here. What matters is the love and faith of Jesus’ followers, not their ability to stick to traditions and formulas. As the Ethiopian challenged Philip, we must allow ourselves to be challenged by the people we encounter, perhaps children or those without faith, those who make us reassess the way that we conduct our mission and worship. Sometimes we must ask “why do we do this”, does this really advance the Kingdom or is it a rut that we have fallen into!

Thought provoking, isn’t it?

Meditation

As followers of Jesus, we live in a relationship of love which we seek to share with others. This sharing of love is God’s mission – our calling is to work in partnerships, based on trust and respect, offering mutual support. The nineteenth century idea that we should encourage people from other cultures to be just like us, the British, have now gone. The paternalistic model of mission abroad and at home has been replaced by one more mindful of the traditions of other societies and respectful of what is valuable within them. We now recognise that in giving to and interacting with mission partners, we are also fortunate recipients. St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1:11-12). So it is with the worldwide Church today – we have much to learn from each other and then to share with others.

Every blessing Rev Georgina

Hedgehog house

St Mary’s church community is working on becoming more eco friendly and part of this is ‘wilding the churchyard’.  Parts of the church yard will be left to wildlife and the grass left to grow.  Bird houses, bug boxes and a hedgehog home will be created to help us develop as an eco church. 

Thanks go to Patrick Meighan and Gill Brearley who created the hedgehog house