Proper 15

14th August 2022 (the readings follow after the reflection)

Reflection

This passage from Isaiah reminds us that parables are not just to be found in the New Testament. The image of Israel as a vine planted and tended by God appears in both the passage from Isaiah and in the Psalm. Both passages tell very much the same story. Despite the thorough and expert ministrations of God, the vine fails to deliver its goods and is therefore allowed to fall prey to those destructive forces that seem ever present. Its protective surrounds are dismantled, its territory invaded. The vine is consumed and trampled upon. The psalm talks of wild boar being the protagonists; Isaiah is less specific but wild beasts come to mind and later in the same chapter the alien forces invading Israel are likened to roaring lions. The cost of not responding positively to God’s loving care and attention is extreme. 

Do we sense that that is our predicament when we look at the disasters that surround us? Heatwaves, droughts and wild fires; floods and storms; rapidly diminishing biodiversity; poverty and starvation; war and conflicts and threats of  war? 

In his opening speech at the Lambeth Conference, Justin Welby spoke of the ‘roaring lions’ that best our world. The reference comes from the Letter of Peter which warns its readers to be aware of the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion. One of the loudest of the roaring lions is, says Welby, climate change – the climate crisis that is causing such devastation and anguish world wide – and closely followed by the lion of inequality. We might echo the Psalmist in saying ‘Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.’

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of faith. Faith that can close the mouths of lions. Faith that can with stand mockery and torture, persecution and destitution, imprisonment and death. The writer ends with the stark reminder that faith doesn’t mean that in this life everything will turn out rosey. Often faith is tested to the hilt because it persists even when there is no hope of salvation any time soon.  Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. 

The words of Jesus from today’s gospel are equally blunt. Jesus has not come to white wash over the cracks in society, to call lions cats, or in anyway downplay the evil which we have created. Rather Jesus has come to transform the world. He has, to use Welby’s words, come to kill the roaring lions. To remove the causes of conflict and suffering.

It is not, I believe, that Jesus wills division and conflict, but rather that He knows the state of the world, the prejudices and proclivities of those of us how should know better and of those who have been trapped in a system that gives them very little choice. What I think does anger Jesus is that we can see the signs of impending disaster and suffering all around us and yet do nothing. We ignore the signs that tell us that we cannot keep on drilling for oil and burning it. That we cannot keep on taking from the soil and do nothing to restore its fertility. That we cannot stand back as all around  plants and animals, birds and insects decline in numbers to the point of extinction. That we cannot allow a few to take and take building up wealth and riches, whilst the many struggle to feed themselves. That we cannot allow businesses to invest in products that destroy our environment rather than in those that would enhance life for all. That we cannot stand back whilst big pharmaceutical companies profit from selling vaccines to the rich whilst the poor go away empty handed. That we cannot stand back whilst media moguls control what we hear whilst burying the truth.

Welby began his address by saying that he hoped everyone would leave the Conference with their  “heart full of desire for friendship with Jesus Christ. For to desire Jesus is to desire God. To desire Jesus is to desire to be filled with love for God and, by God, love for His people and love for His word.”

Time and again, this is where we must return: to the overwhelming love that God has for us and the power that love has to change the world.

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,

judge between me
and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,
but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.

8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt; *
you cast out the nations and planted it.

9 You prepared the ground for it; *
it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered by its shadow *
and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11 You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea *
and its branches to the River.

12 Why have you broken down its wall, *
so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13 The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it, *
and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14 Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;
behold and tend this vine; *
preserve what your right hand has planted.

15 They burn it with fire like rubbish; *
at the rebuke of your countenance let them perish.

16 Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, *
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17 And so will we never turn away from you; *
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptised, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Proper 14

– 7th August 2022

Reflection:

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” says the writer of Hebrews. Whilst in the Gospel Jesus says “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

What are ‘things hoped for … things not seen’? Something that will happen or be present or exist in the future? Something good, something desirable? Something that fulfils our dreams? The fulfilment of our heart’s desire?

