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Thursday, 16 September 2021:

Sermon - Trinity 16 Mark 9 30-37



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Last Sunday afternoon I was privileged to baptize a baby
who only 3 days earlier had turned one-year-old. The most
delightful little girl, who beamed up at me as I baptized
her and poured water over her head, and who simply wanted
to play in the water as her parents and Godparents made
promises on her behalf. She chuckled and gurgled and even
babbled, “Yeah, yeah” as promises were made. You couldn’t
help but feel the love and delight felt for this little
girl – our church was full, and to me it felt full of
love.

What is it about children that can melt the hardest of
hearts?
I say this because today we hear of Jesus taking a little
child in the middle of the disciples.
So let’s – as ever – set the scene.
We’ve been hearing about Jesus and his disciples
constantly on the move Sometimes in Jewish territory,
sometimes in Gentile lands. This band of people is forever
moving around, meeting new people, in awe of their leader.
Maybe they’re thinking of questions they daren’t ask him,
for they feel they’re forever getting it wrong. Jesus has
once again predicted his death and resurrection and they
really don’t like what they hear. Instead of asking him
further questions, they begin to turn inwards upon
themselves. They’re muddled, afraid, and have been
arguing amongst themselves. Who is the most important of
them? Which of them is the greatest?
And Jesus appears to sense this. In fact, he knows
exactly what they’ve been arguing about. They reach home –
Capernaum – and Jesus sorts them out not by a stern word
or by more difficult teaching. No. I like to imagine
Jesus gently picking up a child perhaps from its bed, or a
toddler hiding behind her mother’s skirts. Look, then, at
this beloved child – at the tousled hair, messed from
sleeping; at the clear, beautiful skin; at those huge,
dark eyes. Smell the baby’s clean baby smell. And Jesus
reaches for this child, so gently, and teaches his
disciples by a gentle example.
For Jesus insists we welcome children and even become like
them again. Become as open and spontaneous, live in the
moment, be unafraid to show emotions – well, that’s how
childhood should be (we know, sadly, it isn’t like this
for every child.) Children have the innate ability to live
in the present moment and that’s important to Jesus.
But with childhood comes vulnerability, as we know too
well. Children can never claim to be first, can’t take
charge and move away from situations – the younger they
are, the more reliant they are and accepting of the
situation around them. In the ancient world, children had
no legal protection, no rights, no status.
And Jesus identifies with them.
Think back to some of your childhood memories. When was
it, do you think, that you first began to wish you were
more important, or perhaps as clever as someone else at
school, or as pretty; when was it that the innocence
disappeared and worldly pressures began to emerge?
For – as we know – God has no favourites. Jesus loves you
as his child. Unconditionally, no matter how old or young
you are, God loves you. And we are called to rest in His
arms as I like to imagine Jesus cradling the small child.
As baby Nancy rested in her parents’ arms as she came for
Holy Baptism last week. And as you rest in His arms, feel
the support and strength around you, and the love.
You know, yet again, it’s unsurprising that the disciples
don’t get it. Jesus has asked them some hard questions and
the meaning is hidden under the surface. This time he is
clear about what will happen to him – maybe the disciples
are looking for a hidden meaning that isn’t there. And we
can get why the disciples don’t understand, for the
predicted torture and death isn’t, as Tom Wright says,
part of their game plan, it’s not their understanding of
what a Messiah might do. And I totally sympathise with
them.
I wonder, though, what questions the disciples had that
they were frightened to ask.
Questions such as, “Why must all this happen?” at a guess…
You know, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we are
meant to know. Aren’t we? The disciples were as close as
they could be to him. And you’d think after 6 years of
studying and formation at theological college I’d have
more answers – when the real truth is, I probably have
more questions and am more confused than ever!
I wonder, do we ask each other tough questions, or do we
shy away?
Questions like why do good people suffer, why is there war
and suffering and violence in the world, why is there evil
or wrong doing around us?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that our Loving
God walks alongside us, carrying us through these really
tough times.
Perhaps we have to share these big questions to make sure
that, unlike the disciples, we don’t become argumentative
with each other.
Do you find yourself wondering what the conversations may
have been if the disciples had been brave enough to speak
out and to ask for understanding and clarification? And if
we speak out to each other in love, where might our
conversations go?
For as we’ve said, there are no cliques with Jesus. No one
is more important than anyone else. We are all valued for
who and what we are, and there is strength in knowing
that, for it removes any fear we may have of asking the
big questions.
And in our reading from James, we are told not to be too
busy for God but to make sure we have space and time to be
with Him. James asks are we full of worldly values, or do
we have understanding of God’s values – in other words,
are we informed by the world, or by God?
So try to allow yourself to lose some of the worldly
cynicism and rest in God. He loves you as you are.
He knows the very worst of us, and the very best.
And we are enough, if we only believe it.
And if we believe it, I wonder what can we do His name?

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:08 pm.


 
Friday, 10 September 2021:

Sermon 15th Sunday after Trinity Mark 8: 27-38



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“Who do you say I am?”
We can just imagine the scene. The disciples and Jesus
walking along, discussing this, that and the other. All
very comfortable. A motley group of tax collectors,
fishermen, and women – don’t forget that we know women
were alongside them. Comfortable with each other’s
company, content to be together, perhaps discussing the
latest events. And then, ever so casually, Jesus drops
into the conversation, “And who do people say I am?”
The disciples probably filter out the bad stuff, the
comments that haven’t been complimentary. “Some say
you’re John the Baptist,” they reply. “Or a prophet, or
Elijah.”
We can imagine Jesus taking this on board. And then he
fires the ultimate question – “And who do you say I am?”
Again, imagine the uncomfortable, stunned silence. Who is
going to be the spokesperson for the group? Of course, it
has to be Peter.
“Well, you’re the Messiah!” – only for Jesus to then tell
them NOT to tell anyone about him.

How weird, we may think. If Jesus is spreading the message
about God, why not tell everyone who he is, why not shout
it from the rooftops? But Jesus begins more direct
teaching to the disciples. And they really don’t like
what they hear. It’s uncomfortable. In short, Jesus
begins to prepare them for the scenes in Jerusalem, for
the events of his arrest, trial, his death, and his
resurrection.
Of course, the disciples don’t get it. They don’t want to
get it. How can their leader be telling them of his own
death? It’s an interesting word that Peter uses, for the
word ‘Messiah’ (from Greek) or Christ (from Hebrew) refers
to an anointed King, and Peter actually hasn’t a clue what
he is talking about. He thinks he knows – but he has no
real understanding. I wonder what Peter and the disciples
secretly hoped for – for Jesus to begin an uprising once
they arrived in Jerusalem?
So we can understand Peter’s response to Jesus - I imagine
him saying, “No, there’s no way this can happen to you!
How can you say all this, Jesus, you’re meant to sort the
Romans not allow yourself to be killed by them!”

“Who do you say I am?”

For we know the full story. The disciples didn’t have this
luxury. And we know that Jesus is God. We can’t box him up
and expect him to follow our agenda. He is not a
superhero, come to sort things out. He is the Son of God.
And we are to be willing to follow him. To take up our
own crosses – in other words, look outside our comfort
zone. Allow ourselves to be challenged, do what we have
to do to follow him.

And to sum up the reading from James – we are to listen
more, and talk less. Be careful what we say. Things that
hurt, stick. I remember being criticized during
confirmation classes when I was 11 because I wasn’t sure
of something. “You’re the lay-reader’s daughter!” I was
told. “I expected you to know that!” The effect of that
careless, unnecessary remark was to silence me in any
group situation or meeting for many, many years.

“Who do you say I am?” Perhaps it’s easier today, with our
rights as individuals to fulfil our own potential, to have
a sense of identity. I’m not so sure that the first
century Palestinians would have understood this idea
though. They would look upon themselves as someone’s son
or daughter, from a particular town or village, speaking a
particular language – that’s how they would identify
themselves. Who would you say you are? Who would you say
we are, as a Church community?

Jesus says we are to abandon ourselves. But we remember
we are loved for who and what we are – with our likes and
dislikes, our talents and skills, our hobbies, our
knowledge – so how does that sit alongside his order to
‘take up our cross and follow him?’
I think we’re reminded here not to choose safety. Not to
choose the predictable path, not to make our own safety
and comfort (as in our own comfort zone) the most
important thing.
During early summer we had some stunning poppies in our
back garden. They flowered, gave us much joy, and then
died off. The heads became dry. This week we carefully
picked those dry heads and emptied them of all the seeds
so that they can be spread and shared and hopefully bring
joy to more people next year.
What I’m trying to say is, those poppy heads could have
just been left as dried up and used seeds. Nothing would
change. But by spreading the seeds we have chance of
regrowth.
What seeds can we spread?
Who do we say Jesus is?
There are times when Jesus may test us to the limit.
That’s what he does!

With PCC this coming week, it’s a good time to think, “Who
do I say Jesus is?” to ask ourselves questions that may be
challenging: how can we keep our faith real and vibrant?
How can we develop our personal relationship with God so
that is a real relationship? How can we let go of
ourselves so that we walk unrestricted with Jesus, ready
to carry our cross, to walk out of our comfort zone.
And what seeds might that sow?

“Who do you say I am?”
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:52 pm.


 
Monday, 6 September 2021:

Sermon 14th Sunday after Trinity Mark 7:24-37



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
God does not have favourites.
As I go around talking with people, it’s interesting to
note how some people view faith as a mysterious, magical
safety blanket. I believe in God, so that’s ok, and I’m
ok. Yes, I say, that may be so, but what do you actually
do to develop your relationship with God? How do you pray?
Do you make space and time for God? And what do you do
with your life that shows others you have a faith and that
that faith matters, it’s not a magical, mysterious belief
in a vague omnipresent being?
Hard questions. Tough questions. But I’m sure you get the
point. For it’s not enough to have faith, to believe. For
trusting in and following Jesus means that we can no
longer sit on the fence or look the other way. We are to
act.
And that’s what James is saying, in his letter to that
early Christian community. James is saying that belief
affects the way you live your life. Affects the way we
live our lives. Faith is not some sort of insurance
policy. For God sees everyone and loves them for who they
are, whatever their circumstances. God loves those who
are employed and unemployed; he loves those who are
retired and those newly born. God’s love extends to the
very margins of society - those who we may be tempted to
try to avoid. In short, God doesn’t love only those with a
particularly good postcode or address. He loves us all,
unconditionally.

God does not have favourites.
So, having been assured of God’s love, James reminds us we
are to act. And I spoke of that last week, but more of
that in a moment.

Today’s Gospel reading comes after we heard of his
argument with the Pharisees, those strict upholders of
Jewish laws – we thought about that last week. And I think
Mark places this Gospel story in such a position to make a
point. We hear of two healings today; one from a distance,
one with a deeply personal touch. Both unlikely healings.
In both requests, Jesus is face to face with the unclean,
outcast of society.
Let’s set the scene. He is in deeply Gentile territory.
Not Jewish lands. He’s gone there for a reason. I wonder
how tired he was, entering a house not wanting anyone to
know he was there – was he hoping for a couple of days off
perhaps, a bit of peace, a retreat? I’m not sure, but
whenever he really knows he needs to be with God we hear
that Jesus goes to a mountain. Well, the region we read
about today is not Jewish land, and not mountainous. So
why was Jesus there, in strange and unfamiliar
surroundings, with people who do not understand or believe
in the Jewish faith?
Jesus is there trying to lay low because he’s been saying
some pretty risky things about the Law and traditions.

And by naming these areas – Tyre, Syrophoenicia, Sidon,
the Decapolis, - Mark firmly reminds his followers that
Jesus was in Gentile lands. In short, Jesus was in an
area despised by the Jews – a land inhabited by the
‘other’, the unclean, the Gentiles. And Jesus is
approached by the woman from Syrophoenicia. A woman who
breaks all the unsaid traditions. Unaccompanied by a male
relative, she dares to speak to Jesus.
At first it seems that Jesus rejects her. Nowhere else in
Mark’s Gospel records Jesus as ignoring a request for
healing. I’ve read various commentaries; some suggest this
woman teaches Jesus about racism. I’m really not
convinced of that. Is Jesus’s own admission that he is
here for the Jews?
What we have here is teasing banter between the woman and
Jesus. Jews often thought of the Gentiles as ‘dogs’ and
I’m pretty sure there were uncomplimentary feelings about
the Jews on the Gentiles’ side too. What is happening here
is that Jesus is very conscious that he is here to redeem
Israel – the Jews – and that by doing so, they can work
together to teach and share the Gospel with the Gentiles.

And perhaps the woman reminds Jesus of his humanity. The
banter is teasing, but throughout it we hear her faith.
She knows Jesus can heal her daughter and in so doing can
set them both free, for while her daughter acts in
unpredictable ways they are both outcasts of society. She
shows the faith in her heart.
God’s love and healing power knows no boundaries.
God does not have favourites.

And again, the deaf man in the Decapolis is an outsider.
Unable to speak or hear, what was his world like? And yet
Jesus treats him privately. Places fingers in the man’s
ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue. ‘Ephphatha – be
opened,” Jesus says. And the man is healed.
We may wonder why Jesus wants no one to know. For of
course, words gets around. And perhaps it’s this – he
wants people to approach him through faith, not for
healing, for what they can get out of it.
Time and time again we see Jesus interacting with ‘the
other’ – those who were considered outside society. The
message is hammered home – God does not have favourites.
So what is our response to the terrible situation in
Afghanistan, to the refugees who may arrive in
Wolverhampton? What is our response to the people brave
enough to request help from The Well foodbank, to the
neighbour who needs help?
We are a very generous congregation. I have no doubt that
at Harvest our box at the back of church will be filled
with donations for The Well. And some of you may have
responded to appeals for help for the refugees from
Afghanistan, and we all have charities that are dear to
our hearts.
But as well as practical action or aid, we are called to
pray. To pray intentionally for the other, for the
outcast, for those who are, quite simply, different to us.
And we pray, too that as we know we are special and
precious in God’s sight, so may those we try to reach come
to know that that truth too.

For God does not have favourites.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:41 pm.


 
Saturday, 28 August 2021:

Sermon - Trinity 13 Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Hands are amazing things, aren’t they. I find myself
watching people’s hands and have noted over time how hands
can often portray a speaker’s intentions. Hands can be
outstretched in welcome or in a plea, clenched to show
some inner turmoil, anguish or anger. They’re often used
expressively as we speak and interact with each other.
Hands can reveal our interests and occupations. Restless
hands are rarely still – knitting or crocheting perhaps.

And I find myself thinking about Jesus’s hands. Rough,
brown, perhaps with scars from his years of carpentry. I
imagine him wiping away the dust of his journey. Here we
can see the scar from when a splinter eventually forced
its way out of his finger, and maybe his nail is blackened
from a slipped hammer. Working hands, hands willing to act
as servant for his friends. Hands that poured water and
washed his friends’ feet. Hands that caught and hauled in
fish, hands that made the fire, cooked the fish, and
shared it with friends. Hands that broke bread and
shared. Hands that were scarred way before Jesus was
nailed to the cross.

Today’s Gospel focuses, in a way, on hands. For the
Pharisees and the scribes are horrified that some of them
eat with unwashed hands. Indirectly criticizing Jesus, by
criticizing his disciples.
We should remember that different Jews followed different
traditions. Just as many of us will cross ourselves at
certain points of the service and make the sign of the
cross before we receive the Sacrament, we have to remember
that is part of our tradition. And it’s not what my more
evangelical friends would do. Neither is right, neither is
wrong!

We often misunderstand the Pharisees. They recognized that
God’s law was a gift, and tried so hard to observe that
law. This was their way of giving glory to God, as a
witness to Him. And as priests serving in the Temple they
were expected to wash their hands before meals. The meals
became sacred. They thought all Jews should follow this
observance as a way of bringing God into every day, into
every aspect of their lives. The problem is that, over
time, these traditions became their way of preserving
their Jewish faith. Remember that the country was under
Roman occupation…they want to maintain their traditions
and practices as much as possible. So the Pharisees would
see Jesus’s disciples eating with unwashed hands and it
would horrify them. For them, it showed a lack of respect
for God’s law.
Jesus is harsh in his reply. He says, you’re too focused
on external things and you’re not paying enough attention
to your own hearts. You’re putting up barriers between
yourselves and others. Barriers between clean and
unclean. These barriers became rituals and focused on who
was ‘in’ and who was ‘outside’. Rituals that cause
barriers to come between themselves and the very people
they were meant to serve.

Do you know, we may have more in common with the Pharisees
than we like to think. We recognise – I hope! – that we
are called by God. We recognise the true gift of this
calling. Well, so did the Pharisees. Our response to this
calling is to try to live how God calls us to live, and
our calling now is to work out what that means. And how
easy it is to fall into the trap of judging others, as we
ourselves try to live a Godly life.

Traditions are important. Our tradition here – the music,
liturgy, use of the lectionary readings, all point us to a
Sacramental worship. We place high esteem on the
Sacraments – on Holy Communion, on Baptism, Confirmation
and so on. And our traditions point us towards God. The
traditions themselves are not Godly – they are pointers of
the way we are to travel.

So often we hear, “We’ve always done it like this!” at the
hint of any change. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to wade in
with loads of changes!) We are here for God’s glory, and
sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of that – that
there are different ways to glorify and honour God. Our
traditions and our comfort zone are not God’s law,
however. We are to be aware that our own traditions could,
over time, get in our way. Traditions in themselves are
not the problem but the internal corruption becomes the
evil of which Jesus speaks.

And we need to remind ourselves that evil comes from
within. We are proud, we can be hypocritical, we can be
greedy, we do not always look after our world. The list
goes on. We are to be aware of the darkness within our own
hearts. So yes, our hearts can cause great harm. But they
can also cause great good. Our hearts can love. Jesus
sees and knows all the darkness in our hearts – the evil –
he knows us as we are. And yet He still loves us.
For we are called to follow Jesus, to follow God, and to
get our hands dirty in the process. To get our hands dirty
as we care for those for whom many would regard as
‘unclean.’ With a heart cleansed by God.
If you want an example of how we know God works, and how
we know our hearts can do great good, well we’ve had a
classic case in our parish only this last week. If you’re
on social media, some of you will know that we were
approached by a desperate family. A Mum had given birth
in those circumstances we sometimes hear about – she had
no idea she was pregnant. No obvious signs of pregnancy,
no weight gain, so you can imagine the family’s shock when
on Sunday the Mum gave birth to a beautiful, 5lb baby boy.
They turned to us to ask for any help, for they had
nothing ready for a baby. There had been none of the
hopeful preparation and anticipation prior to this little
boy’s arrival. We put an appeal over Facebook. Within 48
hours this little boy and Mum had all they need to begin
their new life together, thanks to the very generous
hearts of those who saw and shared the message. Some
people I’d never met before contacted me to offer their
help and support. Congregation members who saw the appeal
dropped off baby items to us. And the baby and Mum were
able to go home on Tuesday knowing that they would be ok,
and feeling surrounded by love. Absolutely no judgements.
An outpouring of love and generosity that took the family
aback and they are so very grateful.
Yes. Our traditions point us towards God. And we find
God in what we do, in what we say, in the music we hear,
using all our senses as we worship God here, in this holy
place. And when we find God, we cannot then ignore the
Laws. We are to share God’s love as we leave this place.
Honour God with our lips. With our hearts. With our
lives.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:56 pm.


 
Saturday, 21 August 2021:

Trinity 12 Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69



“Be strong in the Lord…Put on the whole armour of God.”
It’s horrifying to see the news reports of Afghanistan and
of the militant take-over of the Taliban. It’s beyond
awful to see the desperation of the citizens trying to
flee their country. To hear how some women now feel
vulnerable, unsafe to go to work or to wear their everyday
clothes. How children look lost and frightened. I find
myself wondering what the last twenty years have been
about, and where will this end. I bet I’m not alone in
that thought.
Perhaps the situation in Afghanistan is the reason why our
Epistle, our reading from Ephesians, speaks so strongly to
me today. For we cannot underestimate the militant
language used here by St Paul, writing from a prison when
he himself would have been in chains. And in our own
‘safe’ Western world, the use of such military language
may feel uncomfortable. It’s not in our comfort zone. Not
the sort of language we use nowadays, here in the UK at
this time.
However, at the time of this letter, military language
would have been the norm. The Ephesians would have been
used to and would have understood it. They were a minority
group, this first century group of Christians, and so the
idea of battle was part of their way of life. Their
commitment to Christ put them at odds with others around
them. In short, they needed to be prepared for anything.
Paul gives them a long, extended metaphor for how to live
a Godly, Christian life amidst such surroundings.

You can imagine the scene – we’ve seen it in films, read
it in books. The General assembling his troops, giving
them the pep talk before they go into battle. We see it on
the football pitch, the captain talking in a huddle to his
team just before kick- off. Motivating, urging,
inspiring, demanding. That type of talk.

It has been suggested that perhaps they craved a certain
type of armour to keep them safe.
But not safe in the magical “please look after us and keep
us safe” type of belief. For this was reality. This was
truly how they needed to live their lives. It’s like a
battle speech to fill them with determination. Urging
them to be brave, to persevere.

St Paul uses words we often shy away from, in our
tradition. He speaks of the forces of evil. But we have
to face the fact that as Christians we are called to arm
ourselves against the spiritual battle of evil. The fact
is that we’re not called to fight a ‘battle,’ for God won
the battle over evil and sin when Jesus died, was
resurrected and ascended to heaven. However we believe it
and in whatever way we understand it, we are justified in
our faith but on the defensive, not the offensive. Let’s
just unpack the military language a little to see where we
may go with this.
This armour of God is to help us stand firm in our faith,
in our belief in Jesus Christ. Belief that He died for
us, rose again and lives. Belief that Sunday by Sunday in
some way we encounter Him as we come to the altar to
receive Communion. This armour helps us to stand firm, to
withhold attacks of evil. For we are aware that evil does
exist – a glance into the news confirms this – and evil
can seek to overthrow the people of God. Again, think of
Afghanistan – what happens to the Christians in that
country, along with all the civilians who are dragged into
an unwanted battle with extreme laws?
Our resistance and understanding and perseverance comes
from God, not from our own strength.
For our strength comes from God. From Jesus Christ. From
the Holy Spirit. We’re called to speak in love, holding
our shield of faith, wearing our helmet of salvation –
saved by the grace of God, not through our own actions,
but a true gift from God.
And it feels too easy to be saying all this here in a
country where our faith is unchallenged, where we have the
right to be able to practice our faith in safety. How
strong is our faith, what would we saying or doing if we
were challenged? There are no answers, for we ourselves
just don’t know.
One thing I do know, and I’ve heard time and time again
over the past eighteen months, is that God is a God of
surprises who takes us where we ourselves never dream to
go; who challenges us in ways we would never entertain; a
God who throws at us what we can bear. And I do believe
this – but we have to put our trust in God and that makes
us both vulnerable and protected at the same time.
For St Paul has been urging the Ephesians on throughout
his letter. Not everyone will have the gift of speech to
talk about God, not everyone will have the practical
skills necessary to maintain their Christian way of life,
not everyone will have the skills to teach, to preach, to
look after others. But coming together as a community of
believers, everyone has the gifts they need to enhance
that community and beyond.

And that applies to us, here, now. Paul urges the
Ephesians to continue in prayer through the power of the
Holy Spirit. We don’t rely on our own abilities but remain
open to the gifts and opportunities the Holy Spirit offers
us. In this way, we grow together, as the Body of
Christ, here in this place.
And so we pray, as we put on the armour of God. We pray
for God’s Spirit to guide us and we ask that we may hear
His voice, His promptings.
And to look briefly at our Gospel, Peter hears what Jesus
says, and understands enough to say that Jesus is the way,
Jesus is the life. Believing in Jesus does not make us
exempt from the problems that life may throw at us. But we
do have an eternal hope in our salvation and a belief that
in Christ all may be made whole.
And so we pray that we may be fed by the Living Bread; be
nourished by the Word; that we may live to serve Christ
here on earth; that we may stand firm as did St Paul; that
we may pray for those situations we feel powerless to
help, that we may fervently pray and be aware of God’s
presence.

We pray that we ourselves may be strong in the Lord; that
we may put on the whole armour of God.

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:05 pm.


 
Friday, 6 August 2021:

Transfiguration 2021 Luke 9:28-36 - Sermon



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
On one of our training residential weekends at Shallowford
House, whilst a curate, we watched a film called The Way.
It’s a really good film, about a group of travellers or
pilgrims who are searching for a deeper meaning to their
lives. It centres around Tom, whose adult son died whilst
walking the Camino de Santiago, the way of St James. Tom
decides to walk the route of the pilgrimage in tribute to
his son, taking his ashes with him, and en route of course
we find out about the stories of a particular group of the
travellers.
Whichever route you take, at the end of the pilgrim route
you come to the cathedral, the Santiago de Compostela in
Spain. Here a daily Mass is held for the pilgrims. On
the feast days, the Botafumeiro is lit. This is the
world’s largest censer for incense – weighs around 80 kg,
that’s around twelve and a half stone, and holds 40kg of
incense. It makes quite a cloud of smoke.
From looking at images on line and on film, it literally
looks as if pilgrims are surrounded in a cloud of smoke.
I wonder if in that moment they sense they are in the
presence of God.
I wonder if in that moment they sense they are surrounded
by the glory of God.

I guess we’ve all had those moments that we wish could
last forever. Those glimpses of something so wonderful
that the feelings we experience are indescribable. Those
moments we wish that could go on and on and on and never
stop.
What moments have there been in your life, when you felt
so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty/glory/happiness (choose
your own word) that moved you? A sudden rainbow in the
midst of a dark sky? Sunrise, sunset, those moments when
rays of light seem to transcend from the clouds in sheets
of light? A wonderful goal as the ball hits the back of
the net? A special moment with someone you love? Whatever
those moments may have been for you, at that point you’ve
encountered the glory of God.
Perhaps it can be explained as those moments when we are
so overwhelmed by the presence of God that you feel
yourself being changed by it, from the inside out.
Perhaps we may say, God is always just about to surround
us in a cloud of smoke.
I must say here that these thoughts are developed from
some online reading.
Today’s Gospel story tells us of the transfiguration. Of
how the glory of God is revealed in Jesus, in a cloud of
smoke up on a mountain, with Peter, James and John as
witnesses.
The story points us to God’s glory and where we might see
it in our own lives.

Firstly, the story tells us that glory is about being set
free. We read that as Jesus is transfigured he appears in
dazzling white, and the Old Testament comes to life as
Moses and Elijah appear alongside him.
Jesus talked about his departure. Luke uses the word
exodus. As we’ve explored in recent weeks, first century
Jews would have understood the weight of the meaning of
that word, and so do we. For the Exodus story is the
story of God setting his people free by liberating them
from slavery – it’s the great rescue story of the Old
Testament.
The presence of Moses and Elijah there tell us about
Jesus. We don’t know what glory is, without the story of
Israel. Remember that Moses represents the law – God gave
the law to Moses on top of a mountain in a cloud of smoke,
and the law was written on tablets and kept in the ark of
the covenant, carried with the Israelites and placed in
the holiest place in the temple. It was God’s covenant
with his people, and that’s what the presence of Moses at
the transfiguration is all about.
Jesus is the covenant between God and God’s people, turned
to flesh and blood.
Every time the Israelites forgot the law and strayed from
the covenant, God sent prophets to remind them what it
meant to love and be loved. And that’s what the presence
of Elijah the prophet is all about.
The law of Moses and the prophecy of Elijah were all about
upholding the freedom that God had given them.
So the glory of God is about being set free.

Secondly, the Glory of God is about suffering. We can’t
forget, can we, the sort of departure, the exodus, they
are talking about. It’s not an escape plan. They are
talking about the fact that Jesus is going to Jerusalem to
die. Glory is found in facing the reality of suffering,
allowing others to see God in you. So through failure,
foolishness and pain, the Glory of God can be revealed.
The Glory of God is about suffering.

The Glory of God is about the Church. As Jesus is
transfigured, Peter makes a mindless suggestion about
making three tents – you wonder how Jesus had the patience
for his followers!
Sometimes we might still wonder how Jesus has the patience
for his followers as we are today.
Yet in this moment of glory, he still wants them there.
God wants us to be part of his glory.
So the glory of God is about the Church.
Finally, the Glory of God is about prayer.
When did the Transfiguration happen? During a time of
prayer, when Jesus had gone up the mountain to seek God’s
presence. So perhaps transfiguration is what we hope for
each time we pray. If we allow God to speak to us, the
cloud of smoke will surround us and God will reveal his
glory to us.
So the transfiguration is about prayer.
And at the end of the story, we learn that the disciples
who were there and witnessed the transfiguration kept
silent. They did not tell anyone what they had witnessed.
I suspect this may be because there were no words to
describe what they had seen. If, perhaps, you struggle to
share your faith with others, it may not be because your
faith is lacking. It may be that the glory of God, that
cloud of smoke that is always about to surround us, is
hard to put into words. We may find it hard to understand
or explain, but God reveals his glory and this story tells
us where.
God reveals his glory in setting people free.

Have you seen how forgiveness frees a person from guilt?
Have you seen how a friendship frees someone from despair?
Have you seen how kind hands can free a person from
sickness?
Have you seen a word of faith free a person from fear?
Have you seen steadfast love, or an act of courage free a
person, from a prison of their own or another’s making?
Maybe it is you who has been set free.
And that’s where to look for glory.

God reveals his glory in suffering. That’s what the cross
is about.
Have you felt the presence of God in times of your own
suffering? That cloud of smoke surrounding you at a time
when you felt most alone.
Have you been alongside someone in their suffering and
shared the burden of it with them?
Have you seen hope come alive in a situation that seemed
hopeless?
Do you put your own suffering in the presence of God, for
him to transfigure?
That’s where to find glory.

And God reveals his glory in the Church.
The ordinary Church.
Have you felt the presence of God surround you in worship?
Have you heard him speak to you through scripture, or
music, or silence, or through the Sacraments?
Have you experienced the love of God through generosity
and fellowship, or in stumbling attempts at hospitality
and holiness?
Have you looked for God’s hand among a people sharing
their joys and sorrows over years and decades of joyful
weddings, tearful funerals, of prayers offered, candles
lit, craft activities, coffee and biscuits?
Because that’s where your tired eyes might just see glory.

And we remember that Jesus was transfigured when he went
away to pray.
Do you go away to pray? Do you take your freedom, your
suffering, your irrational thoughts and hold them out to
God? Do you allow the cloud of smoke to surround them and
you?

And when you go away to pray, do you ask God to
transfigure you?
Do you expect your face and your clothes to dazzle and
brighten so that others might see the glory of God through
you?
God is always just about to surround us in a cloud of
smoke. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:05 pm.


 
Sunday, 1 August 2021:

Trinity IX (Proper 13) John 6:24-35 - Sermon



May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never
be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be
thirsty.”
I like to imagine scenes of Jesus and the crowds and the
beach. One of the favourite pictures in my mind is of
Jesus around a campfire with his disciples, and as they
talk, they eat. It’s probably dusk. They’ve had a busy
day walking, teaching, being with crowds. Now is some time
for them to rest before they do it all again tomorrow.
And as I picture the scene, I see something in Jesus’s
hands.
Bread. It’s always bread.
For there is something about sharing food together that
helps to build up a community. Something about being
hospitable, and making space and time for people.
The shared act of eating together builds bonds.
And in my mind, it’s always Jesus who holds the bread.
Breaks it. Shares.
Well, you may be thinking, that’s all very well but it’s
not part of our Gospel story today, is it. And you’d be
right. But, I’m sure you’re beginning to get this now, I
like to try to set the scene. And this is the scene I can
imagine after the feeding of the 5000, which we thought
about last week. When the boy offered all he had, and
Jesus took it, blessed it, shared it, and there was more
than enough to go round.
So this is the scene I build on as we look at today’s
Gospel.
Bread. Imagine your favourite bread – whatever it may be.
Crusty, wholemeal, tiger bread, French stick, whatever –
imagine it freshly baked. That glorious smell of just-
baked bread, and that taste in your mouth that nothing
else can give.
Yet it’s made from only water, flour, yeast. So simple.
But it nourishes, and fills, and satisfies.
And bread is the metaphor for how God can fill our lives,
how God can satisfy our longings. So let’s explore that a
little more.
The crowd today have actually gone out in boats across the
sea to reach Jesus. (It reminds me of TV images of small
boats setting out from the south of England during WW2 at
Dunkirk.) This crowd wants to be satisfied. They want to
see more signs from Jesus. They want to be fed by him –
only yesterday, he provided for them at the feeding of the
5000.
They want more.
And it’s easy to sympathise with them, I think. For the
more we see, the more we try to understand. The more we
are taught, the more we learn. This crowd is hungry for
more.
Jesus recognizes why they follow him. He turns the
tables, questioning them, making them think. “You’re here
because yesterday you had all you need,” he says to them.
“And now, you want more.”
Then he adds something strange. He tells them to work for
what the Son of Man can give them. “Well, what do we need
to do then?” They’re used to signs, and John’s Gospel is
full of signs. They remind Jesus that their ancestors ate
manna in the wilderness, bread from heaven – another
signpost as to who Jesus is.
Here’s the rub. The crowd have seen the signs, but don’t
get it. They don’t quite get what Jesus is driving at
here, and we should be sympathetic, for time and time
again, we’re exactly the same. So Jesus reminds them that
it was God, not Moses who provided the manna, the food
from heaven. He says, “The Bread of Heaven, the bread of
God, gives life to the world.”
Well, naturally, the crowd want some of this. Jesus links
the story of feeding in the wilderness, during the Exodus,
to the ongoing gift from God.
Stories define us. Our own story defines who we are.
Collectively and individually, stories are important, and
perhaps we need to start sharing our own stories a bit
more to give us the confidence, a voice, to speak out and
own our faith. The crowd with Jesus would know that their
story of the Exodus is their shared story, their identity.
It links the present with the past.
“I am the bread of life,” says Jesus. “The Bread of God…
gives life to the world.” Gives. Present, ongoing, not
past tense. For God gives, and gives and will keep giving.
There may well be a hunger in our lives. A hunger for –
well, what? It’s hard to articulate. I remember eleven
years ago, when I first felt God was calling me for
something but I had no idea what, or why, or what I should
be doing. I remember paddling in the sea, with a great
longing to do something, but what? All I knew was that
there such a deep sense of longing within me that it felt
a physical ache.
And if we truly believe in Jesus as the Son of God, as our
Saviour, that longing is filled when we take on board what
God calls each of us to do, in our own way.
We hunger to be understood, to be fed, to belong. But all
Jesus asks of us is to believe.
Believing may be one thing. Living it out, living our
faith as people of God, is another.
Our reading from Samuel tells us pretty shocking things
about David – who was called by God. What I like is that
we can see how God calls flawed people. And he gets them
to work things out for themselves. Nathan is bold and
prompts David but doesn’t give him the answers, he allows
David to work things out for himself. What, I wonder, is
so deeply engrained in us that we need these signposts to
wake up, to see what is really going on? And our Ephesians
reading reminds us that God chose us all. He chose us
all, humankind, each with our own gifts, to be members of
his family, his church.
And that’s our challenge, while the diocese looks at
Shaping for Mission, looking at our deaneries and the
strengths, weaknesses, visions. We are all one family.
We can be together, working for a shared vision, together
as the Body of Christ in this place, or we can act on our
own – that’s a bit like a leg without a body though.
“I am the bread of life.” Our hunger and thirst for God is
satisfied when we truly believe that God satisfies. More
than satisfies. In fact, if we truly believe that Jesus
is the bread of life we will overflow with his love.
Do we keep it to ourselves or do we try to share it?
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never
be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be
thirsty.”
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:25 pm.


 
Thursday, 29 July 2021:

Trinity VIII (Proper 12) John 6:1-21 - Sermon


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel reading today gives us two miracles. The story
of the Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle to be
recorded in all four Gospels, and today we hear that story
together with the miracle of Jesus walking on water.
The difference for us this week is that we’ve switched to
accounts from John’s Gospel – for most of this year we’ve
been reading from Mark. Our Lectionary year gives us a
three- year cycle, a year for Matthew, a year for Mark, a
year for Luke, and each year we have different parts of
John’s Gospel added in. John’s Gospel offers us a
different insight into the story and into the mystery of
Jesus.
He sets the scene very carefully. Our attention is drawn
to the mountains, to the wilderness, to Jesus as the
teacher, to the crowds who have – as we know – been
following him, desperate to hear him and to see more
signs, and to the disciples. We are also told that the
Jewish festival of Passover was very near.
Last week, I talked about Jesus’s compassion. In the
passage today I don’t sense that feeling of compassion – I
almost sense detachment. Our focus is on Jesus, and the
main players – the boy, and on Philip and Andrew.
The rich symbolism of the story may need teasing out. In
the synoptic Gospels, Jesus takes bread. John’s Gospel
tells us that the bread was in fact barley loaves.
Symbolic on different levels: barley loaves was the sort
of bread available to the poor. There’s also a parallel
with the Old Testament story we find in the 2nd book of
Kings, when the Prophet Elisha served a large crowd from
twenty barley loaves and had some food left over. John’s
placed this story around the time of the Passover. The
crowds would understand the symbolism, the parallels.
Just as Moses led the people of Israel, we see Jesus
leading this crowd. The stories of Moses and of the
prophets would be upmost in the crowds’ minds at this
special time. They will recognize a prophet when they see
one.
And that’s exactly what they recognize in Jesus – that he
is a prophet. They witness the amazing things he does,
and want more. They want to make him their king.
And that’s why Jesus withdraws to a mountain by himself.
That’s where he prays. Where he gains his strength. And we
read that as evening falls, the disciples are left to head
out in their boat. It grows dark. The sea becomes rough –
remember from a couple of weeks ago how we said the Sea of
Galilee was prone to sudden squalls and storms. And Jesus
walks on water towards the disciples, appearing out of
nowhere.
Jesus’s divine nature revealed here, out on that lake. No
wonder the disciples reacted with terror. Perhaps an
instinctive human reaction to the unknown is to show fear.
Perhaps they recognize, but can’t articulate, that they
are indeed in the presence of God.
Jesus, revealing his kingship over Creation, when he
himself refuses to be made a human king.
Jesus’s miracles signpost us to God’s glory.
What are these important miracle stories telling us today?
On one level I want to say that God provides. Jesus knew
what he was going to do to feed the crowd, but he asked
Philip what they should do. Philip knew they had no money
and nowhere to buy food anyway! We can sense his
disbelief, his helplessness. Andrew brings the boy
forward, knowing that the little he had would not be of
any use to a large crowd. Jesus, we note, gives thanks.
This is the Eucharistic meal, as told in John’s Gospel.
Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks and shares. Jesus
uses what is available, and look at the result. Look what
happens.

On another level, I want to say that when we ourselves
have no idea what to do, we can pray. Bring our jumbled
up thoughts and petitions and hopes to God. Our problems
to God. I’m not saying that things will be magically
solved overnight – that’s not how God works. Perhaps,
though, we can use these stories to help us.
Knowing our own resources, we may often – always?! – feel
inadequate. But if we offer them to Jesus, who knows what
can happen.
We do this not in our own stead, but in the knowledge that
Jesus walks alongside us. Who knows what may happen if we
trust and lean on him.
Who knows what may happen if we allow Jesus to take our
talents, our time, our skills – just see what he does with
them!
When I think of these two stories, I can sense the
excitement of the crowd at the feeding of the 5000. And I
can definitely understand the fear shown by the disciples
out there in the dark, in the boat on a rough sea. We
have two different moods here. Exhilaration, and
excitement, contrasted with unease, darkness, fear. It
may be worth spending a few minutes thinking through these
different moods, these reactions.
I wonder, where would you be in the first miracle. Would
you be in the crowd, feeling hungry but not wanting to
leave through fear of missing out.
Would you be Philip – throwing up your hands and saying
yes there’s a problem but I don’t know what we can do
about it.
Would you be Andrew, who seems to be able to get to know
people, who can bring a young boy to Jesus.
Or would you be the young boy, offering all that he has to
Jesus.
For here at Epiphany we have a task on our hands. Not
only in sorting out the church roof, but in spreading the
Gospel message. In short, for doing what we are all called
to do.
I wonder. Do we hold up our hands, shrug and say we don’t
know what to do? Do we pass the buck and leave it for
someone else to think through, and sort out? Because if we
do that, I can tell you exactly where we’ll be in a few
years’ time.
And it probably won’t be here.
Or do we get out there and talk with folk, and through
being who we are, reveal a sense of God’s love, which is
for everyone. Do we make that clear? If not, how can we do
this?
And do we pray, intentionally pray, for God’s guidance and
a sense of his Spirit? Not in the ‘Dear God, please help
me/us to do this, that and the other’ type of way. We
can’t project our hopes and wishes onto God and hope for a
miracle! We can, however, pray intentionally for the Holy
Spirit to guide us in ways and paths we may never have
thought of.
The big point from today is can we pray and trust enough
in Jesus to see what He will do, where He will lead us?
Over to you. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:51 am.