For me, the things hoped for would be an end of the climate crisis. A rapid replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. A cooperative approach by all governments, nations and businesses to take action to half carbon emissions by 2030 and zero them by 2050.  A compassionate and neighbourly sharing of resources – especially finance – to ensure all communities can cope with the climate change that is already built into our future. A concerted undertaking by all parties to use nature friendly solutions, to protect and enhance biodiversity across the planet. I would be hoping for the churches to be taking a significant lead in framing this hope and galvanising all parties into action. And yes from where I am now, this is a hope for something as yet unseen. 

So do I have faith, faith that these are not empty hopes? I am really not sure. It is difficult to have such hope, such faith, when all around the problems of the climate crisis are growing and the actions being taken, diminishing. Here in the UK the current exceptionally hot and dry summer is not leading to urgent action to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, nor with action to shade and insulate buildings. Instead new permits are being handed out for the further expansion of oil and gas fields. And  money is to be paid to customers to ease for a while the increasingly expensive fuel bills – and perversely that money will maintain both the high prices and the oil companies’ profits. 

The writer of Hebrews refers us to Abraham as an example of someone who lived by faith, having very little in the way of knowing what was the hope that lay ahead. Abraham had faithfully left his family and his home country. He had travelled over mountains and through deserts, faced hunger and the threat of starvation. He had built up wealth for future generations even though he lacked a son. He had continued to pray and to worship an unseen God, a God who offered him as blue print the image that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, or as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach – in other words a vision that was too big to comprehend! Abraham had faith and Abraham kept walking along the path that lay before him, living as if that future would happen.

So maybe that is what my faith has to look like – and maybe yours too. Walking and living as if the future God promises – the future where life on earth is lived as it is in heaven – will happen. Living as is necessary for the climate crisis to be tackled. Living as is necessary for resources to be shared freely and fairly. Living as is necessary for biodiversity to be replenished. Living as is necessary for the church to give the lead. 

I shall continue to minimise by carbon footprint. I shall continue to give time and money to support those whose resources are lacking. I shall continue to live gently on the earth, protecting and enhancing the natural environment. I shall continue to speak out and challenge the church to lead the way forwards to God’s kingdom on earth. 

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear the word of the Lord,
   you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
   you people of Gomorrah!
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
   says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
   and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
   or of lambs, or of goats. 


When you come to appear before me,
   who asked this from your hand?
   Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
   incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
   I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
   my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
   I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
   I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
   I will not listen;
   your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
   remove the evil of your doings
   from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
   learn to do good;
seek justice,
   rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
   plead for the widow. 

Come now, let us argue it out,
   says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
   you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
   you shall be devoured by the sword;
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Psalm 50: 1-8, 23, 24

The mighty one, God the Lord,
   speaks and summons the earth
   from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
   God shines forth. 


3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
   before him is a devouring fire,
   and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
   and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
   who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
   for God himself is judge.
          Selah 


7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
   O Israel, I will testify against you.
   I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
   your burnt-offerings are continually before me. 

‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
   or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me;
   to those who go the right way
   I will show the salvation of God.’

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Luke 12: 32-40

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Proper 13

31st July 2022

Reflection (scroll down for readings)

Last week we heard how Hosea  chose as Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife and how their family rapidly grew in size as Gomer gave birth to two sons and a daughter. We can imagine then that Hosea had some experience of the trials and tribulations of parenthood, how as a parent you want the best for your children, and yet you know that if you are too rigid, imposing your own way,  it will lead to rebellion. It is hard as a parent to stand by and let your children go their own way and make their own mistakes. And often there comes a point where your compassion as a parent pushes to you to dive in and rescue your children. You forgive and forget their mistakes and offer instead love and help.

So it is, observes Hosea, with God: “My people are bent on turning away from me…[yet] my compassion grows warm and tender.” 

Hearing those words fills me with hope that we are not doomed because of our human rebelliousness (quite what our future will look like, I am not sure and it may not be that rosy for some time time to come). The psalmist too offers hope: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” The Hebrew word “חַסְדּֽוֹ׃” (chesed) here translated as mercy, has the meaning of kindness and steadfast love, of loyalty and of truth. It is not a word that might simply mean withholding due punishment, but rather a more proactive remedying of the situation. God wants the best for all of creation. The psalmist goes on to talk of how God does this, delivering those who ask for help, putting their feet on a straight path, feeding the hungry and satisfying the thirsty. 