 
Monday, 19 July 2021:

Trinity VII Mark 6:30-34, 53-56


Trinity VII Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest
awhile.”
A few weeks ago, I remember asking you to think of your
favourite coastline or beach. We thought about how it is
when it’s calm and peaceful, and how it changes during a
storm. Today we hear Jesus speak directly to us. “Come
away by yourselves and rest awhile.”
Dependent upon my mood, when I hear those words I’m either
transported to a beach in North Wales, with the stunning
mountains of Snowdonia all around and the beautiful
coastline of the Llyn Peninsular. Or, I may be taken to
the island of Lindisfarne with its rich sense of history,
of pilgrimage, of prayer, of peace and restoration. On
other days I could be (in my mind’s eye) in the Forest of
Dean or Cannock Chase, both beautiful forests with space
to explore away from the popular walking or activity
spots.
I wonder where you would go, either physically or in your
mind’s eye, to rest awhile.
Somewhere where you can rest awhile in God, not to be
rushing around or forever available to anyone. Somewhere
where you can rest and ‘be’ even if only for a few hours.
You’ll have worked out by now that I like to imagine the
scene. It’s worth spending time to try to put yourself
into the story – are you an onlooker, a disciple, someone
who desperately wants to see Jesus so that you can be
healed? Jesus is becoming a popular figure. Crowds are
attracted to him and Jesus responds by teaching and
healing. And as he looks at the crowds he feels an
overriding sense of compassion for them. They need more
than healing. They need to know and experience God’s
love. They have to be taught.
The disciples have just returned from their first mission
on their own, where they themselves were witness to Jesus,
they healed and taught crowds wherever they went. So you
can imagine this first meeting of them all – living on
their nerves, each desperate to say what they’ve been
doing and to validate their own calling – and what
happens? They can hardly be heard. Jesus understands. He
gets it, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the buzz of work
well done. His reaction is the same as we saw when he was
with Jairus and the little girl. His reaction is to care –
practically – for his disciples before they face
exhaustion and burnout. We sense his compassion for them.
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest
awhile.”
We see Jesus putting the needs of others before himself.
Caring for the wellbeing of the disciples. But then he
realises the crowd is still urgent, insistent.
The short boat trip is the only time the disciples and
Jesus have time to themselves. The boat becomes a
sanctuary, whereas a few weeks ago it was anything but (in
the calming of the storm.) The Sea of Galilee is really a
medium sized lake, surrounded by mountains, and the crowd
could therefore track the progress of the boat out on the
sea before it came to land.
Jesus, as I said, sees and understands the urgency of the
crowd. He feels compassion. Compassion isn’t merely about
pity or sympathy. I think it’s a gut-wrenching ache, of
caring for others, of walking beside them, of providing
for them. The crowd must engulf the boat as the disciples
and Jesus come to land. Jesus it seems to me is calm,
responsive. He understands the people are lost – they
lack an awareness of God in their lives. I can’t help
comparing the kind of leader Jesus is to Herod, thinking
of last week’s reading. Here we have two kings. One rules
by fear. The other, by compassion. Compassion – an urge
to alleviate the suffering of others. To walk alongside
them.
I wonder if the boat itself becomes the place of retreat,
even if for such a short time. And I wonder if you’ve
ever gazed up with wonder at the roof inside an older
church. On Wednesday evening, I looked up at the roof
inside St Peter’s in the city centre during choral
evensong. It stuck me that the roof is like the hull of
an upturned boat. The church building itself can become a
place of retreat.
I end with a meditation from Nick Fawcett. It’s called
‘Meditation of Matthew.”
He was concerned for the multitude, we knew that,
for he’d ministered to them so often,
responding to the broken in body, mind and spirit,
and bringing hope and healing.
But he was equally concerned about us-
about our wholeness too.
We’d forgotten that in our excitement,
too focused on our newfound mission
after he sent us out to preach and teach in his name.
Some of us had travelled miles,
determined to cover the most ground,
reach the most people,
win the most converts,
each vying to outdo the other,
almost as if it were a competition.
We meant well, of course,
but, looking back, I realise it was too much about us,
and too little about him-
as though everything depended on our efforts,
whereas finally, of course, it was down to him.
You should have seen us when we got together again.
Like excited schoolchildren we were,
each desperate to share what we’d been up to and to win
his plaudits,
but he gently quietened us,
urging us first to get some rest and take some food.
The message was simple:
we were called to serve,
not run ourselves into the ground;
to minister to others
but also to take care of ourselves,
and, to do that, we needed time and space for reflection –
time and space for God.
He didn’t ram the point home,
just gently offered guidance,
and events were to prove him right,
for, before we knew it, the crowd was upon us again,
jostling,
seeking,
demanding.
We realised then, more than ever, the wisdom of his words,
the importance of physical and spiritual refreshment.
Work for God’s kingdom, certainly,
do what you can to bring it nearer,
but don’t think it depends entirely on you.
Make time for yourself as well as others,
or else you’ll be no use to anyone,
including him.

Jesus’ compassion, not only for the crowd but for his
disciples, shows he understands the need for spiritual and
physical rest.
What compassion do we show for the marginalized, for the
abused, for the ‘other.’
And do we pay attention to ourselves, to go away to a
deserted place by ourselves, and rest awhile.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:22 pm.


 
Saturday, 10 July 2021:

Trinity V1 Proper 10 Mark 6:14-29




May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last week was such a special moment in the life of this
church community, and I’d like to thank each and every one
of you for your involvement and participation. There was a
real feeling of community, a sense of God’s presence and
power, and a deep feeling of being in God’s presence.
Our reading from Samuel touches on the presence of God,
the power of God amongst the people of Israel. They
regard the Ark of God as a symbol of God’s presence and
power, and they understand all too well the dangers and
the joys of being aware that they are in God’s presence.
I’ll avoid the temptation to drift off into fantasy land,
but if you’ve watched the Indiana Jones film Raiders of
the Lost Ark, you’ll know that as the Ark is found and
opened, it radiates glory and power and a real sense of
the presence of someone or something unknown, a powerful
entity.

This powerful entity is expounded in our reading from
Ephesians, this lyrical reading which, in the original
Greek, is written as one long sentence. The trouble with
that is that it needs translating for those who don’t read
Greek, and there are limitations and some confusion as to
how and where to punctuate this passage, where to
demarcate the sentences, which words accurately convey the
author’s original meaning.
Well, I’m no Greek scholar, but the beginning of the
passage accurately reflects how blessed we were last week,
and how blessed we are, fullstop. The times when we can
come together as a community to celebrate and witness a
wedding, or a win for your national or local team, or
whatever the occasion. We come together in joy, and in
sorrow, but as a church we are here, called to bless our
neighbours and our local communities of which we are a
part. We are called to be ‘in Christ’ or ‘through Christ’
– as a whole community, not just a collection of
individuals but as a new way of being, collectively. Our
lives are experienced and lived ‘in Christ’ – we are
joined by, and in, the presence of God. In Christ we
mourn together, we rejoice together, we join together.
So what’s this got to do with our Gospel reading, where we
have another ‘Markan sandwich’ with the story of John’s
death recorded within the commissioning of the Twelve and
their return.
Mark gives us a very different interpretation of Herod
than Matthew. Mark’s Herod is almost sympathetic to John.
However, he has the power. If we think of all the powerful
leaders of our world, we can all imagine the violence they
can release – in recent years we can name ethnic
cleansing, street children, children scrabbling for food
in waste dumps – yes, we see images of all these on our TV
screens. There are leaders and dictators who ignore the
rights of ordinary people, so that they can make sure they
stay in power.
I’m not saying that’s Mark’s portrayal of Herod, but it is
something to think through. For Herod is a powerful man.
We hear, however, that he feared John, acknowledging that
John is a holy, righteous man. John’s life differs vastly
to Herod’s. John lives simply. He preaches to the poor,
but was not afraid to challenge the powerful and rich.
Think where he lived – he lived in the wilderness. Herod
even liked to listen to John. He heard God’s word. So
what caused him to grant John’s execution?
Perhaps he did not believe that he needed to repent, to
listen to God, maybe he did believe that he could live a
simpler life or allow his identity to God to come to the
fore. Maybe he did not feel he deserved God’s love. Who
knows? What he did do, was to allow evil to exist, and to
build on it, and not challenge it.
We read in Mark that Herod protected John, until the
request came from his daughter for the head of John the
Baptist. Herod’s public oath was his own demise, for in
the Biblical tradition, Jews did not dismiss any oaths.
We learn of Herodias’ grudge against John only in Mark’s
Gospel. That Herod had married his brother’s wife, and
that John disapproved. Traditionally we imagine the
daughter to be provocative, dancing in a sexually alluring
manner. However, the Greek word that Mark uses for her is
‘korasion’ and Mark uses the same word for Jairus’s
daughter, remember, when Jesus said, “Little girl, get
up?” It’s difficult to picture the scene, but however old
she was, she was promised whatever she wanted – and her
mother then suggested the head of John the Baptist.
In the Bible, those agents of God who challenge those in
power and authority usually come to a sticky end. John’s
case was no different.
John strived to conform to God’s will. He remained
faithful, and dies for his faith. How courageous was he,
in his fight for justice.
Who are the John’s of this world, the John’s in the
wilderness, in all the places where God’s love is not
being lived?
What would John say to the tyrants of today?
And how does this translate to our lives? For we are
rightly concerned with the life of our church, and of our
building, but where do we challenge injustice? Poverty?
Do we have the courage to stand up to the tyrants of
today, or to stand up to today’s false values?
Do we speak out for justice?
Herod was left wondering if in some way, Jesus was John
the Baptist.
Herod had a sense that John was a man of God, and began to
fear Jesus.
So what’s all this mean for us?
There are times when we may try to shut out God’s voice,
to stop unwelcome questions, but we end up going round in
circles. Does the desire to please people override our
desire to obey God?
For nothing can shut out God’s voice, and the reality is
that as we challenge injustice and speak up for those who
have no voice, only then do we begin to find a peace with
God and ourselves.
So our big challenge is to be honest with ourselves. What
is God calling us to do, individually and as a
congregation?
What are the next steps for our Church?
Amen

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:07 pm.


 
Saturday, 26 June 2021:

Trinity 4 (Proper 8) Mark 5:21-43



In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Yet again we have crowd scenes in today’s Gospel story,
and yet again I have to try to remember what it felt like
to be part of a crowd, given the strange times we have
been living through. Two years ago this week I was
ordained priest and the congregation felt quite big in St
Michael’s Lichfield. Almost three years ago I was
ordained Deacon in a packed Cathedral – now yes, that felt
like a crowd, albeit an orderly crowd. Then I think back
to other crowds I’ve been in, at concerts and shows, but
particularly at football matches. Several occasions stick
out in my mind at various games, times when we’ve been
right in the middle of a slow, shuffling crowd edging its
way towards an exit. Several bleats of “Baaaa!” and good
natured banter surrounded us as we slowly crept forwards.
At times like this you become so aware of the other people
around you; elbows nudging you, pushes in the back, the
occasional knock on your ankles or legs – gosh it’s a good
job the football was worth it!

Mark sandwiches one story inside another. We begin with a
young girl who is so ill that her distraught father goes
to find Jesus to ask him to heal her. What’s so
noticeable about that, you may ask – by this point,
Jesus’s reputation had spread so far that many people
realised that here was someone different who made things
happen. Well, Jairus was a Jewish leader, a leader at the
synagogue. What must it have cost him to find Jesus and
to beg for healing for his daughter?
Mark interrupts this story by telling us of another
healing, this time a healing that’s unasked for. We hear
of the woman who has been bleeding for twelve long years.
Then our Gospel passage ends with Jesus raising Jairus’s
daughter, even though she had already died whilst waiting
for Jesus to arrive.
Why does Mark write like this? These stories reveal Jesus
to us in different ways. They point to Jesus’s healing
power but also of the nature of salvation we can find
through him. It looks like Jesus can heal even when he
himself does not initiate that healing. He can raise
someone who he failed to heal in time.
We recall that Jesus was in a boat, with crowds around –
crossing the lake - and today’s Gospel links our last two
weeks’ stories, from both the Jewish and the Gentile sides
of the lake, or the sea.
Jairus has faith in Jesus. He believes that if Jesus lays
his hands on his beloved twelve-year-old daughter, she
will be healed. What must it have cost him as synagogue
leader to associate with Jesus, given the mixed reputation
that Jesus had? Then we hear how the crowds press in on
Jesus. The crowds make such a noise, and move so slowly…
and the woman who has been bleeding for so many years
manages to get near to Jesus. Unheard of – not only is
she a woman, she’s an outcast because of her bleeding.
She must have been wealthy at one point, because she has
spent money on doctors, trying to get better. Can you
imagine her – I imagine her pale and listless, in pain.
She is ritually unclean, at the bottom of the pile.
Desperate to be healed, for this bleeding to stop.
I can imagine Jairus’s frustration and fear as Jesus
stands still. “Who touched me?” Jesus asks. Hear the
laughs of the crowd; “Well, how on earth can we find out
who touched you, Jesus, look around you, it’s a sea of
people!” I can imagine the crowd saying.
Not much loving in a crowd, is there. And yet Jesus
stops, full of love. He knows something has happened. He
knows what has happened. And yet, “who touched me?” he
asks. Can you sense the crowd’s impatience as he stops,
and talks, and with his compelling eyes almost demands the
woman to come forward and announce herself? Many of the
crowd would know of her and her story and I suspect would
be really annoyed at Jesus spending time with her. And she
had the nerve to touch the hem of Jesus’s clothes.
Immediately, she knows within herself that she is healed.
She has no need of a doctor to say she is cured. She
knows at that split second that she is cured, her bleeding
has ceased. She is brave enough to overcome the crowd’s
increasing hostility towards her. She tells Jesus what has
happened.
“Daughter,” says Jesus.
He sees not an outcast or reject, but he sees her for who
she is. He sees her fully restored. She waits – not for
an outpouring of anger, but for his gentle love. For his
blessing of peace.
Then we return to the house of Jairus, where, as he and
Jesus and the crowd approach, they are met by wailing and
professional mourners and a tidal wave of grief. Jesus,
being Jesus, says, “Why all the fuss and commotion? The
child is asleep.” And we can imagine the crowd mocking
him.
It’s Jairus and his wife who witness what happens next,
for Jesus withdraws them from the crowd and takes them to
the child. We know the story – he takes her hand, says,
“Little girl, get up!” – and incredibly, astonishingly,
amazingly, that’s exactly what she does.
Telling the family to keep quiet, Jesus attends to
practical matters: “Give her something to eat,” he directs
the astounded, overjoyed parents.
The mysterious Jesus. We are pointed to a new way of
healing, and of new creation. Both stories are about fear
and faith. It’s worth thinking through, and praying
through, both stories separately. Tom Wright, the
theologian, suggests that when we feel the pressures of
life crowding in upon us, we can allow ourselves to creep
forwards, touch the hem of Jesus’s clothes – creep up
behind Jesus, in the odd mixture of faith and fear that
seems to characterize so much of our Christian
discipleship.
This is not a magician, creating magic tricks. We know he
is God’s Son – the onlookers don’t know that at this
point, of course.
Don’t be afraid, Jesus is saying. There’s enough love for
everyone. Love for the outcast, for the sick, for women,
for men, for children. God’s love and care is for
everyone.
Commitment to Jesus is no guarantee of an easy ride. Not
every problem will be resolved as we would wish, healing
does not always happen, death will come to us all.
There’s no guarantee of a trouble-free ride through life.
What we do have, though, is the assurance that God travels
this path with us, for strength and support, for comfort.
We have an unclean, outcast woman playing a central part
in Jesus’s teaching of redemption and healing.
We have a twelve-year-old girl showing us the power of
Christ to restore us to fullness of life.
We’re left, as ever, with questions. Why did Jesus tell
them not to tell anyone what had happened? Why did Jesus
do something about the little girl only after it had been
brought to his attention? After all, many other children
would die in those times. Why does Mark note that Jesus
says, “Talitha, cum”, the Aramaic words when the rest of
the narrative speech is not recorded? What is the
significance of twelve, given that the child is aged
twelve and the woman had been bleeding for twelve years?
Perhaps these stories can help us to navigate our way
through life’s storms.
Perhaps these stories show us God’s healing power, both
spiritual and physical.
Salvation, healing and faith. That’s the point of these
stories being included in the Gospel, and today’s reading
especially feels to me like it has been written by an eye
witness. The woman’s faith saves her, and then she is
healed. So faith, salvation, healing, are all bound
together in the presence and power of Jesus.
I wonder, how will our lives be transformed as we continue
to follow Christ in discipleship?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:20 pm.


 
Saturday, 19 June 2021:

Trinity 3 (Proper 7) The Stilling of the Storm



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
I wonder if you, like me, find the sea an irresistible
call.
I wonder if the sea invokes in you a sense of majesty, of
awe, of inspiration. Never the same, constantly moving,
one-minute calm, the next a sudden surge and swell.
I wonder if the sea captivates you, with the smells, the
sounds, the salty taste of the air.
I wonder if there is an area of coastline that is
particularly special to you, somewhere you go to – in your
mind’s eye – for restoration of body and soul.
And I wonder if, for you, the sense of paddling through
the shallows and jumping the waves, creates in you an
overwhelming sense of the vastness and power of God, as
you look ahead to the horizon and see miles and miles of
water. I wonder if, either physically or in your mind’s
eye, this is where you meet God, aware of God’s majesty
and power. Is this the place where you are aware of God?

Now imagine that same coastline in a sudden storm. Hear
the waves crashing as they tumble and surge upon the
beach, or around the harbour walls. Hear the roar of the
gale. Again, from the safety of the land, we can marvel at
the power and strength of the sea. Marvel at the sheer
awesomeness of nature. Marvel at the glory of God’s
creation.
But the disciples out on the boat on the Sea of Galilee
were very much in the middle of the storm. The Sea lies
low in the great Rift Valley, surrounded by steep hills.
It is prone to sudden storms such as we read about in
today’s Gospel. These storms were life threatening, make
no mistake about that. These storms were well-known to the
Galilean fishermen. These storms were well known,
therefore, to the disciples in the boat.
So can you imagine their panic, their fear, as they try to
bale water out of the boat, as they desperately try to
keep their balance, as they hear the creaking of their
frail vessel as waves pound against its hull.
And where’s Jesus? Improbably, almost impossibly, he is
asleep. Resting as peacefully as if he’s dozing in a sunny
garden on a warm afternoon.
If you were in that boat, I wonder how you’d be feeling
now. I wonder how safe you feel, as the waves pitch your
small boat higher and higher and then the sudden drop
until the next wave comes.
And can you imagine the deeper sense of fear and wonder as
the disciples wake up Jesus. Perhaps they see that he
himself displays no sense of fear. I wonder if they see
no sign of concern across his face when he realises the
situation they’re in. The wind is rebuked. And, to the
waves – “Peace! Be still!”
I wonder if the disciples, at that moment, felt more
frightened of Jesus than they had of the storm.
Just who is this man?
Perhaps we miss the startling nature of this story, for we
come to it already knowing who Jesus is. We know he is the
Son of God. The disciples have been with Jesus a while –
seen him heal the sick, forgive sins – but this is a whole
new level of power, isn’t it. Here’s Jesus changing not
only people, but the world itself.
And here’s Jesus rebuking the disciples. “Why are you
afraid? Have you still no faith?” he asks. Rebuking them
for their lack of faith.
The theologian Tom Wright says that early Christians
reading this story would instinctively have thought of the
Goliaths ahead of them, waiting to challenge them and
their God. This story would bring home to them the
challenge to be faithful despite everything.
And having spent last week studying the early Reformation
in Europe, it brings home to me the costly nature of
following God.
For we have many daily fears, don’t we. When we’re out,
our minds race ahead to alert us to possible dangers. And
there are health worries, financial, economical, and
worries and concerns we carry for our friends and loved
ones.
“Peace. Be still,” says Jesus. Faith in Jesus doesn’t
mean that everything will automatically be okay or easy.
He may calm our fears, but we are still called to try to
heal the hurts of this world. We may not always see the
results of our efforts but he will work through them – we
have to have faith.
For we can’t control the world around us any more than
those early disciples could do. What we can do is to
trust, and pray.
And Paul, continuing in his letter to the Corinthians,
might by now be battered yet still he goes forwards,
urging the Corinthians to open their hearts and lives to
God.
Back to our Gospel. For here we see the mysterious Jesus.
This is not just another miracle story. In context, we’ve
just had the sowing of the seeds, and we are drawn into
the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And perhaps the
troubles out on the boat are storms of life but also
cosmic. Context is key, for, we know Mark’s Gospel was
written about 70 AD, at around the time of the Destruction
of the Temple – where the very place at the centre of
worship was destroyed, the cultural and religious centre
was no more. What would that feel like to the early
Christians? How scared must they have felt?
In today’s Gospel passage, there is one little sentence
that slips though almost unnoticed. I wonder if it
registered with you…
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the
boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.”
Other boats were with him! So there were others there too,
out in the sea, in that terrible storm. There with him,
but not in the same boat. And how we’ve travelled these
last sixteen months, all of us, travelling through the
same storm of the pandemic, but not necessarily in the
same boat.
There’s a prayer from Evening Prayer that stays on my
heart:
‘Still us, O Lord, as you stilled the storm;
Calm us, O Lord, keep us from harm.
Let all tumult within us cease,
Enfold us Lord in your peace.
Still us, Lord, as you stilled the storm.”
Perhaps, if we allow ourselves to be still, we may hear
God’s voice calling to us.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:13 pm.


 
Thursday, 17 June 2021:

Trinity 2 Proper VI



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
One of the things I love about this time of year is the
profusion and riot of colour and plants in the gardens and
hedgerows. When I walk or run by the canal, I see bees and
butterflies and other insects busily going about their
business, flying from plant to plant, and over the last
two weeks there seems to have been an explosion of cow
parsley, nettles and other plants (I don’t know all the
names!) We’re encouraged to grow wild gardens to encourage
insects. At home, we along with many others I know, have
planted wild seeds and we’re quite excited to see small
shoots begin to grow.
And several members of the congregation have, I know, been
busy tending sunflowers, growing from the seeds we gave
out on Easter Day.
It always fascinates me how seeds begin to grow. I
remember from my teaching days how small children wondered
with amazement as they watched bean shoots grow, and have
you ever grown cress? I remember we grew cress for
vegetation along a pretend River Nile one year when we
learned about Ancient Egypt – and children loved to see
how quickly seeds grew.
Children are taught to see the miracle of new life as
seeds germinate and send out shoots.
As adults, it’s easy to forget this miracle, for it is
indeed a miracle. And in Mark’s Gospel the seed metaphors
just keep coming.
Mustard seeds produce a sprawling plant. It could easily
take over a field. Nothing like the mighty cedars we
remember from Psalms – these would be tall, strong trees
and would take years to grow. Nations compared themselves
to the mighty cedars. In comparison, the mustard plant
was short. Scruffy. Small. When Jesus lived, the mustard
seed would produce prolific plants like a common weed and
would start to multiply. A bit like thistles, but bigger.
Growing steadily. Not easily got rid of.
It’s only comparatively recently that we’ve learned the
importance of shade, both for ourselves and for other
wildlife. In places in the Mediterranean or African
climates, shade has long been regarded as important. I
remember the heatwave of 1976, in particular going on a
school trip to see England Ladies’ cricket team play, and
coming home quite sunburnt – we seemed unaware back then
of the dangers of sun and I don’t recall taking lots of
water or sun cream with me, nor a hat. We’ve experienced
more scorching days over the years, and I guess we all
understand the longing for shade in those times.