Why is it that we do not seek God’s help? Why do we not attune our hearing and listen to God? Do we forget that in Jesus we have the lived out expression of God’s will, the Word?

The writer of the letter to the Colossians sees a divided world, a world in which some do good things and some bad. He contrast those things that are from above – heavenly – with those that are earthly.  In this I think he is drawing out the difference between those who consciously follow God’s way and those who do not. In this sense earthly things are not what God has created, but that way of living that ignores God, that does not wish to accept that God – like parents – knows best. 

In today’s gospel reading we don’t know what the parents of the two brothers have said or done, but there appears to be a dispute as to how what they have inherited should be shared. As is often the case, Jesus doesn’t give a straight forward answer but rather poses another question: this wealth that you are craving, is it going to make you happy? 

It seems as if this family’s accumulation of wealth might make one or other of the brothers happy, but more likely it will make both of them unsatisfied. Neither wants to forgo what they see as their rightful share of the wealth. 

When we look around the world today, both between regions and nations, and within our own country, we see a great inequality in the distribution of wealth. And when it comes to a question of sharing out that wealth more equitably, those who have are very reluctant to be generous with what they have – even though they can see that others are suffering from lack. We in the global north have accumulated great national wealth from years of industrial development that has relied upon the cheap import of labour and resources from the global south, and yet we are unwilling to share that wealth with people suffering hunger and starvation in east Africa. We are unwilling to share it with indebted nations such as Zambia and Sri Lanka. We are unwilling to share it with small islands communities in the Pacific whose lands are threatened by rising sea levels. We are unwilling to share it with people in Afghanistan, in Peru and Columbia whose livelihoods are being washed away by the affects of climate change. 

Instead we are like the farmer, with our multi national oil companies, continuing to build larger and larger oil producing sites, whilst ignoring that the scale of this greed is diminishing our chances of enjoying a comfortable future. Jesus in his parables, and the prophets before, all spoke of the foolishness of pursing wealth at the expense of others, and still we do not listen, still we do not change our behaviour. We persist with an ‘earthly’ rather than a heavenly mindset. 

Lord may our prayer that ‘your kingdom come’ be genuinely meant. 

Hosea 11:1-11

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them,
the more they went from me;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.

I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.

The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.

My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;

when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west.

They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.

2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3 He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes; *
they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5 They were hungry and thirsty; *
their spirits languished within them.

6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He put their feet on a straight path *
to go to a city where they might dwell.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

9 For he satisfies the thirsty *
and fills the hungry with good things.

43 Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the Lord.

Colossians 3:1-11

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things– anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Proper 12

24th July 2022

Reflection (and readings below)

I am still shocked when I hear of climate activists who risk sitting in roads to highlight the emergency, or sit on oil tankers to prevent them moving, or blockade Amazon warehouses because of their casual treatment of workers, or break the glass doors of banks that support the fossil fuel industry, or of news agencies which obscure the truth. I am heart broken when I hear of them being arrested and imprisoned. Yet I see that they are following in the footsteps of the prophets of old, standing up against injustice, speaking truth to authority, and doing so in deeds just as much as in words. 

How can we not be shocked by today’s reading from Hosea. What bravery and self abasement did it take for Hosea to go and find and marry a prostitute? And not even a ‘reformed’ prostitute. Read carefully and you will notice that the first child Jezreel is certainly Hosea’s son, but are the next two children? And what of Gomer? Are we not shocked that she should be in such a position that prostitution is a viable and acceptable way of making a living? We wonder what choices she had had in life.

Through this lived narrative, God is pointing out to the people that they have behaved like a prostitute. They have not been faithful to God but have sought out other bodies to satisfy their needs and give them direction, to worship and imitate. They have spurned integrity and uprightness to follow whims and fancies, to chase after the illusions of wealth and happiness. God pulls no punches as to the severity of the consequences of their choices.

Whilst the passage from Hosea tells us of humanity’s inclination to stray away from God and from God’s way, the letter to the Colossians describes human lives rooted deep in God, built up and bound in place by a whole hearted faith in God through Jesus Christ, that allows for no deviation from the ways of God. It is a way of life that makes one fully alive! This sounds so amazing, I puzzle that we find it so difficult to live out in our own lives and to share with others – but I know that we do struggle. 

Last Saturday I took part in a Christian Aid event called Talking Climate Justice. During the two plus hours of talk,  questions and conversation, we focused on two issues: the climate crisis and climate justice. Both are integral to the Christian calling: the climate crisis because we humans have caused what is damaging the world God created, and climate justice because the effects of the crisis are disproportionately affecting those who contributed least to it, and because the distribution of resources is such that these same people have a disproportionately small share and are – financially – ill equipped to cope with the crisis. As those called to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, we are failing big time. We are like the people Hosea is addressing, whereas we want to be like the people Paul is addressing! How do we achieve the turn around we desire, both for the climate and for our neighbours across the globe?

The gospel gives us the answer: prayer and action. The Lord’s Prayer invites both. We are to hallow God, to declare God’s holiness in prayer. We are to seek God’s kingdom, to live according to that regime. We are to pray everyday for what we need – and be satisfied. We are to both seek forgiveness, and forgive, and make good where we are indebted. We are to ask, to search and to knock. When we knock, let us knock on the doors of businesses and institutions, corporations and governments. Let us keeping on knocking until they listen, until they open their doors to change and restitution. And when people demand change of us, we too must be willing to turn our lives round, binding them to the ways of God.

Hosea 1:2-10

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”

Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

Psalm 85

1 You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins.

3 You have withdrawn all your fury *
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4 Restore us then, O God our Saviour; *
let your anger depart from us.

5 Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?

6 Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your mercy, O Lord, *
and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Colossians 2:6-15

As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Environment Sunday 

17th July 2022

Our church is dedicating this Sunday to the Environment as well as holding baptisms. 

Readings 1 Corinthians 12. 12-27 (The Message)

Each of us is now a part of Christ’s resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it

makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honour just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other

part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body— that’s who you are! You must never forget this.

Gospel Reading – John 4.13-14

Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’

Collect

Loving God, by whose great generosity we are granted the gift of life, so breathe on the spark of your presence within us, that we

 burn with a flame of love that banishes our fear, and lights up the world around us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Light and life of the World. Amen.

Talk 

Baptism services remind us that we are all one community, one body in Christ. No one can say to someone else you don’t belong here, or go away, we don’t need you. We are all equal and important and necessary just as we are.

Today I want us to think about the world. 

Lots of people and lots of birds and animals, fish and insects and creepy crawlies and the list goes on –  live here.

What can you see?

A polar bear.   A sand martin.   An orang-utan.  A bee.   And a whale.

Orang-utans live in great tropical forests. They depend upon the forests for food and shelter, as a well as a  place to live and to play. But the forests where they live are being chopped down and cleared away to make space for acres and acres of palm oil plantations to make lipsticks and margerine, shampoo and pet food, sunscreen and bio diesel. When the forests go, the orang-utans have no where else to live. It seems as if we are saying to the orang-utans ‘Go away you don’t belong here’.

Polar bears live in the Arctic where they go hunting across the ice. They dive into cracks and holes in the ice to catch fish and seals. But climate change is making the world hotter and the ice is melting. Without the ice the polar bears cannot hung fish and seals. Instead they and their cubs starve. It seems as if we are saying to the polar bears, ‘If you can’t cope with climate change and melting ice caps, then we don’t need you.’

Sand martins spend the winters in Africa and the summers in Europe. In the spring they fly thousands of miles across the Sahara to Britain and in the autumn they fly the same thousands of miles back. But climate change is making the world hotter and when they fly over the Sahara Desert, the air is so hot that many martins simply cannot cope and they fall to the ground. It seems as if we are saying to the sand martin ‘If you can’t cope with climate change, then there’s no place here for you any more.’

Around the world in different oceans live whales. Whales get caught up in fishing tackle and crashed into by shipping. They are disoriented by noise from oil exploration. Every year fewer and fewer whales are born. It is as if we are saying to the whales, ‘Go away, we don’t need you’.  

But we do need whales! They are amazing creatures. In the oceans there tiny tiny things called phytoplankton that, like leaves on trees, convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and energy. And phytoplankton provide food for slightly bigger plankton and the plankton provides food for all manner of other sea creatures – including whales. But there is one thing that phytoplankton needs and that is iron. And do you know where that iron comes from? Whale poo! If oceans are to remain healthy with phytoplankton providing oxygen and energy for plankton and seaweed, and  fish and other sea animals, then we need  whales.