Mark’s Gospel gives us very few parables. The ones he
does include – and he was probably writing about 70 years
after Jesus’s crucifixion – really count. They matter. It
really irritates me that we read Jesus spoke to everyone
in parables, but explained everything in private to his
disciples. It would have been really helpful if those
explanations had been shared with us. We have to pray and
think carefully through our readings, through the stories,
and ask God for guidance. What are these stories telling
us here today?
Jesus speaks of seeds growing without any help or
interference from us. After all, although we may water our
gardens and plants we don’t rush to water the hedgerows or
the wild islands in town, do we, and the hedgerows seem to
be doing alright.
God’s Kingdom will take root so subtly we may not
recognize it. It will take root in the world. In our
parish. In our hearts.
Perhaps the mighty mustard seed gives us an inkling that
God’s kingdom will not necessarily look pretty. It will,
however, establish comfort and shade for wild creatures.
It will give us comfort as and support as reach out to
others and do what we can to spread the word of God. I can
imagine the birds finding shelter in the protective shade
of the mustard tree. I wonder, do we get that God’s
Kingdom provides space for us to just be… to shelter…
somewhere where we can be at any time…somewhere where we,
too, can grow, if we are properly planted.
“The greatest of all shrubs,” says Jesus. I can just
imagine him grinning as he speaks, and how his listeners
would laugh at the absurdity of a mustard seed being seen
as the greatest of all plants. For this is a truly
ordinary plant which will steadily take over the ground
inch by inch.
So, what is this telling us? God’s reign will be
established without any boundaries. The shoots will grow
at any moment, anywhere. Every single one of us will have
different roots – we all have our own history, our own
story. Some of us will have firm roots made during a safe
childhood, when we were nurtured by loving parents. Others
will have formed roots from firm friendships, or perhaps
from a local church. We need firm roots in order to grow.
Jesus’s followers may have thought the small seed meant
Jesus himself, and that new beginnings, change, would
happen through him. I wonder when they began to realise
that Jesus meant they were the small seeds, too. Following
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, his followers were
called to scatter the seed themselves.
And it may feel a bit like that to us. What difference can
we make, what chance do we have of spreading God’s kingdom
– the story of love – who on earth is going to listen to
us? How can we make any difference at all?
Well, there’s one big thing to remember. We’re not on our
own. We’re working with God. God gives us the seed,
nurtures it, causes it to grow, in ways we would never
have dreamt of. And that’s why we have a baptism here
later today. Who knows what the seeds will produce. We may
never know – but God knows.
Remember great results come from small beginnings. We have
exciting times ahead, but daunting ones too – the roof to
sort, finances to look at, but also the exciting
opportunity of reaching out to others, letting them know
we are here – a welcoming community of people of faith,
trying in our own way to show Jesus’s love to those with
whom we meet.
The Good News of Christ spreads no matter what we do –
like a weed that’s difficult to get rid of.
Like a mustard seed.
In God’s hands, a little goes a long way.
I wonder, what suggestions do you have, to spread the love
of God around you?
I wonder, what ideas is God planting in you, for you to
bring to harvest?
Whatever you’re able to do, do it in faith. Remember
great results come from small beginnings.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:06 pm.


 
Saturday, 5 June 2021:

Trinity 1(Proper 5) Mark 3:20-35



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
As Fr Michael said last week, now begins our period of
growth, the season of the church’s year when we can
revisit many of Jesus’s words and actions and think
through what they mean for us here today. The altar
frontal is green, linking us to the natural world outside
where there is so much growth and beauty. The major
festivals are done for this liturgical year, which began
on Advent Sunday. Now we take stock. We breathe. And if
we allow ourselves, we grow.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, I find myself having to
remember what it’s like to be out in a crowd. Living
through a pandemic brings restrictions, of course, and as
we gently ease out of them it can feel strange having
other people around us. Only two weeks ago, the numbers
allowed in the chapels at the Crem were raised from 15 to
30, and my goodness how the congregation felt like a crowd
the first service I took when 30 people arrived! Think
back to crowded market days, or crowds at a football
match, or a busy town centre, or a very busy seafront like
Blackpool. Hear the noise, the banter, feel yourself
buffered by others, with the cacophony of sound, the smell
of people, allow yourself to enter the general hubbub.
And that’s the crowd scene where people are desperate to
hear what Jesus has to say, interested in a new way of
life, people drawn to listen to this itinerant preacher.
That’s in a time when news spread by word of mouth, by
people talking about Jesus as they travelled around. No
social media, radio, tv scenes on the news. But the way
crowds are gathering alerts the authorities. And so to
add to our crowd scene, the scribes and leaders arrive
from Jerusalem.
Not being open to the Holy Spirit, they denounce Jesus as
the agent of Satan. Of evil. Of the unknown. They show
their narrow thinking, how they are unprepared to explore
how God may restore his Creation. They show that they
themselves have no hope, that this is how life is, it just
is! They see how people around them are set free from
illness or from their troubles – but are suspicious of
Jesus and of his ways. No, they decide, Jesus is a
trouble maker. Someone who is whipping crowds into a
frenzy and speaking in the name of God. He is to be
watched, marked. And so they denounce him as an agent of
Satan.
And into this scene, arrives Jesus’s family. I can just
imagine Mary in the village in Nazareth, listening to all
the rumours that reach their mountain home. “Oh no,” she
thinks. “What’s he doing now? He’s not even looking after
himself! He’ll make himself ill!” So the family hurry to
Capernaum, a 30 mile journey, to try to persuade Jesus to
tone it down a bit. They don’t want Jesus to be branded as
a rebel, and Mary’s determined to try to convince Jesus to
behave, tone it down, possibly come home for a rest –
after all, he’s not thinking clearly, is he, he must be
‘beside himself.’ As they near Capernaum they don’t need
to ask where Jesus is staying for the crowds show only too
clearly where he is. “Jesus will listen to me,” I can
imagine Mary thinking.

So we have the crowds. The scribes from Jerusalem.
Jesus’s family arrived from Nazareth. And these three
groups of people are all brought together when Jesus
speaks.
For Jesus acknowledges people where they are. He spends
little time refuting the scribes’ assessment of him. He
points out flaws in their thinking. What he is doing is
establishing God’s Kingdom.
For God’s Kingdom arrives and is established through
Jesus.
And if we think about it, the early Church didn’t think he
was mad.
Jesus says to the scribes and leaders that if everyone
pulls together, everyone is stronger. If a kingdom stands
together, or a household, they make a stronger unit. They
are a safer unit than if they stand in dissension.
We’ve seen this time and time again, haven’t we, when we
see politicians arguing back and forth across the House of
Commons, or simply slating each other’s policies and often
each other in interviews. “Why don’t they pull together
for the good of everyone?” I’ve often wondered. And in a
way Jesus is making the same point. Work together for the
good of everyone.

What Jesus does in this passage, and does very clearly, is
to redraw the lines of family. In a culture where family
and kinship was everything, he redraws the boundaries. At
that time your identity and stability were all bound up in
kinship. Perhaps his words “whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother” are not so shocking
to us in the Western world in 2021 – for the natural way
of things is for families to disperse, to live their own
lives – we don’t expect them to come home to live. With a
brother who lives in Crete and a son who lives in Portugal
and family scattered both north and south, much as I love
to see them all and would love to see them, I know that
they are living their own lives. But to those who heard
Jesus, those words were shocking. They had tight family
bonds and family loyalty. Yes, we may have that today but
in a more dispersed sense. These were deeply shocking
words.
I wonder if Mary had any idea what Jesus was up to.
For He was creating a new family, a new holy people.
And being a follower of Jesus isn’t cosy, isn’t easy. It’s
shocking. We are called to stick with Jesus whatever the
cost.
Called to walk with God through every aspect of our lives,
constantly praying for His guidance.
Many people in that crowd were worried. Worried for their
safety – we’ve all seen how large crowds can be
inappropriately policed and how a peaceful protest, for
example, can escalate into a riot – crowds excited at the
news Jesus was bringing them, with an alternative way of
life, of thinking, of being. Scribes and leaders worried
about crowd safety and about their own positions – just
who does this itinerant preacher think he is! And the
family, worried about the rumours of Jesus being branded
as a Galilean rebel, come to persuade him to go home with
them.
Crowds. Scribes and leaders. Family. All worried in their
own way about different things relating to Jesus. All who
hear his message in very different ways.

Exactly as we do, here, today. For the Good News is not
always comfortable news. The Good News is shocking, for we
have to respond. God’s reign means we are involved, if we
respond to Christ.
Whatever our political, social, cultural, economic or
ethnic allegiances, we are to put God at the very centre
of our lives.
I can imagine the crowd drinking in each and every one of
Jesus’s words. Listening with rapt attention as He made
God known to each and every one of them. Honouring the
Father, doing His will.
I wonder, do we listen to His voice with the same
attention. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:24 pm.


 
Friday, 4 June 2021:

Trinity Sunday 30/5/21




“Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not
understand these things?” John 3:10
Most of us grow up with fairy stories. These are the tales
that offer us heroes and heroines, magic and fantasy,
danger and courage.
Whatever disruption has taken place, whatever evil has to
be overcome, in the end we find a state of contentment,
with the assurance that the characters will live “happily
ever after”. The story reaches the joyous peak and then
closes.
As children, we are left satisfied that everything has
been sorted out and put right, and that the characters we
have been cheering for are living a life of endless bliss.
As we grow up, we might ponder – perhaps as we retell
those same stories to our own children or grandchildren –
what really happens beyond the final page?
What lies after the “happy ever after” conclusion?
What happens now?
Trinity Sunday arrives in the Church’s year after a long
seam of rich and spiritually engaging narratives.
It feels like the natural end point of a season that began
as far back as Advent.
We have, since December, been in a lockdown, taken in
Christmas, Candlemas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension
and Pentecost.
All of salvation history is done and now we return to
“Ordinary” Time and the many Sundays after Trinity.
Trinity Sunday sends us out into Ordinary Time with a
flourish.
Isaiah has his tremendous vision of God in the Temple,
“high and lofty”; Paul bursts with joy and delight in
praise of the God we may call “Abba”.
In the Gospel reading Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, has a
mind-bending encounter with Jesus that challenges
everything he thought he knew.
But what happens next?
What happens in the ordinary time?
In the verses immediately beyond Isaiah 6:8, God tells
Isaiah that he is going to preach to people who will not
listen to him. God doesn’t want them to listen in case
they repent.
The city will be laid waste, the land will be desolate,
and the people will go into exile.
After the majestic vision of God, Isaiah discovers he has
a hard and unwelcome message to preach.
After a lyrical burst of praise in Romans 8, Paul turns
immediately to a dense argument about the relationship
between Jews and Gentiles.
We move from the transformation of the universe to the
nitty gritty of church life.
In John’s gospel, after a life-changing encounter with
Jesus, Nicodemus does not drop everything to follow him;
we next meet him in John 7, in a council meeting, where he
is being harassed.
He returns in John 19 to help bury Jesus.
He moves from a thrilling conversation, to a council
meeting, and death.
Our faith in God as Trinity tells us that the divine
purpose encompasses all of life, the ordinary as well as
the festive.
God encompasses everything.
Whether we are sitting in unpleasant meetings, like
Nicodemus, or having unhelpful conversations with people
who don’t listen, like Isaiah.
Or dealing with disputes and squabbles, like Paul.
Or simply doing the daily stuff of life, God as Trinity
embraces it all and weaves through it all, breathes in it
all.
Because the ordinary matters.
If the ordinary matters, if God possesses and encompasses
the ordinary as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then we
matter too, when we are ordinary.
And all of us are ordinary, for most of the time.
So, what happens next?
What happens now the major Christian festivals are over
until December?
Now the growth begins, now we learn to live each day
again, as God’s people.
Now we wait for the whispers of God’s spirit, for glimpses
of glory, for quiet imitations of love and hope.
We learn, like Isaiah, Paul and Nicodemus before us, to
recognise them for what they are: the exquisite and
extraordinary signposts of God set within our daily,
ordinary, life.


Sermon by Fr Michael, thank you.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:46 pm.


 
Sunday, 23 May 2021:

Sermon Pentecost Sunday Year B 23/5/2021


Sermon Pentecost Sunday Year B 23/5/2021

Lord, take my lips and speak through them,
Take our minds and think through them,
Take our hearts, and set them on fire with your love.
Amen.
I wonder what it was like on the day of Pentecost when the
Holy Spirit came and rested on Jesus’s followers in
Jerusalem. What is this ‘Counsellor’ Jesus is talking
about?
Today – Pentecost Sunday – is a great day for our APCM,
for it allows us to look back objectively at the year
that’s past, and begins to allow us chance to look forward
to the future. Chance to reflect on the gifts the Holy
Spirit has given us as a congregation and to focus on an
awareness of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.
And so not a sermon from me per se, but a meditation from
the writer Nick Fawcett, who writes a short discussion
between three of the disciples, Peter, James and John. We
will read this in three voices. Allow yourself to be part
of the discussion:
From today’s Gospel: John 16:12-14
“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 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.”

Meditation of Peter, James and John
Peter: There were things he felt unable to tell us at
the time, not because he
didn’t want to or had something to hide, but
because we simply
weren’t ready to hear them.
John: We weren’t expecting his death, for a start,
each of us still secretly hoping he’d reign
on
earth, here and now.
James: And if we weren’t prepared for his death,
we weren’t ready either for his
resurrection.
None of us believed the tomb was empty, not
at first. We thought it was nonsense, do
you
recall?
John: It was his return to the Father though that got
me most – I just couldn’t get my head round
it.
One moment he was back by our side and the
next gone again. Or so it seemed at the
time.
Peter: And as for the gift of the Spirit, power from on
high, well, he may have promised it often
enough, but we’d no idea what he actually
meant! It took us by surprise completely!
John: Yes, we’ve come a long way since we rode
with him into Jerusalem,
the crowds welcoming him as king.
He’d told us what to expect, but we couldn’t
even take that in at first, let alone more.
James: And he continues to astonish us, even now,
the Spirit time and again offering fresh
insights into the things he taught us.
Peter: We needed time to learn,
to accept,
to grow,
and of course, we still do,
for we’re talking here of the things of
God,
of grasping the unseen.
James: It needs patience to do that,
John: Trust,
Peter: Discipline,
James: A life lived with him.
John: We’re on a journey of faith,
James: And we’ve not finished it yet,
Peter: Not by a long way.
All: We’ve only just begun.
We pray:
Mighty and mysterious God, we like to think we know it all
– that we have understood the Gospel and grasped the
wonder of who and what you are.
But the reality is different, for your ways are not our
ways, or your thoughts our thoughts.
So much is beyond us, leaving us baffled and bemused, and
much else is at best only partially fathomed.
Time and again what we thought we knew is challenged and
tested, needing to be either revised or discarded
altogether.
Give us the humility we need to accept that our knowledge
is incomplete, that there is always more to learn.
Open our hearts to the great adventure of discovery you
set before us, until that day when we finally see you face
to face, and know you, even as we are fully known.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:24 am.


 
Saturday, 22 May 2021:

Dementia Friends Sunday


I have spoken about how this has become an important part
of my life before, but I’ll recap…
I previously worked in Lightmoor View Care Home. I
randomly saw an advert for an activities coordinator,
knowing nothing about working with the elderly, or
dementia or EMI patients, but I knew the skills I had were
transferrable and it got me out of the hotel industry. My
time there was a bit unnerving at times, I remember
thinking I was out of my depth and wasn’t sure what I had
let myself in for but grew to love the role, times changed
and I took ownership of the role as a whole and then
luckily gained an amazing team and it felt like we worked
wonders. My love for supporting those with dementia had
begun, my job became less about a role to support the
residents alone and more about supporting the family and
friends watching their loved ones change daily. I will
never forget a lady saying to me on way back to the home
from a trip ‘I feel like his wife again’


I can honestly say my time at Lightmoor changed my life,
changed my outlook on life and my outlook on dementia as a
whole, while I agree Dementia is an awful disease, I refer
back to my experiences of happiness at Lightmoor, the
beaming smiles on residents faces, the everyday
conversations about children and family and home life, the
dancing, the laughter, yes at times confusion and anger
and anxiety, those living with Dementia may have changed
from the person they once were but getting into their
world and going along with some of the most random
conversations was a great highlight to my day. My time at
Lightmoor made me so incredibly thankful for my life, the
health my family share, the memories we are able to make
and cherish.
We don’t know what life is going to throw at us, but we
know the Love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be
with us always, as written in Romans chapter 8:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither
angels nor demons,, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have been in my current role for 3 years and although I
don’t work so closely with people living with Dementia but
I believe I was meant to do that job and my support for
them and the Alzheimer’s Society will continue.
The company I work for now manages the home that a member
of our congregation is now in, Limewood, in Stafford.
Throughout the pandemic I have been able to see just how
hard staff work to enhance the lives of those in their
care. I have been able to share pictures with family that
they ordinarily would not have seen. We recently had
company awards where 2 different awards went to staff at
that very home, one for the activities team going above
and beyond to stimulate and support the residents during
an extremely challenging time. The other to a housekeeper,
who stayed with a resident so they were not alone when
they passed away. There are some incredibly special people
in this world and in my opinion, those in the caring
profession and those supporting anyone affected by
Dementia are some of the very best.



Restrictions on our daily lives continue and it offers us
opportunities to reflect. Our normal social activities and
methods of contact are put on hold and our chances to
celebrate, comfort and support one another restricted. For
some, their chances of being with loved ones are gone,
their time together cut short and we pray that the love
and guidance of God will be with them.
We pray for the strength carers need not only to work
alongside those with Dementia but also with the added
pressures of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the way they
have adapted to continue contact with family and friends
and continue to offer their support and stimulation to
those in need. We hope that as restrictions continue to
ease families will receive comfort in being reunited.
The BBC aired a programme in 2019 called ‘The Dementia
Choir’ I may have already spoken about this but it was
incredible to watch, extremely emotional, heart warming
yet heart wrenching at the same time. The confidence,
support and joy the choir brought to all was incredible.
The programme proved how, sadly, this disease can affect
ANYONE.
As we head into Dementia Action Week I ask that as a
church we continue with our support and prayers for those
Living with Dementia. I ask that you pray for those living
with Dementia, their carers, their loved ones and for all
those who dedicate time and intelligence in to Dementia
research.
As a church we already do so much in being so welcoming
and reactive to anything which supports our efforts in
being Dementia Friendly.
We are committing to developing an information board for
ease of access to information and support available in the
local area. We will run another dementia friends session
when restrictions allow.
Last week we took Ciaran, Lucas and Niamh over to the hall
to discuss Dementia Action Week, we shared a video from
the Alzheimer’s Society called ‘My Grandma with Dementia’
and had a talk about Dementia, the effects of it and what
we can do, we spent time back in Church writing our own
prayer which you can see at the back of church and will
also be read during our intercessions. We discussed this
analogy from the Dementia Friends Session…. Dementia can
be thought of as set of fairy lights, like those that go
around the Christmas tree, the individual lights
representing different parts of the brain, Dementia
affects those lights, some may flicker on and off, some
may switch off completely. For those whom Christianity has
been a big and ongoing part of their lives we know that
the light and love of God will not go out.
Let prayer be our help, let prayer be our strength, let
prayer rise like a fountain of love.
May we come together in prayer for all those affected by
Dementia.
You all have a slip of paper with forget me nots on… I
invite you to write your own prayer for Dementia Action
Week and stick it on the board at the back of church as we
work together to continue to become a Dementia Friendly
Church.

Jen

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:01 pm.