What about bees? Bees live in lots of different parts of the world feeding on nectar from plants. But we have been getting rid of wild plants and hedgerows, and spraying fields with herbicides so that there is not enough food for the bees. And we have been spraying crops with pesticides that kill not just the ‘pests’ but the bees too. Every year there are fewer and fewer bees. It is as if we are saying to the bee, ‘Go away, we don’t need you.’ 

But we do need bees. Without bees to fertilise crops we won’t have apples and pears, or strawberries and cherries, or figs and kiwi fruits, or almonds, avocados, mangos …. the list goes on and on. 

If we are not going to say to bees and whales, to orang-utans and polar bears, to sand martins and to so many other amazing creatures – we don’t need you, you’re not part of our world, then we have to change the way we live. We are one body, we are one world.

Prayers

Take a look at your left foot. Think about people who cannot move freely, perhaps because of illness or disability; perhaps because of imprisonment; perhaps because they are women. Think too of animals that cannot move freely. May they be treated with compassion. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now look at your other foot. Think about people who are having to flee from danger: from war and fighting,  from oppression and prejudice, from poverty, from floods , from wild fires, and from hunger. Think too of wildlife that is being forced out of its natural habitat. May they be protected and welcomed. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now look at your hands. Think about people who use their hands to stack supermarket shelves, sew clothes, pick fruit and vegetables – especially those in poor working conditions. Think about people who use their hands to care for others:  cleaners, nurses, care workers. Think of those who use their hands to care for the environment. May they all be treated fairly, may they be valued and supported. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now think of your bottom. Think of times when it is easier to sit back and do nothing, times when it is easier not to stand up for those in need: people in our own country who have to rely on food banks; people  in North Africa facing hunger as wheat prices rise; seabird colonies facing extinction because of bird flu, the world as it struggles with the climate crisis. Give us courage to act for we are all body. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Now think of your heart: think of all those you love and all who love you. We pray for those in need of healing and comfort: Angela Robinson, Jeane Dunsford, Alban Clarke, Joy Clarke, Lawrence Bell-Wright

We remember those who died recently: Pat West, Iris Lofting, Isabel Howlett, Hazel Acus, Anne Lawry, Peter Rivett.

and those who have died in past years: David Brown, Derek Marshall

Unite us all in your love.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Lastly try and look at the end of your nose. Think of those things which are hard to see, those things we would rather not see, those situations we would rather overlook: poverty, injustice, homelessness, hate, prejudice. Give us wisdom to understand ourselves and the world in which we live and to tend to its needs. May we be agents of change.

Lord in your loving kindness:

Hear our prayer. 

Merciful creator and Father

 accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Proper 10

10th July 2022

Reflection 

I was listening to a podcast talking about museums and commenting that they were places where one could discuss the big questions. The question in today’s gospel is about the meaning of life. The lawyer phrases this by asking what he must do to attain eternal life, to live a life of total fulfilment. 

Jesus sets out a parable and invites his questioner to consider what is the behaviour that marks out the neighbour?

The answer to the meaning of life is not 42 but love. When the way we live our life is so full of love – love for our neighbour and our creator – that there is no room for hate, or despair, or prejudice, or selfishness, or bias, or thoughtlessness, or dishonesty , or greed – then we experience eternal life.

On Friday I joined a prayer vigil outside the Central Hall at York University where synod was meeting to discuss, amongst other things, care for the environment. As delegates came past, we handed them leaflets calling on the Church of England to divest from fossil fuels and explaining why this was a crucial way of showing love for our neighbour – including those in the global south who are suffering greatly from the effects of the climate change crisis for which we in the north are the cause – and  for our creator. 

Some delegates responded with thanks and concurred that what was being asked was was right and proper and indeed was what they hoped the Church would do. Some hastily took the leaflet and walked on. Others averted their eyes so as not to have to engage at all. 

I wondered what it was that prevented some of the delegates from recognising both the importance of tackling the climate crisis and the importance that the Church should be seen to be leading the way rather than supporting the industries that perpetuate the cause of the crisis. What was probably true for them, is probably true for many others who are not members of synod. Here are three possible reasons.