 
Saturday, 8 May 2021:

6th Sunday of Easter


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever traced the Trinity symbol with your finger,
seeing how the symbol weaves its way around, never
stopping, always constant, always one continuous line? Or
imagine an old illuminated manuscript, lovingly worked
over by a monk in a remote cell many hundreds of years
ago, and in your mind’s eye allow yourself to sense the
richness of the colours, how one part of the image
seamlessly blends into the next, words carefully crafted.
Sense how every part of that manuscript is important.
Or think of your favourite song or orchestral piece or
choral piece. Each instrument or voice takes up their own
part and together they make a whole. The piece would not
work as well if the 2nd violins were missing, if the alto
was missing, if the guitar was missing. If even one bar of
music was missing, the music would be incomplete and
wouldn’t sound as it should. There would be a dissonance,
the music would jar.
And now come back to this morning’s Gospel reading from
John’s Gospel. It’s from what we call the final
discourse, where Jesus is giving his last instructions and
his last teaching to his disciples. And as we think of how
music or art would be incomplete if – to be blunt - we
took a bit out- well, John’s Gospel would be incomplete
without this teaching from Jesus.
For this passage is so important. It helps us to
understand what Jesus was and is all about. God’s plan for
us all, for all of His Creation, is for us to love each
other. To care for each other. Jesus must think this is
important for he hammers it home, doesn’t he.
And yet it’s so hard a commandment to follow. I wonder,
what stops you from loving your neighbour? From loving the
people around you and the people we don’t meet? What stops
you from loving the other, from loving those who may look
and act differently to you?
Jesus’s disciples must have had some inkling of how he
interpreted the Commandments, after following him for
three years. The underlying message is of love. We can
only show by our lives what God is like. Jesus now hammers
the message home to his disciples. Love God. Be loved by
God. Show God’s love.
“For your ways are not my ways,” we heard in our Old
Testament reading from Isaiah. “Listen to me. Listen, so
that you may live.” These words were written hundreds of
years before Jesus was born. God spoke to His people then,
he spoke through Jesus two thousand years ago, He speaks
to us now.
And we are given help and examples. We see how God loved
his Son, how God loves Jesus, who tells us we are his
friends, not his servants. We are not slaves – we are free
to serve God and to make sure as far as we can, we love
others. And if we do this, if we love God and take heed of
Jesus’ commandment, we show our love by actions, by
prayer, and most especially through the things we say.
We have Jesus’s examples and teachings to help us. His
parables, his miracles, the unexpected things he did to
show that he was there for everyone, regardless of their
social status, or nationality, regardless of Jew or
Gentile. Everything we do and say should be in and through
love. Love for each other and love for God.
The relationship of the Father and Son is interwoven with
the Holy Spirit, unable to be separated, much like the
illuminated manuscript, or the Trinity symbol or the piece
of music we thought about earlier. One minute we are
pondering God’s word through Isaiah, the next we are
thinking of Jesus’s words and his example. And the next
minute we are prompted by the Holy Spirit. In our reading
from Acts, Luke writes how the Jews were amazed that the
Gentiles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God’s love
and power is for everyone. It breaks boundaries.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. Love one
another as I have loved you.” It sounds really simple,
doesn’t it. Yet it is so challenging. Love is costly –
after all, it led Jesus to the cross.
I wonder, what does it take to set aside prejudices and
all we believe about others, to truly be part of the Body
of Christ? For we are called to love. Not just to love
people who may look like us, or act like us, but to love
all. We abide in God’s love by keeping this commandment:
to love. We are to bear fruit, (think back to last week’s
Gospel) –we are to bear fruit, fruit that will last.
Love is the very heart of our faith. It’s not just a new
commandment, it’s the greatest commandment of all.
And as we pray, live and work in and through love, we are
bid to pray for five people, that they may know the love
of Christ in their lives, and to pray for these people
every day especially between the nine days from Ascension
(this Thursday) through till Pentecost Sunday. This is
the global wave of prayer; Thy Kingdom Come initiative.
So we have chance now to think of those for whom we would
pray. Write their names down on the fish, and as you
leave church, put them in the net at the back of church.
And do this again on Thursday, if you are here, and next
Sunday, and in two weeks’ time on Pentecost. The net will
be a physical reminder of our prayers and love for others.
As we think in love of those for whom we would pray, we’ll
finish with a couple of minutes’ quiet for you to write
names on the fish, and hold them in prayer before God. And
as I said, as you leave church today please put your fish
in the net at the back of church.
“Abide in my love. You are my friends if you do as I
command you.” Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:54 pm.


 
Wednesday, 5 May 2021:

5th Sunday of Easter



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
“I am the vine. You are the branches.”
One of my favourite day trips, going back several years
ago, was a visit to a local vineyard with John. We’d
booked for a tour of the vineyard, together with a testing
and tasting experience with a light lunch – well, you have
to, don’t you! I always thought vines needed very hot
growing conditions such as we’ve seen when we’ve explored
vineyards when on holiday abroad – again, in the dim and
distant past – but the climate at Halfpenny Green can
hardly be called hot. If I remember correctly, it was
quite a chilly day when we were there.
What we learnt, though, was that there is a sort of
microclimate at Halfpenny Green. That the perfect growing
conditions for a certain vine could be met by the ambient
temperature, correct amount of rainfall and the right
conditions and nutrients within the soil. We were told
that storms sort of go around the vineyard and rarely pass
over it – clouds bubble up in the distance, get nearer and
nearer, and then break away, forming a circle around the
perimeter of the vineyard so that although they do have
rain, they do not have the torrents or winds usually
associated with storms. In short, Halfpenny Green was
exactly the right place to cultivate particular species of
vine.
I remember the glorious aroma of the grapes as the smell
from the vines wafted towards me. And on the ground were
twigs and bits of pruned vine that hadn’t made the grade,
and small grapes, all on the floor becoming recycled
nutrients in order that the vines could continue to
thrive.
The tour guide explained how the winegrower makes certain
choices. Choices about which vines to grow, and then as
they become established and grow, choosing which vines
should be allowed to flourish. Pruning very carefully so
that the plant can continue to thrive.
And I wonder, are we like that? For prior to lockdown,
many of us were probably guilty of spreading ourselves too
thinly. Trying to do too much adequately, instead of
making sure we did 2 or 3 things well.
I wonder, which path are we on? In the coming months,
we’ll have the chance to think about this and to think
about which paths we think we should concentrate on as a
church. Exciting times!
But we also have to think about it from our own
perspective, each of us in our own individual context.
What, I wonder, works for you?
This coming week, do you have plans for activity or work,
and plans for some downtime or quiet? Chance to be outside
and hear the birdsong and chance to simply be? Space to
just be? Or do you feel you need to be constantly busy?
For if we are constantly busy, how and when is God able to
speak to us?
Perhaps the lockdowns have helped us to slow down. Perhaps
the enforced lockdowns have helped us see that there are
times when we will need to be busy, and times when we need
some downtime.
If we abide in the Vine we will bear fruit as a disciple
of Jesus, which means we will bear fruit in His service.
For God our Father gives us the growth we need, if we
allow ourselves time to nurture and to be fed, much as the
owner of the vineyard feeds and nurtures the plants in
his/her care. We work together with God, to flourish.
And if we live in love, and believe God wants us to abide
in Him, God will give us growth through Christ. It’s
God’s message we spread, it’s not about us. If we trust in
Him, we are nurtured. Only as we trust in Him will our
lives yield a harvest. And so we are drawn into God’s
love, drawn into the very nature of God. Love is the sign
of God. God loves us.
In our reading from Acts, Philip seizes his chance to show
the Ethiopian eunuch the love of God. He sees that he is
reading from the prophet Isaiah, and learns that he has
been worshipping in the temple in Jerusalem. So we know
the Ethiopian is a Jew, wanting to know more about God’s
love and care for us all – because he’s been to the
temple, he’s made that long, important journey. Philip
interprets the scriptures for him, and tells him of the
Good News of Jesus – and promptly the man sees water
nearby and asks to be baptized.
How much do we speak of the love of Christ? How much do we
show it? For often actions speak louder than words, and it
is through actions that conversations can flow – we’ve
seen that happen at Messy Church.
Jesus is the Vine. God the Father the vinegrower, and the
disciples are the branches. Where are we? Where, I
wonder, are you? For we, too, are called to be the
branches. There will be times when we find it hard going,
when we will need to prune and cut away the very things
that stop us from flourishing, and we will need to allow
ourselves to be nurtured in order to reach fruition as the
very people God created us to be.
For this is our time. We are called here, now, to this
place, to be the branches for our local community,
wherever that may be – within the parish of course, but
also wherever and in whatever we are doing.
I wonder, do we trust ourselves enough to be able to
flourish.
More than that, do we trust our creator God to give us all
we need, the confidence, the ability to act and speak, to
do whatever we are called to do. Do we have space and time
for prayer, or do we consider weekly intercession in
church all the prayer we need?
I’m hoping not the latter!
Abide in me, says Jesus, as I abide in you. Or to put it
another way, accept me, as I accept you. Jesus knows and
accepts us as we are – there’s no need to put up a front
or to pretend to be anything we’re not. We’re not called
to be holier than thou, or to pretend we have all the
answers.
What we are called to do, though, is to fully accept and
trust in the love of God. To accept the love of Jesus, and
to believe in ourselves. For if we fully abide in God’s
love, we accept ourselves for who we are in all the
messiness of life. There is no need to put on a front –
God knows it all anyway! We can embrace ourselves as
beloved children of God, working together with God and
through God in the power of the Holy Spirit in order that
we, the branches, can flourish and spread the news of God.
And for me that’s the most exciting thing, for we’re all
doing it without realizing. We’re showing God’s love
through our actions and through the things we say. The
challenge is to make sure we pay attention and prune away
those things from our lives that stop us putting God at
the centre of our lives.
Abode in me, as I abide in you, says Jesus. May we
continue to walk in his way, rejoice in his Truth, and
share his risen life. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:16 pm.


 
Sunday, 25 April 2021:

Fourth Sunday of Easter Vocations Sunday


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

One of the things I’ve had to reflect on, write and talk
about over recent months is the role of a priest as a Good
Shepherd. And certainly in my funeral ministry there’s
been a lot of talk about a Shepherd watching over us, as
we would read in Psalm 23. We all know that psalm, I’m
sure, and it is in fact the psalm set for today. A
shepherd watching over us is a comforting thought. Like
many of you, my only experience of shepherds is from
watching them on TV. What always strikes me is how well
they know the animals in their care. They know where they
will be, whether in fields or on mountains. They know how
many sheep they have. They look after them, move them to
new pastures, care for them, tend them.
Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel of wanting his flock to be
together. To trust in Him.
To trust in what brings us here, to this place, today.
Trust. In our reading from Acts, Peter and John have been
arrested, for they have healed a lame man, and preached,
and the Temple authorities are asking how they did that,
they are understandably very suspicious of these new
Christians who go about mixing with all sorts of people
and preaching.
What stands out for me in this passage today is Peter’s
absolute trust in God. He and John are filled with the
strength of the Holy Spirit. They have courage to believe
that Jesus is the name that connects heaven and earth.
Jesus is our connection with God.
They trust in Him.
And our trust brings us here, as I say, to this place, at
this time.
For those early Christians, as for us now, there is a
price to pay for following Jesus.
Love. Cost. Purpose.
Love – makes us vulnerable.
Cost – we may often find ourselves doing totally
unexpected things, things we never dreamed we would do –
in God’s name.
Purpose. – Why are we here? What are we trying to do,
individually and as a congregation, to spread God’s word?
Jesus wants us all to be in His care, in His flock. I’m
reminded of the Wolves’ manager’s line, ‘One Strength, One
Pack.’
For there is strength in a common belief. There is comfort
in finding others who believe similar things to you. But
it would be too easy, too cosy, if all our time is spent
with fellow Christians, doing similar things.
For we are to live in our world as if we really do believe
in Jesus. That we really believe in his death and
resurrection and that it makes a difference to our lives.
We are called to allow the voice of the Good Shepherd to
speak to us – through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Love. Cost. Purpose. That all sounds a bit heavy
actually. But I firmly believe we are all called by the
Shepherd. We are called to do our bit for God, to spread
the news of the Kingdom.
We are all called each to our own ministry. And given that
we are all unique, and all known intimately by God, the
ministry of each one of us will be different. Every one of
us will be called to our ministry, called by the Shepherd.
What are we called to do? Well, to live our lives in the
best way we can to glorify God. And yes we will mess up at
times but we get back up, we say sorry, we carry on.
But what exactly are we being called to do, to be?
Well, some will have a calling for ordination. Some for
recognized lay ministry. Others for cleaning, for
arranging flowers, for music, for serving. Some for
pastoral work. And that’s all alongside and intermingled
with the way we live our daily lives, in our occupations,
in how we spend our days. And if – as I suspect – some of
you are thinking “well I can’t get out and about much now
“ – then I wonder if your vocation, your calling now, is
to pray?
I’ll just leave that out there…
At the PCC’s last Away morning, we thought through what we
do well, what we want to do, and what is God prompting us
to do now? This always needs to be our focus, and over
time as we gradually re-open and restrictions ease we will
be back to praying together through those questions.
On this Vocations Sunday, please, please know that you are
loved and valued by God, by the Good Shepherd who calls
you. For Everyone is loved by God. Everyone. I was so
pleased to read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments
during the week, following the verdict of the trial of the
ex- police officer in Minneapolis for the murder of George
Floyd. Archbishop Justin said,
“Justice for George Floyd was essential…praying for all
who live with the trauma of racist violence and
oppression, endured over many generations and all who
continue to wait and struggle for justice.”
We are all called by God. We are all loved by Him. Our
calling is to love others as He loves us.
So perhaps this week, allow yourself some space and time
to reflect and pray through what you are called to do. I
know we still have Covid restrictions, but what do you
think God is calling you to do? Value what you can do. Own
it. Make space for it to happen. Explore different ideas.
One thing’s for certain, God doesn’t sit still. If you
allow Him He will constantly probe and press.
And how do we hear God’s call? Ok for some it may be a
dramatic calling; for me it was the voice of God saying
“You still have work to do” when I lay wired up to all
sorts of machines in a hospital bed in intensive care. But
God’s voice may be through what others see in you. It
may be through what someone says, that inner prompting, a
little nudge, which sets off a new trail of thought in
you. Trust that instinct. Trust that inner voice.
And we are all called to pray. Pray. Talk. Act. Our
callings are all unique, for God’s relationship with each
one of us is unique.
We are called to trust and follow the Good Shepherd, and
allow our eyes and ears to be opened to any possibilities
that come our way.
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own, and my own know
me.”
My prayer this Vocation Sunday is that you will know and
experience the love and the call of God in your lives.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:45 pm.


 
Sunday, 25 April 2021:

Third Sunday of Easter


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.

The last week has been a strange week in our household.
For me, times of interviews on Zoom, a long afternoon
training session, lots of soul searching. For others in
the house, times when noise levels needed to be at a
minimum, alongside it being the college Easter holidays. A
really strange week.
And collectively we’ve gone through, and are still going
through, strange and difficult times. Lockdowns. No
socialization. Keeping away from others. Key workers
working frantically throughout, others on furlough or even
worse, losing jobs. Finding ways to meaningfully fill our
time. Illness. Death and bereavement. Vaccinations.
Testing. Add into the mix any complex family situations,
concerns at not being able to be with those we love,
thoughts about family living abroad, all sorts of things
to think about and concern ourselves about as we slowly
emerge out of lockdown. The feeling we may have if someone
gets too close to us; wondering if we should really make a
particular journey; on the other hand, the joy of being
able to visit the barber’s or hairdresser’s, the pub…the
list goes on.
Perhaps, in due time, we will begin to appreciate what we
have, what we can do.
Maybe, in due time, we will look back on all this and
realise how far we have come individually, collectively as
a church congregation, as a city, as a nation.
Perhaps.
And in the middle of all this, our lives continue. We go
about our daily business, whatever it may be. And still we
wonder about the vaccine, about testing, and how safe it
is to get out and about. And we know that there are people
out there who don’t really care about the wellbeing of
anyone except themselves.
How on earth do we even begin to come to terms with all
that.
And as we hold those thoughts, I wonder how on earth the
disciples were expected to react as they lived through the
events of Palm Sunday. Of Holy Week. We’ve thought about
having feet washed on Maundy Thursday, of watching – from
somewhere – the crucifixion, of hearing the nails hammered
into flesh and wood, of hearing the sobs as the body of
our friend is fetched down from the cross. We’ve had the
silence of Holy Saturday, the joy and confusion of the
resurrection on Easter Day. Last week, we thought about
Thomas’s reaction, and Fr Michael shared how at times he
still experiences a sense of doubt, of being Thomas.
And now, today, we read that the disciples were talking
among themselves, when Jesus appeared. Imagine being
there. I wonder which disciple you are. You hear the
voice, saying, “Peace be with you.”
I wonder, would you react any differently to those
disciples and women.
I wonder, would you, too, be startled and terrified, and
wonder if you are seeing things.
And Jesus speaks again. Speaks to us in all our doubt and
confusion. “Look, it’s me. See my hands. See my feet.”
And with joy you recognize him, your Lord, your teacher.
And yet you still doubt, for how can this be?
And I wonder, too, how they recognize him from seeing his
hands and feet. For when I look at someone, I notice their
face, their eyes, their body language, their mannerisms. I
may be able to pick out some of you from your hands,
purely from the hugely privileged position I have of
placing bread into your outstretched palms. But feet? We
hide them away. We would expect to notice someone by their
voice, their face.
But not now. Not in this time of confusion. Jesus is
different. And they still don’t truly understand what is
going on. So, in their presence, he takes a piece of
broiled fish. Breaks it. Eats it.
And the simple action of watching his hands break the fish
remind those present of other things those hands have
done. I wonder, what do you think of? Watching those hands
break bread? Watching those hands take a bowl, a towel and
water, and wash your feet? Do you see those hands turning
water into wine? Or taking a dead child by the hand and
telling her to get up? Do you see those hands put mud onto
a blind person’s eyes and restore his sight?
And I wonder, what are those hands reaching out to do for
you today?
And as we think of the feet, do you see them as feet that
have walked countless miles as Jesus taught and preached
and told others of God’s love, of God’s Kingdom? Or do you
remember how embarrassed you felt as you watched someone
washing his feet with oil, and wiping them with her hair?
Or perhaps it was you, performing that most intimate of
acts?
Perhaps, this year, more than ever, we can stand alongside
those early disciples, women and men, and recognize that
they, like us, are all wounded. For we are all wounded
emotionally following the events of the last year. And we
need to allow ourselves time to process, to think through
what matters, to grieve, to heal, just as those early
disciples did.
We are no different.
And Jesus speaks to them. To us. “You are my witnesses,
“he says. And slowly, we believe. Yet we still don’t truly
get it.
And the world looks to us to act as the Body of Christ, to
act now, for we are along with all Christians throughout
the world, the Body of Christ.
Our minds are stretched and frazzled by what’s being going
on, let alone by the thought of resurrection. Of
repentance and the forgiveness of things we may do wrong,
or of things we may prefer not to do.
For now, more than ever, we can sense the trauma felt by
the disciples.
We are no different.
Their reaction is, perhaps, exactly as ours would be.
Maybe their reaction is still as ours is today.
And to allow that to settle, we must allow ourselves some
space and time to sit in the presence of God, allow the
Risen Christ to speak to our hearts and minds, and allow
ourselves time to heal.
And so I will finish by offering the words of the Gaelic
Blessing. Allow the music and the words to seep into you.
To speak to you. For we all need the peace of the Risen
Christ within us, before we can even begin to start again.
My prayer is that we all encounter the deep peace of
Christ this coming week. Amen.

Gaelic Blessing
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.





 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:44 pm.


 
Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Easter Day Year B


Last week, I suggested we allow the Passion narrative to
speak for itself. And now I invite you to do the same with
the Resurrection account.
I’ve deliberately chosen the account from Mark rather than
John, for I find it interesting what we don’t hear in Mark
– what’s missing.
For, like the Christmas story, the Easter narrative takes
on a different approach dependent upon which Gospel you
are reading.
And the Mark narrative strikes me as being so succinct,
it’s interesting to think what he misses out.
So, allow yourself to be an onlooker. Perhaps you are one
of the women running to the tomb, intent on doing the very
best and last thing you can do for your friend. Perhaps
you are carrying the sweet smelling spices with which to
anoint Jesus.
Or perhaps you are one of the disciples who ran away, and
you’re wondering what to do now. Perhaps you guess that
the women will go to the tomb to anoint Jesus, as was the
custom.
And if you are one of the women, perhaps you are wondering
whether or not to ask how you may roll the stone away from
the cave entrance. So you voice your thoughts, and are
grateful that no one shouts you down. Grateful that the
others were thinking the same, but hadn’t been brave
enough to say it.
And just imagine your shock and horror when you approach
the tomb and find that the stone has been rolled away.
What thoughts race through your mind?
I wonder, are you the first to peer inside the tomb? Are
you the first to edge your way inside, or are you hanging
back behind the others, frightened, confused, but needing
to know what’s happened to Jesus?

I wonder, what do you think when you meet the angel inside
the tomb? Do you recognize him as a messenger from God?
How frightened are you? For listen, he tells you, “be not
afraid. Don’t be frightened.”
Does that make you even more worried? Skeptical? Unsure of
your next move?
Or are you reassured by the angel’s words?
And do you wonder if the disciples will believe you, when
you tell them that Jesus is not in the tomb? That an
angel says he will see you all in Galilee?
What will you do? Will you discuss amongst yourselves
where to go, who to tell?
Our Gospel reading ends on an astonishing note. We read,
“they were afraid.” Amazing, astonishing ending for the
story, for this was the original ending of Mark’s Gospel.
I wonder, if you were given the message, “He is risen!”
would you run to someone and tell them?
Or would you need time to process this, think it through,
and work out your next move?
For because of the resurrection, we can now live lives of
resurrection hope. For we know death is not the end. That
there is something more, a resurrection life with Jesus.
We may not be able to comprehend or imagine it, but our
faith allows us to believe.
We are offered a new life, a new beginning.
The women were not frightened of death or of the task they
set themselves. At a death, there is comfort in doing
things, and the practical task of anointing Jesus would
bring the women some comfort. But they are afraid of the
angel’s message. They don’t understand what he is telling
them. They do not yet link it to some of Jesus’s sayings.
They do not understand.
Their grief makes it almost too hard to take in. Too hard
to bear the enormity of it all.
And so the cross of shame has become a cross of glory.
Death cannot contain Jesus. Death will not contain us.
The cross becomes a symbol of hope.
Outside in the church grounds, you will see a cross. It’s
made from the church Christmas tree, linking the Christmas
and Easter stories together in a symbolic way. On it you
will see some ribbons.
Perhaps you would like to tie a ribbon onto the cross, as
a way of showing how, for you, the cross becomes a symbol
of hope.
Take a moment to reflect what the cross means for you,
especially as we think over the past year of restrictions,
devastation, of statistics, of the effects of the
pandemic.
Tom Wright suggests that the abrupt ending of our Gospel
encourages us to explore our own faith.
What blank in the story are we expected to fill for
ourselves?
We know the Easter story so well, but, this year, has
anything fresh struck you? Some new understanding? Have
you placed yourself within the story and allowed your
imagination to experience the horror and then the Good
News with a renewed sense of hope?
Wherever you place yourself in the Easter story, my prayer
is that you allow yourself to go deeper into the mystery
of Christ. To know that you are a beloved Child of God.
That the ultimate message of the Gospel is that of Love.
And allow the risen presence of Christ to be present in
our hearts, in our church, in our community.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:28 pm.