  1. The scale of the problem of climate change seems overwhelming. How is it possible that humans have either caused this rise in temperatures, or that humans can possibly limit any further in rises? How can humans affect weather patterns, change the climate or stop sea levels rising? How can humans ensure that everyone has access to food, fresh water and clean energy? 
  1. How can we make a difference if other people/ other countries continue to invest in and use fossil fuels? What is the value of one person walking rather than driving, if the other 32 million cars remain on the road? What is the value of the UK swopping entirely to renewable energy if other countries continue to run coal fired power stations?
  2. How can we change the system? If the  Church  divests from fossil fuels, other investors will make up the shortfall – for without the profits of the oil companies, how will our economy finance pensions, insurance claims, mortgages?

These are real concerns but they are not insurmountable. There are enough wise and inventive people out there, and there are solutions but not always the commitment and determination to act upon them in a selfless way. Like the Samaritan in the story, we need to be brave, we need to be risk takers, and we need to step outside our comfort zone. Like the lawyer, we need not just to know the law, but to,act upon it. We need to love our creator with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourself.

Amos 7:7-17

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,

`Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.'”

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.

You say, `Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the Lord:

`Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be parcelled out by line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

Psalm 82

1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favour to the wicked?

3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;

4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.

5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness; *
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 Now I say to you, ‘You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;

7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.'”

8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
for you shall take all nations for your own.

Colossians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Feast of St Thomas

3rd July 2022

Reflection

Habakkuk, like Thomas, has a question for God. We have to go back to the first chapter in Habakkuk to learn what it is. Habakkuk is dismayed at what he sees happening in the world around him, where it seems that wrongdoing is being rewarded, and that the wicked thrive. He has repeatedly called on God for help. Whilst it seems as if God’s response is slow in coming, Habakkuk is still hopeful that God is noting all that is happening and will mete out judgment and punishment accordingly. So it is that today’s reading begins with Habakkuk faithfully stationed at his Watch post. God replies that a time of salvation and satisfaction will come. Habakkuk should not doubt because there will be a resolution in due time. God has a vision for how things will be and it will vindicate the faith of the righteous. 

We may have a lot of sympathy for Habakkuk, for looking round the world today it does seem as if things are going from bad to worse. There are heat waves of unprecedented scale across the globe. Even in Europe rivers such as the Po are dried up due to a lack of rain and snowfall. Harvests of rice in Italy and Spain are threatened. The war in Ukraine has disrupted grain supplies, hiking the prices worldwide and putting millions of people in Africa and the Middle East at risk of starvation. Floods in Bangladesh, in Brazil and Peru. Record temperatures in the arctic and Antarctic. Again triggered by the war in Ukraine, a rush to reopened coal power stations and to explore and tap new oil and gas fields in complete opposition to undertakings made last November to reduce carbon emissions. Amongst the global South foreign debts are rocketing, and  Sri Lanka is effectively bankrupt.

It is not surprising that António Guterres, president of the UN, has warned that humanity is facing a prefect storm of crises, widening inequality between the north and south, which he describes as ‘morally unacceptable’!

Do we, can we, still believe that God is concerned and that God wills a just and equitable solution? And how is such a resolution to be brought into effect if humans continue wilfully and carelessly to frustrate efforts by a minority that would curb the effects of the climate crisis and provide for the well being of all peoples and living things? 

Can we take hope from the example of Thomas? He, not unreasonably, has been asking for evidence before he can believe what is surely unbelievable? Thomas is neither too frightened nor too timid to express his doubts. Perhaps it would do us good to openly express our concerns about a) the dire state of the world, and b) our lack of hope that things can improve? Once we are honest with ourselves, it should be easier for God to find ways of reassuring us. We do want to be able to echo Thomas, shouting out with assurance, ‘My Lord and my God!’

The suggestion from psalm 117 is that we should praise God and in that way be reassured of God’s faithfulness. The letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we are not just the household of God but also a spiritual dwelling place for God. Our faith, our commitment to God, are important and are means by which the world can be transformed. We have a moral duty to live and act according to God’s will, and to do that which establishes heaven on earth.

Habakkuk 2:1-4

I will stand at my watch-post,
   and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
   and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
   make it plain on tablets,
   so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
   it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
   it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
   Their spirit is not right in them,
   but the righteous live by their faith.

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all you nations!
   Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love towards us,
   and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Praise the Lord!

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

John 20:24-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Proper 8

26th June 2022

Elijah’s life as a prophet had not been straight forward. He had been opposed by the prophets of Baal, by King Ahab, by Queen Jezebel. He had been tested to the limit by God – passing through wind, fire and earth quake. His life was not a rose tinted advert extolling the perks of being God’s chosen prophet. Elisha however is not deterred and follows Elijah assiduously. And when asked what he wants, asks for a double dose of Elijah’s spirit. I am not sure I could manage even a quarter of his spirit.

What is it that inspires Elisha? Maybe Elijah’s closeness to God: God is always there with through thick and thin. Maybe it is seeing God’s power at work through Elijah: the miracles he works. Maybe it is that against the odds, Elijah’s certainty that God’s will will prevail, even if he, Elijah, should perish. Maybe it is Elijah’s commitment to God, his sense of vocation that allows him to pursue no other career – his “zeal for the Lord”. 

I know I often lack certainty about my calling, about what God wants of me and what God wants for the world. I often lack confidence that God’s creation in its present form will survive our human foolishness. On the other hand what could a figure like Elijah achieve for the environmental movement? His stubbornness in standing up against the fossil fuel giants. His persistence in effecting change in government mindsets. His ability to channel God’s wisdom. Maybe a part of me admires Elisha’s audacity in asking for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. 

How apt then is Paul’s message to the Galatians: a message which is as necessary for us today. To know that we are made free in Christ. Free to live according to God’s will: to live according the spirit of God rather than according to the deceitful, greedy, selfish way that Paul calls ‘of the flesh’. Free instead to love, to love our neighbour so completely that we can, Paul says, look like slaves!  When I doubt what God wishes me to do, or how God wishes I should live in this world,  I must recall Elisha’s double portion, but that Spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the fruits that nourish the kingdom of God.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

1 I will cry aloud to God; *
I will cry aloud, and he will hear me.

2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; *
my hands were stretched out by night and did not tire;
I refused to be comforted.

11 I will remember the works of the Lord, *
and call to mind your wonders of old time.

12 I will meditate on all your acts *
and ponder your mighty deeds.

13 Your way, O God, is holy; *
who is so great a god as our God?

14 You are the God who works wonders *
and have declared your power among the peoples.

15 By your strength you have redeemed your people, *
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, O God;
the waters saw you and trembled; *
the very depths were shaken.

17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies thundered; *
your arrows flashed to and fro;

18 The sound of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world; *
the earth trembled and shook.

19 Your way was in the sea,
and your paths in the great waters, *
yet your footsteps were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock *
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Galatians 5:1,13-25

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Luke 9:51-62

When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Proper 7: 

19 June 2022

Reflection 

We may not believe in demonic forces nowadays but we are certainly aware that there are many  things that have an unhealthy level of control over our lives. Social media, diets, cars, pollution, throw away convenience, anxiety, fashion, alcohol, gambling, climate change, elitism, poverty, oil, tax evasion, futures markets, housing costs, racism, low wages, depression – the list goes on. For all our progress, life is still tough for many people. 

It was to such people, those who were finding life tough, those on the edge of society, the sick and the vulnerable, that Jesus brought his message of good news, of salvation. Here in today’s gospel we have just such an encounter. Jesus is able to break through the barriers that have prevented Legion from communicating with his fellow countrymen. He has been able to get to heart of Legion’s problem and together they removed the burden, the barrier of his illness. Jesus stays with him until others come who will continue the healing process, reintegrating Legion back into the community. Jesus leaves Legion with a task, a reason to carry on. 

The reading from Isaiah describes the frustrations of a prophet trying to speak to a ‘rebellious people’ – by which I think is meant people who rebel against God’s ways. The passage tells how these people are living their lives, with the traditions and routines of their daily life that keep or distract them from God, things that entrap them, snaring them in unholiness.  (The effects of these entrapments are probably not much different from those things blight our daily lives). Yet the prophet’s persistence – a persistence that comes as a gift or a power from God – reflects God’s ongoing concern and desire that the all humans should be encouraged and enabled to live according to God’s values, and that creation should be healed and humanity restored to its right mind. The last few lines add a measure of hope, that there will be found sufficient goodness in humankind to achieve God’s vision for the world. 