 
Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Good Friday


For those of you who were here last night, I offered space
for you to imagine Jesus washing your feet. For you to
think through the implications of that act of love and
humility, and to ask yourself what changes for you when
you realise Jesus kneels at your feet.
Today, I invite you to think for a few minutes about the
story we have just heard. To allow yourself to enter into
that story. To be an onlooker. Perhaps you are a disciple,
distraught and confused by today’s events. Maybe you are
one of the women who has been loyal throughout, who stood
at the foot of the cross, who watched, who waited. Or
perhaps you are one of the braying crowd, shouting for
Barrabas, caught up in the frenzy of the moment.
Where do you place yourself in this story?
For today we are asked, what difference does the cross
make to you?
Look at it. Hear the hammer of nails into flesh, the cries
of agony.
Smell the smell of human degradation, the sweat, the
stench of the angry crowd.
Why didn’t God step in, why did God allow it to happen?
And think back to the words Jesus spoke at the Last
Supper.
“This is my Body, given for you.
This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of
sins. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever
believes in me will never be thirsty.”
And as you watch on, from wherever you are – hiding, or at
the foot of the cross, - perhaps those words begin to
take on a new sense of meaning.
That Jesus died for our sins. For you, for me.
And recognize that in John’s Gospel account, Jesus goes
willingly to the cross. He knew what would happen. He
didn’t ask why, in fact he asked for God to give him
strength to complete the task.
A man hanging there on a cross. An innocent man, guilty
of no crime.
Hear the words from the cross which we hear in Matthew and
Mark’s Gospels: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?”
He speaks. “Woman, here is your son. Here is your
mother.”
We realise that even now, he thinks of others. Recognises
the despair of his mother and his friend, and makes sure
his mother is provided for.
And hear the last triumphant cry, “It is finished!”
Was it triumphant? Weary? Or said in sheer thanksgiving?
As we look back, we can see how Jesus walked the way of
the cross.
The horror is over. The work is done.
How do you feel now?
Numb? Full of grief? Can’t quite comprehend what you can
see, the lifeless form upon the cross?
Do some of Jesus’s words come to mind, which you begin to
understand in a new way?
The cross is an instrument of torture. Perhaps we want to
run away, to avoid the awful sight. Yet we are called to
watch and wait. To watch as the suffering unfolds. We can
do nothing – the crowds have had their way. We become mere
onlookers.
And as the body is pierced, and fetched down from the
cross, how gently and carefully will you anoint with
spices? Although you must hurry, for it is the day of
preparation.
And you must leave the body in the tomb, and go home, and
wonder what to make of it all.
“It is finished.” Jesus’s death comes as the completion of
a life lived to the full, offered for others.
I wonder, what difference this revelation will make to
you.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:27 pm.


 
Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Maundy Thursday Year B 2021


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
On Sunday, I invited the congregation to allow the story
of Holy Week to speak for itself. To allow the events to
carry you, as if you were there as a witness. To think
through what they mean for you. To put yourself, perhaps
into the story as it unfolds before your eyes.
And that’s what I invite you to do this evening, through a
short meditation on the act of footwashing.
This remarkable evening, as Jesus offers himself in the
form of bread, of wine, and in washing the feet of his
disciples.
On Sunday, I suggested that today you could watch as Jesus
washes your feet.
And so I will continue with that theme.
In the culture at that time, it was the custom for
servants or slaves to wash the feet of visitors and their
owners. It was a gesture of hospitality. A routine job.
Roads were dusty, so visitors would have their feet washed
to be refreshed as they shared their host’s hospitality.
Dusty, dirty, calloused, smelly feet – not a pleasant job
to wash them! And I wonder how many people were so intent
on speaking with their hosts and friends that they hardly
even noticed the servant kneeling at their feet,
performing this most intimate of acts.
For it is as servant that Jesus comes to wash the feet of
his disciples.
And it is as servant that Jesus comes to wash your feet.

And so watch as Jesus kneels before you to wash your feet.
Feel how the refreshingly cool water soothes and caresses
your skin. Sense how tenderly Jesus wipes away dust and
dirt, and how gently he dries your feet.
I wonder, how does this make you feel?
Are you uncomfortable, ashamed of your feet, ashamed that
Jesus sees them as they are?
Are you embarrassed?
Or are you beginning to understand that this charismatic
healer, preacher, teacher, friend washes your feet as a
sign of his love for you?
Do you fully grasp the depth of his love for you?
Perhaps this is a moment of revelation. An Epiphany. A
flash of understanding that Jesus loves you.
And after your feet are dried, he moves on to the person
sat next to you. Gently, tenderly washes their feet. Dries
them. And moves onto the person sat opposite you.
And the room falls silent, as the enormity of what is
happening begins to sink in.
Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.
Every one. Judas included.
I wonder, how does that make Judas feel, knowing he will
betray Jesus.
I wonder, too, as we continue to examine ourselves, how it
feels as we acknowledge there are times when we have been
a Judas to others, perhaps even to ourselves.
For tonight’s message is a challenge. Jesus tells us to
love one another.
Not as an emotion. But out of choice.
Humbling. Love demands something of us. It makes us
vulnerable, open to rejection.
And yet even then, we join with Jesus who himself was
rejected. But that’s tomorrow’s story.
Tonight’s story takes on a deeper meaning as we understand
how God’s love and grace are so freely given to everyone.
To everyone,
In washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus showed his love for
each and every one of them.
As he washes our feet, he shows that same love.
I wonder, what response will you give?
What will your response be to the Lord who serves, who
offers of himself?
And in acknowledging that we are called to serve and love
others, particularly at this time after the year we have
all experienced, note that we are called to serve
ourselves, too.
For Jesus often went into the wilderness to pray – to
recharge – to reconnect with God, perhaps.
And we all have times when we need to put ourselves first.
To think of our own mental and physical health, for in
taking care of ourselves we can be better placed to serve
others.
It’s not being selfish. It’s knowing when we need to
stop.
And so I leave you with something to think through.
How do you feel, when Jesus kneels to wash your feet? When
you realise that it is God himself reaching down to you?
What response does Jesus ask of you?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:25 pm.


 
Saturday, 3 April 2021:

Palm Sunday


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
It’s so good to be able to worship together again in
person.
A few thoughts on today, and none of this will be new, but
I hope that perhaps one or two thoughts may stay with you
as we journey through this week.
For it’s a week unlike any other week. So much remembering
and reflecting. So much rich liturgy. A chance to re-
enter into the story, into God’s story, knowing that we
are to play our part in a story that began thousands of
years ago.
For today we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into
Jerusalem. A busy city, with Jews ready to celebrate the
Passover together. A city under Roman occupation. A city
bustling with life, with traders, with people going about
their daily lives.
And into that scene, into that busy place, that holy city,
rides Jesus.
Hailed by his followers as a king. Crowds flock to see
him, to wave, to greet him, to cheer him.
No wonder the Roman leaders and temple authorities were
getting worried. No wonder they were concerned about this
itinerant preacher who had been healing people, hanging
out with those people rejected by society. This man who
had fed thousands of people. Turned water into wine. No
wonder the leaders were on high alert.
And here’s Jesus. Riding into the city with his friends.
Crowds go wild, shouting Hosanna, waving palm branches.
How symbolic is all this. Jesus, riding into the sacred
city at a time when the Jewish people were about to
celebrate the Passover, their ancient celebration of God
saving the Israelites out of exile when they left Egypt.
Here’s Jesus as a symbol of hope. A new leader, who
would, they hoped, free them from the Roman oppression. No
wonder they shouted “Hosanna.” It means, “save us.”
I wonder, where are you in this story?
Are you following on behind Jesus, with the frenzied crowd
pressing against you as they strive to get a glimpse of
him?
Are you one of his disciples, trying to make sure that his
way is clear, proud to be associated with such a
wonderful, charismatic man?
Or are you one of the onlookers, swept up in the moment,
wondering what to make of it all.
Where would you place yourself in this story?
And yet this King comes not as an exulted ruler perhaps on
horseback, but on a lowly donkey.
A man who has come to save us, but not in the way we might
expect.
The donkey, a symbol of peace.
So we have a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus
goes straight to the temple before going to Bethany with
his disciples.
How could they have guessed what would happen next. How
the crowd would so swiftly turn to hatred and scorn.
As this week unfolds, I pray that you will allow the story
to speak for itself.
To journey with our Lord. To be there at the Last Supper,
and watch as he washes your feet.
To journey with him to the Cross. To feel the shame and
humiliation and degradation. To hear the shouts of the
crowd. The hammer of nails into wood. To hear him cry, “It
is finished.”
And allow him to be placed into the tomb.
And rest. Because following that, we don’t know exactly
what happened.
We do know, though, that because somehow he burst through
the tomb, we in our turn have the hope of resurrection
life.
We won’t all be able to be in church on Maundy Thursday or
Good Friday, of course, but I urge you to allow some time
to sit with the story. To read the Gospel passages. Use
the #Live Lent reflection booklets, or perhaps the Holy
Week booklet you will have found on your chair or
delivered to you.
Allow the story to speak to you.
But for now we leave Jesus about to head to Bethany with
his disciples, after arriving in Jerusalem.
We, in our turn, shout “Hosanna, save us.”
May this week be a blessed and holy week, whatever you are
doing, wherever you are, and that you feel the love of
Jesus in your lives as we go deeper into the mystery of
his story.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:24 pm.


 
Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Curate's Sermon


5th Sunday of Lent Passion Sunday
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.

Having read Jeanette’s sermon, I almost wonder what to
write! Jeanette Hartwell, who has written the diocese
sermon this week, is the diocese head of vocations and
training team. She lectures part time at Queen’s (for the
diocese) and she has played an important part in my
journey to date. I recommend her sermon to you.
Today’s Gospel made me feel uncomfortable, for it made me
reflect on who we glorify. Pop stars, football stars,
artists, musicians, we glorify so many of them and put
these people on a pedestal. We see their names online or
in the papers, in magazines; their photos are everywhere.
They are often paid what seems like obscene salaries.
Press photographers follow them. It feels as if we know
them.
Except, of course, we don’t know them at all. We may know
the public image they produce, or that they are talented
at football, at rugby, at motor racing, or that they make
a lot of money from producing records or singing. But we
don’t actually know them at all. The celebrities remain
out of reach. And the more we want to know about them, the
more we seem to glorify them as celebrities.
Contrast that with the way God glorifies his Son, in that
thin space between heaven and earth, as we hear his voice
saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it
again.”
It makes me wonder, where do we hear God’s voice? In the
sounds of nature? In music or singing? Last week, I wrote
that sometimes I wonder if a particular verse has been
snuck into a Bible passage because it jumps out at me in a
new way when I hear the Bible passage being read. In the
same way, a piece of music that I know well can surprise
me and move me in a new way, and lines from well- known
hymns can take on a fresh meaning, a new significance. Is
that the voice of God? My vocabulary is limited but music
certainly allows me to feel the glory of God. And I know
so many of us have experienced God’s glory and voice by
the sea, or when we witness the most beautiful, star-
filled sky that goes on for ever and ever, or through a
glorious sunset, or a child’s laugh. Perhaps we need to be
more attentive. Perhaps we may recognize God’s voice in
all these things if we allow ourselves to listen.

Our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah tells us that
there will be a new covenant, that God will make sure we
know the law and love him and he will always be part of
us. That sounds very simple, but I don’t think it is.
Jeremiah reminds us that God’s covenant has been broken
time and time again – broken not by God, but by humans. He
is saying God will change how he covenants with us because
we keep breaking it – so, God will wipe the slate clean
and start afresh.

And the cost of this is that Jesus will come as God’s Son.
Human and yet Divine. An Incarnate God. And he is the one
who will suffer and die.
So we arrive towards Jerusalem with Jesus, drawn into the
story. And we realise, with the benefit of hindsight
because we know the end of the story, that Jesus himself
is a sign of God’s presence.

Before the Passover, pilgrims would flock to Jerusalem to
go through the purification rituals so that they would
then be able to join in the Passover festival. There is
already a large crowd present, therefore, let alone the
crowd that begins to follow Jesus. He is a problem, then,
for the leaders who will fear for the crowd and for any
retribution from the Roman authorities. He is a problem
because the leaders expect him to be treated as a
celebrity, to be idolized.

And what does Jesus do? He speaks to the Jews and Gentiles
alike. As the first century synagogues welcomed Gentiles,
we ought not to be surprised that there were Greeks
amongst the crowd. And I notice how the Gentiles are drawn
towards Jesus, wanting to know more, wanting to learn from
him, rather than going straight to the temple. Learning
from him, rather than learning rules and laws.
John’s Gospel makes it abundantly clear that it is not
enough to want to see Jesus, or to know of him. We are to
listen and to see what happens to him. We are to
experience the heartbreak and agony of the crucifixion –
we cannot avoid it; we cannot omit this from the story we
retell.
His story. Our story.
We have to trust in God.
We have to trust in the new life that is offered to us,
trusting in the promise that God will light our path.
By saying that the seed will die, Jesus is referring to
his own death. And we hear how the seed will change, and
Jesus tells us this is ‘glorification.’
As I say, we know the end of the story. Jesus is speaking
of eternity. He is not talking of a quick fix. God will
glorify his name as he dies on the cross. He places his
life into God’s hands.
I wonder, how ready are we to do the same.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:23 pm.


 
Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Idle curiosity or faithful discipleship?



Revd Dr Jeanette Hartwell's Sermon for 21 March 2021 Fifth
Sunday of Lent-John 12:20-33 Today the church celebrates
Passion Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent and our thoughts
begin to turn to the last events of Jesus' life on earth.
Next week we shall celebrate Palm Sunday - Jesus entering
Jerusalem and being hailed as a king by the people. And we
see in the events recorded as we journey through Holy Week
that it was not an easy journey for Jesus to make - the
doubt, the inner conflict and yet today's reading suggests
a recognition from Jesus that the end is approaching and
we are drawn in journeying with him to wrestling with what
the life and death of Jesus means for us as his disciples.
And the reading from John 12:20-33 appears a strange one
because on first hearing it might appear to make no sense
at all. From the outset we are drawn into a theme of
liberation with the setting of the celebration of the
Passover festival, the celebration of the liberation from
slavery in Egypt. And indeed, John places the passage
before us today after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem
(John 12:12-15) and a narrative of Jesus' increasing
popularity with the crowd because of the signs that he had
performed. Amongst the many who have come to worship at
the festival John draws attention to some Greeks who wish
to see Jesus and when Jesus is told of this, instead of
being delighted that people are interested in him and
arranging a meeting he responds to Philip and Andrew's
request by starting to speak in riddles. So what are we to
make of all this? There is no doubt that at this time
Jesus' popularity was on the rise and that there is fear
and concern amongst the religious authorities of the day.
At a time of religious fervour and political tensions (the
two often go hand in hand) people were undoubtedly drawn
to Jesus and it was not uncommon for individuals to be
claiming that they had come with the special purpose of
restoring Israel and overthrowing the Roman rulers.
Tensions then were high and there was much at stake in
terms of religious observance and political unrest. In
this context John draws attention to God fearing Greeks
(why else might they be at the festival?) as outsiders who
want to know more about this man Jesus and the claims he
was making.
In his response to Philip and Andrew's request, Jesus
avoids the temptation of becoming the local celebrity, no
doubt with the memory of his entry into Jerusalem firmly
in his mind. What we don't read in John's account of this
encounter is Jesus perhaps questioning why they wanted to
see him, of trying to decide whether it is nothing more
than idle curiosity, or whether they were genuine in their
desire for an audience with him. Perhaps they genuinely
wanted to debate on an intellectual level and question him
in order to come to their own mind about him, or
alternatively, whether they simply want to see him so that
they could say that they had.

And so, Jesus in his answer goes deeper than the
immediately obvious. Unconcerned with the motives of those
who want to see him, he begins to explain what he's really
about and that has nothing to do with seeing him, with
intellectual debate or following him because he is the
celebrity of the day.
The time has come - my time has come says Jesus in stark
contrast to the earlier comments in John that his time has
not yet come (in John 2 to his mother at the wedding in
Cana and John 7 when some tried to seize him while he was
teaching in
the temple courts). Here then is the moment to which John
has been pointing, when the time is come for the Son of
Man to be lifted up in order that all the world might see
Jesus and recognise him, in order that God's glory be
revealed. This will be the time when all the world
(represented by 'the Greeks') and not just faithful Israel
will see and believe in him, not through intellectual
debate but through the saving action of Jesus, the man who
willingly goes to the cross to confront sin and evil.
And Jesus uses the agricultural imagery of seeds in the
ground to drive home his point, suggesting that it is not
going to be as might be expected. In fact, on the contrary
it might look hidden and be perceived as a complete
disaster. The joy for those of us this side of the
resurrection is that we know the ending to the story but
Jesus is painting a very different picture than what
people might have been looking for or expecting. The time
for preparation is over and the true picture of who Jesus
is, is about to be revealed. One of the major themes of
John's gospel is seeing and knowing and we see it (to
excuse the pun) being played out in this passage. The
Greeks wish to see Jesus, not only in the physical sense
but in getting to know him and who he truly was. We might
ask ourselves what it is that we want to see in Jesus?
What is our motivation? Are we merely curious in seeing
what it's all about without necessarily wanting to take to
heart
the disturbing points that Jesus goes on to make about
losing our life? Interestingly we are not told whether the
Greeks got to see Jesus, both in the literal sense of
meeting with him or in them getting to know who he claimed
to be.
There are several responses to merely seeing Jesus, to
being inquisitive, to recognising the man that people have
been talking about and coming to believe in who he said he
was. And Jesus is perhaps indicating in his response that
it is simply not enough to see and engage in an
intellectual discussion but what is required in truly
knowing him is a change in attitude as to our whole life.
And this from a Rabbi who as we know from the gospels was
not afraid to engage in rigorous debate, as was their
tradition.
So what are we to make of Jesus's discussion of our losing
our life in order that we So what are we to make of
Jesus's discussion might keep it for eternal life. So
often I think that we interpret this in the sense of some
form of grand scale martyrdom, that our discipleship might
demand some grand gesture of costly sacrifice. Yet it
seems to me that what Jesus is asking of us is the small
almost seemingly inconsequential acts contained within the
process self, of being attentive to the ways in which we
are tempted to act in ways that serve
self rather than God, of the daily decision to face the
cross, and attempt, by God's grace and God's grace alone
to live lives that reflect God's glory. It is in these
daily acts of self-denial that God's glory continues to be
revealed and in many ways these acts are buried like the
grain that falls into the earth. They are often held
between God and ourselves buried in the soil of our
ordinary, everyday, daily existence. There is a sense in
which it requires a certain degree of dogged determination
and persistence and I suspect that John is warning us in
the words of Jesus that it is not for the fainthearted.
And just as we might wait for new shoots to break forth
from the ground so too, we wait with patience for what God
will bring about in God's good time. It is a timely lesson
perhaps as we begin to emerge tentatively from Lockdown
with Easter just around the corner. We are a faith
community that has death and resurrection at the heart of
its being. As we journey over the next few weeks with
Jesus as he makes his way to Golgotha what might God be
asking us, as individuals and communities to allow to fall
to the ground and to die in order that it might bear much
fruit in the future? And so may God grant us dogged
determination, faithful patience that we might see God's
glory. Amen.


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:21 pm.


 
Saturday, 20 March 2021:

Curate's Blog


Mothering Sunday 2021
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen.
Mothering Sunday offers us a break in Lent. A chance to
say thank you
to the mother figures in our lives, and/or to think of
those who have been
so important to us. Chance to take a step back from the
Lenten
readings, when we have been reminded of God’s covenants
with us
since the very beginning. Yes, a bit of a break before we
hit Passion
Sunday, and then Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Our readings for today are so familiar, I’d like to try to
look at them from
a different starting point. Firstly, as we are not
currently worshipping in
church, may I recommend that you read them out loud – not
for anyone
to listen to, but for you to hear the spoken word. The
words come to life
as they are said, and we’re missing this element at the
moment. So
often, when wonderful folk read the set readings for us
each Sunday, I
find myself thinking, “I haven’t heard that verse before!”
or, “when did
that phrase sneak into the Bible?” Just hearing someone
read a passage
that you know well can sometimes jog your subconscious to
a new level
of understanding purely by a different inflection or tone
of voice. So, give
it a go, read the readings out loud to yourself and see if
anything jumps
out to you.
And if it doesn’t, don’t worry! Just enjoy feeling and
hearing these words
of Scripture and know that they tell us something of God.
For today is all about God. Yes, I know it’s Mothering
Sunday, but the
word that springs to mind for me about today is ‘love.’
The theme of love
runs throughout our readings. I’ll expand on this, but
remember that one
of our fundamental beliefs is that God is Love. One of the
phrases I often use before we share the Peace is, “God is
love, and those who live in
love live in God, and God lives in them.’
I know for some people their experience of motherly love
is not a positive
one. And I know for others, it is not a mother who raises
a child but
perhaps a relative or foster-carer. There are so many
different types of
family nowadays, and I am not at all trying to trivialize
the role of a
mother. What I do hope is that within families there is
someone who
plays that mothering, nurturing role, and that even if it
has not been in
your experience, you can relate to the nurturing,
mothering instincts of
someone close to you.
For we love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
We love God by loving what God loves.
Our reading from Exodus is so familiar, isn’t it. The
story of Moses in the
bulrushes. His mother hid him for the first three months
of his life, and
then when she could no longer keep him safely hidden, made
a basket
and put her son in it and left the basket in the reeds of
the river bank.
But she didn’t just leave him and walk away. We’re told
that his sister
stood on the river bank to watch to see what would happen.
For of course the baby was a Hebrew child and the orders
from the
Pharaoh was to massacre all Hebrew baby boys; Pharaoh had
begun to
fear the Hebrews. And we know the story, that Pharaoh’s
daughter found
the baby and asked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.
And so the
baby’s own mother was able to nurse her own son in safety.
Motherly love. Instinctive, caring, protective love. And
I would suggest
that both male and female experience that primeval surge
of love at
some time even if they do not have children.And I would
also suggest that that’s exactly the love that God has for
you.
Our Gospel reading from John points us to a new family. A
horrific scene
– a mother at the foot of a cross on which hangs her
beloved son. Her
son’s friend supporting her, unable to take away the hurt
and
unbelievable pain. Here we witness at first-hand how Mary
must have
travelled with Jesus- watching his miracles, travelling
with the women
who were his companions along the road together with the
disciples.
This must have been the worst pain imaginable, having to
let her child
go, unable to help. I know that will resonate with some of
you. Yet she
doesn’t duck out of this. She stays with her son till the
end. I wonder,
did she recall the words of Simeon who said, ‘A sword will
pierce your
own soul, too.’ I wonder how hard it was for her to be
there.
And despite his pain, and his terror (for surely he must
have been
terrified, he was human and yet divine) Jesus recognized
that his mother
and friend were with him. He creates a new family, there
at the foot of
the cross. Women had few rights in that society, and a
mother without a
husband or son to support her would have been left and
cast aside.
Jesus provides for his mother as he hangs on the cross.
And as we’ll explore further during Holy Week, the reason
Jesus is on
the cross in the first place is love. ‘He opens his arms
for us on the
cross, he put an end to death by dying for us’ we say
during the
Eucharistic prayer. God loves us, pure and simple.
A few years ago, the Guiders showed how God puts his arms
round us
as He protects us with His love. Imagine the figure on the
cross, with
arms outstretched. Easier to imagine it without the
horror, I know. And
into each arm walks someone else who needs love, who needs

nurturing. And they in turn open their arms, for someone
else. It
becomes a chain of love. A chain of care.
And that’s why I said Mothering Sunday is all about love.
We are rightly
grateful for the love shown by those mother figures who
have influenced
our lives, and we remember them with love. But Mothering
Sunday,
perhaps this year more than ever, offers us a time to
celebrate love. Our
love for each other, family love, the love for our church
family, love for
those in our care. And as we care for others, however we
do this –
shopping, writing notes, making phone calls, collecting
and delivering
newspapers, whatever we are doing – we are showing love.
We spread
a little of God’s love through what we do, what we say.
Jesus’s message was of love. Love for one another. Love
of family and
friends. Love for the outcasts, the downtrodden, the
marginalized, the
homeless. When we offer someone a hug, we offer ourselves
of course
– but we also offer God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And God as
Mother.
The theologian Richard Rohr said that we love God by
loving what God
loves. He went on to say that we love God by loving
others.
So today say thank you for the power of love. We are all
separated due
to restrictions and that in itself offers us a common
bond. If we have lost
our mums, or a child, we can smile through tears to thank
God for the
love and the part they played in our lives. Male or
female, we celebrate
God’s love for us all. And however you spend today, know
that are loved
by God.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:10 pm.


 
Saturday, 20 March 2021:

The three Rs of motherhood



The Ven Paul Thomas's Sermon for 14 March 2021 Gospel
Reading: John 19 v25b - 27 Mothering Sunday John's
description of the exchange between Jesus and his mother
at the cross furnishes us with three deep insights into
motherhood.
The first insight is what I would call the reality of
motherhood. In v25b we read: 'Stood near the cross was the
mother of Jesus.' As she stands at the foot of the cross
Mary, the mother of Jesus (though John's Gospel never uses
her name!) is experiencing the heartbreak of losing her
son to a premature death. She is aware of the terrible
pain that he is enduring and of the shame which belongs to
this very public act of execution. She had lived with this
fear ever since
Simeon, the elderly priest at the Temple, had prophesied
that a sword would pierce
rown heart. And now as she faces this costly sacrifice,
and embraces suffering and loss, Mary epitomises the
reality of motherhood. To love a child as a mother does is
to leave the heart and mind defenceless against whatever
trouble or trauma that child might bring. Winifred Holtby,
writing to her lifelong friend Vera Brittain said this:
'Babies are a nuisance. But so does everything seem to be
that is worthwhile...husbands and books and committees and
being loved and everything. We have to choose between
barren ease and rich unrest...or
rather one does not choose; life somehow chooses.' The
'rich unrest of motherhood stems from the fact that most
mothers do what John 19 v25 tells us that Mary did on that
dark Friday afternoon when Jesus was being done to death
on the cross: she 'stood near'. Mary was near, attentive
to every groan and heavy breath, to the straining of
muscles and to the tearing of flesh as Jesus struggled to
hold off the onset of death. She was near so she could
dispel the awful loneliness of his dying. She was near
because there was nowhere else she could dream of being
knowing the pain and humiliation her son was going
through. Hugh MacDiarmid in his poem, The Two Parents,
begins by admitting his own sense of detachment towards
his sick child and then compares it with the deep
commitment and motherly love of his wife:
I love my little son, and yet when he was ill I could not
confine myself to his bedside.
I was impatient of his squalid little needs. His laboured
breathing and the fretful way he cried. And longed for my
wide range of interests again, Whereas his mother sank
without another care
To that dread level of nothing but life itself And stayed
day and night, till he was better, there. Women may
pretend, yet they always dismiss
Everything but mere being just like this.

Mary had descended to that'dread level of nothing but life
itself' as she stayed close to her dying son. And it is
from this recognition of how much our mothers are willing
to forego and sacrifice in order to be available to us
that our deep sense of gratitude springs. As we grow up it
gradually dawns on us how costly and selfless was the love
our mothers bestowed on us; their quiet heroism and
courage leaves us ever indebted to them.
The second insight we can glean from today's Gospel
concerns the reward of motherhood. In v26 we read: When
Jesus saw his mother he said to her, 'Woman here is your
son.' Knowing how devastated she would be by his imminent
death lesus provides for her through the care and
companionship of the beloved disciple. Here is the love
Jesus had received from his mother throughout his life
being returned. He shows how much he understands her
vulnerability and how deep runs his desire to ease her
sense of loss. And that must surely be the chief reward of
motherhood - to receive back freely and joyfully and
unsolicited the love of a child. What the mother has
lavished on the child, all the values she has sought to
teach him or her, all the sensitivity and care she has
tried to nurture, has not been wasted. Instead it has
borne fruit in the formation of a person who now shares
those same values and exercises that same care. The love
has become reciprocal and it flows in both directions
between mother and child. When my mother was a widow
living alone in South Wales and I was serving a parish in
York I knew one thing which brought her a lot of enjoyment
was a hand-written letter. So every Thursday I sat at my
desk and wrote a long letter to my mother. It was often
hard to think of news because we had a weekly phone call
lasting three-quarters of an hour in which I had updated
her on all the latest happenings in our lives. But I knew
when that envelope dropped through the letter-box on to
her front door mat it would make her day. 'I got your
letter - thanks very much! would be one of her opening
remarks on the phone next time we spoke. I'm sure you have
similar stories of how you have recognised the humanity
and vulnerability of your mother and acted to show her how
much you loved and valued her. 'Seeing his mother' says
John's Gospel, Jesus offered her the care of the beloved
disciple. Likewise all of us need to 'see' our mothers in
that way so that we can be sensitive to their need and
help them
experience and rejoice in the reward of motherhood. The
third insight to be found in these few verses from John 19
is what I want to call the reach of motherhood. Here is
v27: 'Then Jesus said to the disciple, 'Here is your
mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his
own home.' This shows the disciple at the foot of the
cross acting in a motherly way towards Mary, the mother of
Jesus. He made space for her in his home and committed
himself to being responsible for her well-being. And in
doing that the disciple was not showing motherly love to a
member of his own family but to a woman who in one sense
was a stranger. Her main claim on him was that Jesus had
asked him to care for her. He had no legal or familial
obligation to protect her or provide for her. The motherly
love he showed her was a free gift inspired by his love of
Jesus Christ. From this we can see how motherly love is
freed from its family bond and made universal in its
application.

Such love can be shown as much by men as by women and
Jesus himself is the supreme example for all genders. 'The
human character of Jesus ... combining the strength of
manhood and the tenderness of womanhood in perfect
alliance is always strengthening to contemplate and adore'
wrote Bishop Charles Gore!. We catch a glimpse of his
motherly love as Jesus looks out over the city of
Jerusalem: 'How often | have desired to gather your
children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings and you were not willing!'I doubt that many hymns
have been written on those words of Jesus but I did find
one in a book called 'Zulu Zion and some Swazi Zionists' –
just the kind of book Archdeacons read late at night! Here
are a few verses:
Thou glorious hen We stand before Thee It is not only
Jerusalem
That Thou lovest
So love us and hatch us
Thou glorious hen We stand before Thee
Hen of Heaven.
O Lord bring it forth This Ekuphakameni (paradise)
Like the hen
Loving her chickens
So the Church's focus on mothers and all they give to
their families invites us to do more than express
gratitude to them and to God. It challenges us as those
who stand before the glorious 'Hen of Heaven', Jesus
Christ, to respond to the desire he expressed over the
city of Jerusalem and which he directed to the beloved
disciple at the foot of the cross. It is the desire that
we who are loyal and obedient to him should extend the
power of motherly love into every part of our world,
taking it much further than the bonds of kinship. Then
that love can reach dark and troubled places like the city
of Jerusalem. It can be released towards those individuals
who are overwhelmed by pain and sorrow and loss like Mary.
For as we spread that love to others we are helping build
the Kingdom of God and becoming heralds of the salvation
made
available to us all in the cross of Jesus Christ. May this
Mothering Sunday be very special for each and everyone of
us and bring us all fresh inspiration. Amen.
The Incarnation of the Son of God, Bampton Lectures 1891
page 3. A great read!

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:07 pm.


 
Saturday, 13 March 2021:

Curate's Blog



3rd Sunday of Lent
We had the most glorious snow moon last weekend. The moon
hung in a clear sky, so large and bright that it took my
breath away. Some images of it will long remain in my
memory – you know, that breathtaking moment when you see
something so utterly spectacular that for a few moments
time stands still as you drink in the sight before you.
It was, for me, most definitely a moment when ‘the heavens
declared the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his
handiwork.’
Today I’m focusing mainly on the psalm set for today,
Psalm 19. It’s a glorious psalm of praise for God’s
creation. I love the way it begins, with revelation of God
seen first in creation and then in divine instruction. And
as you read it, you may see that the psalmist moves from
the wonder of the divine creation, to the divine
instruction, and finally to the worshipper. It is a great
hymn of praise, explaining the glory of God through his
creation and his law. It compels us to be good stewards of
the world we inhabit, and a reminder that we, too, are
part of God’s created world. In responding to the wonder
of all this, the psalmist ends by asking for forgiveness,
and uses the well-known words,
‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer.’

That’s not a bad prayer to use on a daily basis, is it.
But the psalm isn’t only a song of praise for God’s
creation. It’s a song of praise for God’s law, too. And
towards the end, it makes a deep plea for human integrity,
for honesty, for solidarity, for togetherness. Can these
be achieved if we keep God’s law? The psalm arouses my
spiritual imagination. It has been suggested that early
Christians saw imagery in Psalm 19 that reflected Christ;
Angela Tilby, Canon Emeritus at Christ Church, Oxford,
writes that early Christians recognized a metaphor for the
incarnation here. The image of the sun rising as a giant
in the east and sinking in the west spoke to them of
Christ running the whole course of human life as our
champion and spreading his light and grace on the whole
world.
So this psalm helps extend our sense of wonder. It draws
us deeper into God’s love and into a love of his law
inscribed in our hearts. The author C.S. Lewis once said
that psalm 19 is the ‘finest poem ever written.’ The
psalmist suggests that God intends to flood our minds, our
thoughts, our imaginations and our hearts with his glory
as he fills the whole of creation with his presence.
That’s a lot to take in.
And we’re told, ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving
the soul.’(v7) The following verses refer to God’s
instruction as found in the Scriptures; the expression
‘fear of the Lord’ means trust and respect in the Lord.
For this psalm gives us the basis of our faith. Praise in
God the Creator, trust in God the Forgiver, and an
invitation to lead a life following God and his teaching.
And as we reflect on the psalm, I’m reminded that Jesus
would have prayed these psalms. He used the very words we
use. He prayed the same psalms we pray, day in, day out,
along with the same Commandments.
I’m not going to say much about our Old Testament reading
as Lindsey writes on this for her sermon today. (Dr
Lindsey Hall is the diocese leader of DVE, Discipleship,
Vocations and Evangelism.) But it reminds us of our
calling, to respect those around us, to take care of
others, to work and to rest.
So where does the Gospel fit into this? It describes the
temple during a time of preparation, as Jews began to
purify themselves before the Passover, much as we try to
keep Lent as a preparation for Easter. So we get that
there were things to do, rituals to be upheld, prayers to
be said. We get that. The Jews would arrive at the temple
to remember God’s deliverance, to honour God through their
rituals and repentance. I wonder, is that any different to
us, as we approach Holy Week?
And we see Jesus in a rage. Certainly not ‘gentle Jesus
meek and mild’ here! What does he do? He chases out the
animals and the merchants, turns over tables and scatters
the coins. You can just imagine the scene. A bustling
place of preparation and purification becomes a picture of
noise, shouts, frightened animals and bewildered cries of
rage. Pilgrims and priests may have stood by. Did they
wonder what exactly Jesus was doing? Why would Jesus want
to stop all the purification rites at such an important
time in preparation for the Passover festival?
It’s because the intention overcomes the action. It’s
because those who were purchasing the sacrifices and
offerings were doing so thinking that’s all they had to
do. That they could hand over money, make a sacrifice, and
not have to think much deeper. They were kidding
themselves that if they made these sacrifices, they could
continue with their lifestyle, living lives of oppression
and injustice.
They were going through the motions.
I wonder, are there times when we, too, go through the
motions?
Lent is a time when we may try to focus our lives more on
God. The Ten Commandments ask us to rely on, to trust in
God alone. They ask us to create a society that will be
ready to proclaim ‘Christ crucified.’ They ask us to speak
up for those who are wronged, to speak out when necessary.
And to return to Psalm 19, the psalmist prays that we too
are delivered from the things that get in our way of God,
from the things that cloud our vision, even those things
we do not intend to happen. That we can be delivered from
‘going through the motions.’ And so as we prepare to
journey through another week, in whatever we may be doing,
and as we gently prepare to come out of this lockdown,
perhaps the prayer we need to be on our hearts is exactly
the meditation in the final verse of the psalm.
‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
heart
Be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer.’
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:14 pm.


 
Thursday, 11 March 2021:

The Lockdown commandments


Dr Lindsey Hall's Sermon for 7 March 2021
Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 20:3 you shall have no other gods
before me. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the
earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 20:5 You shall not bow down to
them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and
the fourth generation of those who reject me, 20:6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those
who love me and keep my commandments.
Do you ever try and see how many of the ten commandments you can remember? Maybe you had all ten drilled into you at an early age.
Or maybe you find the last six or seven easy to recall and the first two or three a bit more confusing. You shall have no gods
before me and you shall not make for yourselves idols- I can never remember whether that's 1 commandment or 2 separate ones.
Perhaps because, unlike the later commandments about murder, adultery and stealing, these seem to come from a different world.
In the ancient world, there were gods to choose from and different peoples named and honoured gods in different ways. The Jews were
unusual for their belief in one God: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deut 6:4)
One God, who claims, in today's passage, to be a jealous God. A God who commands us not to put other gods first, or to make idols
for ourselves.
Well so far so good with keeping the commandments! I don't believe in any other gods and I have never bowed to a golden calf, or
worshipped the form of anything on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. So two out of two so far!
Our other reading today is John's account of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple. This passage seems, instinctively, to have
something in common with Moses receiving the ten commandments. Perhaps they are both moments in the life of a community when
something was revealed to the people, when even those who already worshipped the one God were shown some of the ways in which they
had lost sight of God. The ways in which they gradually put other gods first and focussed their attention on idols.
No doubt the cattle and sheep sellers, the dove sellers and the money changers in the Temple would have assessed themselves as two
out of two for the first couple of commandments. They were in the Temple and so were almost certain to be law observing Jews. But
to the onlooker it might seem that they had lost their way a bit. Certainly, Jesus seemed to think so.
This incident is often referred to as Jesus cleansing the temple - purifying it from those
were making it something it was not meant to be. Those who were putting profit ahead of worship, those who had lost sight of what
the temple was really for.
They hadn't built a golden calf or an idol for people to bow before. But they do seem to have developed a system through which you
could buy favour with God; through which you could be made righteous. Through which you were being invited to put your hope in
something other than the One God.
It's much easier to spot the ways in which people have wandered from faithfulness to God when those people are in a different place
and culture and time. Much harder to notice all those things that we put our hope in that aren't God.
We have been through, and are in, an extraordinary time in this country and in the world. We have had challenges of restrictions,
illness, loss, isolation, separation' - and for many of us believing in the promises of God, the Good News of Jesus and the
resurrection hope has been essential to keep going.
But how do we notice when we have also hedged our bets on other gods? When we have constructed idols and then worshipped them?
How many times have you heard the word normal in the last year?
"I can't wait to get back to normal". "When things are back to normal we'll be able to..." "I want my normal life back". And then
of course our questions about the new normal: "what will the new normal be like? Is this the new normal now, or is it going to
change into something else? Will things ever seem normal again?"
As though normality - being normal - is the goal of our existence. As though the ideas of normal we have constructed should be
pursued above everything else.
As though this bit of life is merely a disruption to be endured.
As though life is suspended until normality returns. As though God's kingdom is out of sight until we can see it again in more
normal times I do not think any of the first disciples recognised in Jesus someone normal, and so chose to follow him. Quite the
opposite.
And I do not think seeking normality is the same as seeking the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is not just for the good times, when the kids are in school and the shops and the pubs are open. It is for all times.
And even in the midst of a pandemic, the kingdom of God is amongst us, it is in our midst.
But even in the places where it is named and celebrated, it is surprisingly easy to lose sight of the kingdom of God.
I wonder what you have learnt during lockdown? Maybe it's something you already knew that has become really clear, or maybe you
have seen your community differently, learnt something new about what people are like, what matters to you, what's important.
One of the things we have noticed together as Christians we probably did already know but now see even more clearly: that our
church is not the building but the people gathered around Jesus.
In your church community, like in mine, you have no doubt seen new gifts emerge this year. New ways of praying, connecting and
serving that have been born out of the challenges we face.
These are testing times. And perhaps one of the greatest tests we face is how we seek the kingdom with the new revelations of this
time. How we respond to things that before we saw dimly, but now can see clearly. What are we going to make of the choice we are
presented with? Will we struggle to go back to something that no longer exists anyway, with all its flaws and familiarity; Or will
we, together, see Humbler, simpler, bolder. Focussed on seeking the Kingdom of God and joining with others to offer signs of the
kingdom to a broken world.
Familiarity can get in the way of focussing on the kingdom. Do you think other people who went to worship in the Temple were
offended by the traders and money changers in the Temple? Or had the sight of them and their practice had become so familiar, that
it felt normal and there seemed no reason to question it?
What in our Christian life together have we stopped noticing, that Jesus might overturn? What in the familiarity of our patterns of
worship, our use of buildings and the culture of our communities are we so keen to get back to that we are not stopping to ask is
it because they are normal, or because they are truly a sign of the kingdom of God?
If we read Exodus, we can see why God instructed the people to have no other gods before the Lord their God, and not to make idols.
They seem like good commandments for people in a society where many gods were worshipped and who were known to build golden calves.
But they are good commandments for us too. Even in a time of crisis, even in a global pandemic they remind us not to seek our
salvation in anything other than the Lord our God. Not in normality. Not in rushing back to the patterns of church we remember. Not
in our desperate longing for the familiar. These things may well be good things, but they are not ultimately, our hope and our
salvation. We find that only in the God made known to us in Jesus and in the kingdom which is already in our midst. Amen.
Dr Lindsey Hall

 
Posted by Josh Taylor at 4:32 pm.