Who are our prophets today? Are they people like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, George Monbiot and Jack Munro? Are they groups like Extinction Rebellion? Groups like Amnesty, 38 Degrees, and  The Trussel Trust? Do we take time to listen to their messages, to measure and explore what is being said, to discern where God’s will may lie? Equally are we ready to hear God’s message, are we able set aside some of the barriers that trap us and weigh us down? Like Legion can we break free from our past and find renewal and healing?

Paul, writing to Galatians, remind us that for all of us our baptism represents a new beginning, a fresh start. In baptism we are all one – baptism is the ultimate In levelling up! What ever our past, where ever we have come from and however we have come – raised and bred as part of the establishment, or refugee fleeing a hostile environment, someone who has pulled themselves up by their boot straps or someone who has never managed to hold down a job – we are all equal as ‘children of God’. Like Legion, our restoration is shown in that we have all been clothed with Christ. And, like Legion, we are all commissioned to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to our own communities.

As we look around the world – like the prophet Isaiah – we see the threats and obstacles that block the freedom of life: heat waves that are keeping one third of US citizens confined to their homes; 7.1 million people displaced by fighting in Ukraine; a third of people in Sudan facing starvation; 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK; half the population of Chile living with water shortages. Are we sufficiently enraged as Christians, sufficiently enraged as were the prophets, sufficiently enraged as humans, to stand up and say this is not how God wants the world to be? How are we to bring Good News to our communities and to the world?

Isaiah 65:1-9

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that did not call on my name.

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people,

who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;

a people who provoke me
to my face continually,

sacrificing in gardens
and offering incense on bricks;

who sit inside tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;

who eat swine’s flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

who say, “Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”

These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.

See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;

I will indeed repay into their laps
their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,

says the Lord;

because they offered incense on the mountains
and reviled me on the hills,

I will measure into their laps
full payment for their actions.

Thus says the Lord:

As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, “Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,”

so I will do for my servants’ sake,
and not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;

my chosen shall inherit it,
and my servants shall settle there.

Psalm 22:18-27

18 Be not far away, O Lord; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.

19 Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.

20 Save me from the lion’s mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.

21 I will declare your Name to my brethren; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *
“May your heart live for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
he rules over the nations.

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 8:26-39

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Trinity Sunday 

12th June 2022

Reflection 

Today’s readings have been chosen to reflect different aspects of the Trinity. I wonder what they might also say about our relation with the earth.

The first reading from Proverbs introduces us to God as creator and to Wisdom as the aspect of God that co-exists alongside creation. The reading displays the dynamic partnership that exists between God and creation and which seeks in particular to embrace the human race. Wisdom is there to make sense of creation and to pass that divine understanding on to those who are willing to hear. Those who hear and engage with Wisdom will learn how the world could and should be. 

Psalm 8 presents a similar message where it is made clear that mortals, humanity have a special role in God’s creation. This is a particular calling to seek out and understand the beauty and wonder of creation and to care for it accordingly. This is a wisdom that will act as a ‘bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger’. The wisdom that God’s people can seek and find in creation is one that will produce solutions to the problems we face, that will enable harmony and peace to be realised here in earth. 

However in the human time frame, such wisdom does not exempt us from strife and suffering. We know that even when Jesus took on our human form, he was not exempt from suffering. As we try and follow his example, we should not expect exemption either, but as Paul writes we have faith and hope to sustain us. And that we have been been filled with God’s love through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The world’s suffering should not dishearten us (although it is easy to have moments when we feel totally overcome) but rather should spur is on to seek and act upon God’s wisdom. So it is that, time and again, in John’s Gospel, Jesus reminds  us that the Holy Spirit will inspire and equip us, and guide us into an ever deepening relationship with God the Trinity.

The features of the divine trinity – communication, harmony, dynamism – are reflected in the relationship between God and creation and humanity.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;

beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.

Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth–

when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”

Psalm 8

 O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

    Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
    and crowned them with glory and honour.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Romans 5:1-5

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

John 16:12-15

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”