 
Monday, 1 March 2021:

Curate's Blog


2 nd Sunday in Lent
Last week we had the story of God’s covenant with Noah,
setting the
rainbow as a sign of his love and of his promise to always
be with us.
Today’s Old Testament reading sees God make a promise to
Abraham.
“Walk before me, and be blameless,” says God to Abraham.
And
Abraham walks with God, and as he does so he realizes time
and time
again how he can trust God. Paul reminds us that God’s
promise to
Abraham is his promise to all of us, for we all have
chance to share our
faith and belief and trust in God with others.
And perhaps today’s Gospel seems hard-hitting. “Follow me,
and you
will also walk the road to the cross,” says Jesus. But is
that really what
he is saying? Let’s take a step back and try to tease out
this Gospel. It
comes just after the disciples have proclaimed him as the
Messiah and
Jesus has admitted that yes, he is. And he speaks out very
clearly,
saying that he must suffer and die. Are we to think that
this is God’s will?
Well, yes, but it’s more than that. Jesus dies because he
causes
disruption wherever he goes. He dies, because his
commitment to the
will of God is at odds with the views of the powerful
leaders. He dies
because his vision of how he should be faithful to God’s
mission is at
odds with the law.
So Jesus tries to teach his disciples what his role as the
Messiah will be.
He has accepted God’s will in the wilderness, where he
struggled with
temptation. And now here’s Peter putting his foot in it as
ever, tempting
Jesus not to go the way of the cross, throwing temptations
in Jesus’s
way when Jesus himself knows what he must do. We remember
that
Jesus struggled in the wilderness for some time. Peter and
the other
disciples have not had that chance; they do not have the
understanding
that Jesus has. No wonder Peter says what he does. No
wonder Peter
and the others don’t get it.
And Jesus replies saying that their minds must be fixed on
God, not on
earthly things. And in explaining this, Jesus at last
explains to his
disciples what his future will entail – persecution,
suffering, death.
And the disciples are to deny themselves, take up their
cross and follow
him
How tough must that have sounded.

2

It’s worth remembering that when Mark’s Gospel was
written, there’s a
good chance that the Christians already knew of the
persecution of
James and possibly even Peter. Mark’s version of
discipleship is costly.
But his vision of discipleship is what we are all called
to do – to join in
with Jesus’s mission here on earth. What is it that Teresa
of Avila said,
“Christ has no body on earth but ours, no feet but ours,
no hands but
ours.” That’s the point. That’s what we are called to do.
And perhaps the ‘denying ourselves’ is not - physically -
the way to the
cross.
Perhaps the ‘denying ourselves’ is a way of helping us to
face our own
temptations. What tempts you? Typical Lenten disciplines
and
temptations such as chocolate, wine, beer, watching too
much TV,
procrastination, gossiping, whatever it is – maybe, just
maybe during
Lent and beyond we are called to examine our own lives and
see where
we are found wanting. And I say that not as a way to beat
ourselves up,
but to take positives from it. Where does our weakness
lie? How can we
try to get over that? How can we try to be more patient
and
understanding, instead of jumping in with both feet? How
can we try to
live a life of service without being holier than thou?
For if we are serious about following Jesus, we are to pay
attention to
the inner voice that spurs us on, being open to the
prompts of the Holy
Spirit. We are also to pay attention to the inner voice
that tempts us.
The inner voice that stops us being the best we can be,
that prevents us
from reaching out to others because we are too busy
looking after
ourselves.
And as for the cross, just look at the cross on the wall
behind the altar.
There we see Christ enthroned in glory. The silver cross
on the altar
between services gleams and shines. If we time it right,
and the weather
conditions are in our favour, we can come into church just
as the rays of
the sun bounce through the windows straight onto the
cross. Then it truly
does radiate light. We hold the cross in such prominence,
and it’s hard
to explain why (as those who’ve been involved with Messy
Church and
schools visits to church will no doubt testify.) If we
think back to the
crosses on Golgatha, on the hill outside Jerusalem, I
wonder if we block

3

out some of the horror. The cross was a Roman instrument
of torture, of
death. Yet we honour and respect the cross.
What, I wonder, does this mean for us today?
I think it means three things:
To try to focus on God and to lead a life of witness to
Christ through
what we say and what we do.
To try to focus on our temptations as weaknesses and, in
understanding
that, to be more aware of those inner voices that drive us
on.
To act as Christ’s representatives and disciples in our
world today.

What, I wonder, is God’s plan for you? For me? How will we
allow
ourselves to be used by God? For the covenant God made
with Noah
and Abraham is extended to us, only this time Jesus is the
covenant.
He is our new covenant. He offers us everything. We only
have to
respond.
What, I wonder, is God calling you to do?

I finish with a meditation by Nick Fawcett, the meditation
of Simon Peter.

Did those words of his hurt, you ask?
Well yes, of course they did.
It’s not every day someone calls you Satan.
And to be labelled such by your closest friend –
one you love and admire beyond all others –
understandably it leaves you shaken.
But let’s be clear,
I deserved it, a hundred per cent,
for I should have known better.
It wasn’t as though he’d said anything new in warning us
he must die.

4

He’d been utterly open about it from the start,
clear that he had come not to lord it over us as the
Romans did,
but to serve through sacrifice,
winning glory through humility,
triumph through defeat,
life through death.
Yet, I still couldn’t get my head round that;
still saw success through human eyes rather than divine.
“You can’t die,” I told him.
“You mustn’t.”
Understandable, perhaps,
but wrong-
hideously, hopelessly wrong.
For if he didn’t surrender his life,
choosing instead to serve self rather than others,
there would be no Gospel to proclaim,
no Messiah to set us free.
I may have meant well,
but that wasn’t enough,
the road to hell, as they say, paved with good intentions.
I wanted joy without sorrow,
pleasure without pain,
answers that asked nothing of him
and still less of me,
and he helped me to realise that, for his kingdom to come,
there must necessarily be cost:
a price he would pay,
for us all.
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:00 pm.


 
Monday, 1 March 2021:

Take up your cross


Ven Julian Francis's Sermon for 28 February 2021 Second
Sunday of Lent - Mark 8:31-38
The first Christians had no access to the stories of Jesus
in the gospels; yet this mattered not, because they were
fired by a deep conviction over the power of
the cross for their lives. The crucified Lord was their
saviour and deliverer. Something in the crucifixion had
demonstrated to them that the man of Galilee was the way
to salvation. The tree of shame was their tree of glory.
And this primary recognition of the power of the cross for
Christian living is conveyed succinctly by Paul in his
first letter to the Corinthians. As he begins the
correspondence, he articulates a significant anxiety,
which is that 'the cross of Christ might be emptied of its
power'! He sees a risk that it may get obscured or
marginalised. Yet this cannot be allowed to happen; for as
Paul writes, whilst "the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing... to us who are
being saved it is the power of God." (Ch 1 v.18) No cross,
no power, no gospel! Paul goes on to say that this
'message of the cross' captures the soul in a way that
goes far beyond the wisdom of the wise, and is so much
more durable than the search for signs. He says, "Jews
demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim
Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom
of God." And perhaps most memorably, Paul declares that
whilst he could have come to the Corinthians speaking
about mysteries and lofty wisdom, "I decided to know
nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him
crucified"... nothing else mattered, and arguably nothing
else matters still! The cross of Christ turns his healing,
transforming, justice-founded ministry into a way of
salvation!
Now we all know this to be perhaps the truth of our faith.
But this morning we are challenged by having this
proclamation of saving grace turned directly towards us.
Because this is what happens in Mark chapter 8 when Jesus
addresses the disciples and says, "if any want to become
my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me." What has quintessentially been
Jesus' vocation is becoming ours too! So, we must ask,
what is the Master calling us to? Today's verses from Mark
chapter 8 have a lot to say about Jesus' vocation to
suffering. They begin with what is known as the 'first
prediction of the passion', the first of three. "He began
to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great
suffering, be killed and after three days rise again." Now
very clearly, the disciples in this account do not have
the benefit, like the first Christians, of having
witnessed the crucifixion, and experienced its impact in
the community of believers. This is yet to come. The
thought, therefore, of Jesus being crucified is entirely
new. It is also anathema! And we see this clearly in
Peter's response, who "took Jesus aside and began to
rebuke him." Crucifixion was a particularly harsh and
degrading capital punishment that was reserved by the
Romans for ruffians and slaves. They would crucify tens,
even hundreds at once, so we are
told by the historian Josephus. Crucifixion was certainly
not for esteemed leaders. We can understand Peter's
protestations. But as readers of the gospel, we share,
along with the Corinthian Christians, a knowledge about
the saving death of Jesus. We know that through his death
we live! We are inclined, therefore, not to hear these
words of hiss with the starkness they would have had to
the disciples who first heard them. It is good, therefore,
if we can put ourselves in their shoes and hear Jesus as
if for the first time, declaring what his calling is from
God, to 'undergo great suffering, be killed and after
three days rise again'. Today is an opportunity to stop
and listen and take this in... We also observe that
today's crucial portion of scripture, that signifies both
Jesus' vocation to suffering and the vocation of his
followers to take up their cross, is sandwiched between
two great proclamations of who Jesus is. In chapter 8
v.29, it's the same Peter who declares, when asked, that
Jesus is the Messiah! Then in chapter 9 verse 7, in the
account of the Transfiguration, it is the voice of God
that announces, "This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to
him!" These two clarion calls from the text serve,
therefore, as two bookends, that point us towards what
happens in between. This textual construction acts as a
signpost telling us, if we hadn't quite got it the first
time, just how important this vocation is....
Interestingly, it happens right in the middle of the
gospel (in Ch 8 of 16) and should be thought of as the
heart of the gospel good news - that this Jesus, who is
the anointed one and the Beloved Son has a divinely
ordained vocation to suffer, to die and to be raised - and
this is the foundation of our faith!...
We are familiar with Jesus' response to Peter's rebuke. It
is in the strongest possible terms, "get behind me Satan!"
And the sharpness of Jesus' rebuke is yet another
indication of how important this teaching is about his
true vocation. The same can be said of the call to his
followers to walk in the way of the cross... If at ten
days into Lent you are still pondering what to give up or
take up for Lent, today you have your answer – take up the
cross!! Would that more of our Lenten observance led us
more deeply in this direction! For there can arguably be
no better time than Lent, and no better time than the
present, for us to give thought, prayer and consideration
to the meaning of the cross for our lives. Jesus says, “If
any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want
to save their life will lose it, and those who want to
lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the
gospel, will save it." In childhood I worried a lot that
if I was to be a good follower of Jesus, I might have to
countenance being crucified. This is one of the problems
of the literal mind of the child. And I may not have been
alone in this. As an adult I am struck by the fact that
the cross is not really about Jesus himself, even though
he must wrestle with accepting his vocation of suffering -
praying in the garden that the hour might pass from him,
"yet not what I want, but what you want." Rather, the true
focus of the cross is God's great desire and passion for
humanity. The cross is a means of salvation. The obedience
of the Son is part of that endeavour, as we know from Paul
in Philippians chapter 2, where he speaks of the Lord
“humbling himself and becoming obedient to the point of
death." But it is not the goal. In a similar way, our
calling to take up the cross as followers of Jesus is not
really about us, in the sense of being about
something we have to do or be or agree to. It is, rather,
I am inclined to think, about a willingness to be used by
God in the great arc of salvation bending towards humanity
and creation. It is a dispensation, an
openness of heart and mind. From Philippians 2 we
sometimes forget that Paul introduces the passage saying,
"let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus."
The calling to take up the cross is a habit of heart and
mind that we receive through grace, through his Spirit
working in us.
This leads to the thought that in the same way that we
sometimes talk of being co-creators with God in fashioning
the created world, so we are surely also co collaborators
with God, though grace, in ushering in his salvation – the
healing, wholeness, reconciliation and blessing that can
come about through taking up the cross and walking in the
way of suffering love. And we have surely witnessed some
extraordinary examples of people being used by God to walk
this costly and risky road in the circumstances of the
pandemic. Our frontline workers in health and social care,
so many people in public and retail services, both in the
foreground and in the background, have set aside their own
comforts and risked their lives to be out there in the
danger zone - sometimes as a professional necessity,
sometimes through personal decision, and at other times as
the only way to put bread on the table. And this tide of
suffering love has made all the difference, both to those
in peril and to the rest of us who have been shielded from
the storm to a much greater extent. And this reminds us
that our calling as Christians to walk this way with
Christ is forever open to us.... We can always attempt to
walk away from the suffering of others. But this is not
what our Saviour asks of us. As Archdeacon Paul referenced
in a recent bible study, when we seek transformation in
the world in Christ's name, "we bear in our bodies the
scars of his passion". We walk where he has travelled, on
the way of the cross - because this is the way that God
chooses to redeem what is broken in the world. The
brokenness of human lives and of the planet, and the
injustices of society, are out there waiting for us. To
take up the cross is our surest weaponry for the healing
of what is broken. But whilst Christ's road of suffering
was necessarily a lonely one, plumbing the depths of the
darkness of God, ours need not be. Why? Because he walks
with us. When we take up the cross, he is holding the
other end. John Bell's lovely hymn, Jesus Christ is
waiting' captures beautifully this calling at the heart of
discipleship. The final verse expresses especially well
how the way of suffering love is a path we walk in step
with the Lord: "Jesus Christ is calling, calling in the
streets. Who will join my journey? I will guide their
feet. Listen Lord Jesus, let my fears be few. Walk one
step before me. I will follow you."
Venerable Julian Francis

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:57 pm.


 
Sunday, 21 February 2021:

Curate's Blog


1st Sunday of Lent
I wonder if you’ve ever experienced a sudden change of
weather? Perhaps when you’ve been out for a walk. One day
a couple of weeks ago, I started my walk in glorious
sunshine. It was chilly but the sky was that glorious
winter blue, the birds were singing, there was a small
amount of warmth in the sun and all was well in my world.
For an hour or so this remained the case. You can imagine
the scene, as I walked along the local canal bank,
watching out for signs of wildlife, listening out for the
wren, the robin, hoping to catch a sound of the woodpecker
along a stretch of the canal where I knew I may encounter
such glories. And then…well, then the sky became ominously
dark. So dark, perhaps, that it felt like night time.
Birds stopped their singing and the wind picked up. Within
the space of a few minutes the heavens opened, and sleet,
snow, rain, you name it cascaded down.
When that happens, the canal bank is not a great place to
be! No shade, no cover, I was totally exposed to the
weather conditions.
It felt as if the heavens had been torn apart.
Another time, years ago, I became aware of glorious
sunlight in rays as the path of the sunlight danced across
the calm sea. The clouds parted and the sunlight radiated
through across the waters. Although we were with four
excited small children, I remember thinking it was as if
heaven itself opened to allow us this beautiful sight.
Neil (then aged 4) said he could see the whole wide world.
For that moment, it felt as if that was a real gift from
heaven.
And yes, it’s perhaps easy to think that the Spirit of the
Lord was present in that light. Some places are described
as ‘thin places,’ which is a Celtic term. In these places
we feel closer to God and we may feel much more aware of
His presence. Places like Lindisfarne have such a feeling
– where it feels as if earth and heaven are together,
where the veil between them is so thin so it feels we are
walking where the saints have trod and where God is very
much present and all around us and within us.
At such a moment, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God.
And then – and then, the Spirit descends on him like a
dove – and then the Spirit drives Jesus into the
wilderness for forty days, where he is tempted by Satan
and waited on by angels.
I can’t imagine being ‘driven’ into a wilderness. I wonder
if Jesus wanted to go there. I wonder if we are prepared
to be ‘driven’ by the Spirit to places where we don’t
really want to go. I wonder if we are prepared for our
prayers to be answered in ways beyond our understanding.
Jesus is tested, just as the Israelites were tested
thousands of years before as they walked in the
wilderness. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the Gospels
and he gives us a very short account of the temptations.
We are simply told Jesus was tempted by Satan.
And I wonder if we are in a version of wilderness. We have
a sense of restlessness, of being displaced with life not
as we would want it, not how we expect it to be. Almost a
year after the first lockdown began, we did not expect to
still be in some sort of lockdown, finding it difficult to
make plans, missing our families and friends, missing our
freedom to be able to meet up and to visit places. Perhaps
we have learnt what is important, that simple things like
being able to meet for a chat and a coffee are more
important than ‘things.’
Jesus accepts where he has to go, what he has to do. He
goes where he is sent. Wild animals leave him alone. He
has nothing with him. Yet something happens to him whilst
he is in the wilderness. We can only imagine how he
suffers unimaginable torments but something changes.
For when he returns, he is geared up for action.
I wonder, what caused the change?
I wonder, is this when Jesus learned to put God first?
Nick Fawcett writes that Jesus entered the wilderness to
lead us out.
And that’s the comforting thing in all this. That no
matter what is going on in our lives, no matter how tough
restrictions may be, how sad or angry we may feel, Jesus
walks alongside us. We only have to allow him walk
alongside us.
My prayer for you this Lent is that we walk this journey
together, with Jesus and with each other. If we truly
believe that we God’s beloved children, we can trust that
he is with us, that he has our back.
Which of course doesn’t mean life will be easy. For we are
called to walk alongside the marginalized, the rejected.
We are to speak out for justice. We are to pray. We can’t
afford to be passive. But it does mean that Jesus is with
us, that God is with us.
Do we notice those times when the veil between heaven and
earth appears to be so thin we allow ourselves to become
aware of God’s presence?
And I wonder, do we truly believe that, no matter what
life throws at us, Jesus walks this way with us, God is
with us, so that we can trust in him and play our part in
serving his kingdom?
And if so, what exactly are we doing about it?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:26 pm.


 
Sunday, 21 February 2021:

Where Do We Find Hope?


Ven Sue Weller’s Sermon for the first Sunday in Lent, 21
February 2021
Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 3:18-end, Mark 1:9-15
What things come to mind for you in this pandemic now in
its second year?

For me it includes the optimism and resilience of Sir
Captain Tom Moore, and his message of hope that ‘tomorrow
will be a good day’.


We continue to see the fragility of life in the face of
COVID 19 here and around the world. There is the
determination to keep going despite exhaustion and death,
and the incredible science that has given us vaccines so
quickly. The pandemic is affecting all of us, including
for many fear, as jobs and valuable education are lost,
and there continues to be uncertainty of what the future
might hold.
Yet not everyone seems to be on the same side. Often the
news gives us examples of the selfishness of those intent
on breaking the law, putting themselves and others at
risk, or the bitter ongoing battles between governments
of who gets the vaccines and when.

Whatever comes to mind for you, there is one over riding
symbol, that we will all have seen. A sign of trust in
and thanks for our NHS and all key workers, based on
their skill and commitment - the rainbow. A sign too of
our promise to play our part. We hope things will get
better, we hope we will come out the other side, we hope
that we can return not to normal life, but to a new life,
changed for the better by the pandemic.


Where does that hope come from?

The morning after the UK reached the heart-breaking total
of 100,000 deaths, for any reason within 28 days of a
positive COVID test, BBC Breakfast asked the question,
where do we find hope in this pandemic? They interviewed
the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. His answer to
the question, where do we find hope?
Was ‘I find my hope in Jesus Christ’. He went on to say,
‘death does not have the final word, God has the final
word. God is with us in the anger and the pain’.

I find my hope in Jesus Christ.

On this first Sunday in Lent, our readings show us that
we can all have that same enduring, concrete, certain
hope.

God knows us as we are, God knows that there is
suffering, injustice, and evil in this world. Our
solution if asked, might often be, why doesn’t God just
wipe out those things that are wrong? The pandemic,
violence, selfishness… but that doesn’t solve the
problem. Not one of us is perfect, including me. So where
would God draw the line?

The reading today from Genesis 9 begins to point us to a
very different solution. Genesis tells of God’s promise
for all generations to come, God said to Noah that all
life will never be destroyed again – I have set my
rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the
covenant (the promise) between me and the earth.
The stunning beauty seen in the rainbow is a reminder of
God’s promise not to destroy all life; something God
would have to do to wipe out all that is wrong in this
world. But God’s promises don’t end there. God promises
to save us.


In possibly the most well-known verses in the Bible, John
Chapter 3: 16-17, we read 16 For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes
in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
God doesn’t abandon us to battle on in our own strength,
fearful of the future, fearful in the present, we are
offered life that not even death itself can take away. We
can’t buy eternal life; we can’t work for it; we can’t
inherit it as we would a family heir loom. Only God can
give us life, saving us through Jesus Christ.


As Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote in his first letter, that
we’ve read today, 1 Peter 3:21 reads, we are saved by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ, a young man in his thirties, went through
horrific suffering, to save us, bearing all that is wrong
in our lives, bearing the sins of the world. Christ died
on the cross for you and for me. Christ was buried and on
the third day was raised to life by the Holy Spirit. The
tomb is empty.

God is not distant, leaving us to get on with life having
promised not to destroy us. In our reading from Mark’s
Gospel, Chapter 1, God the Father declared that Christ is
the Son of God. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are
my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Led by
the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, Christ
overcame the temptations of Satan. On his return he
begins his adult ministry announcing the good news to the
people – “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and
believe the good news!” Jesus Christ is as alive today,
as he was that first Easter following his resurrection.
He conquered sin and all its consequences including death
and destroyed the power of Satan. Christ smashed through
all that separates us from God and each other.
“The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the
good news!”
God is with us and offers us the gift of living life in
the presence of God, knowing the love, power and hope
found in Christ. The kingdom of God has come near.
Knowing that God is close to us, how do we respond?
Christ calls us to Repent and believe the good news!
Repent, to turn away from living life our way, and turn
to Christ. And to believe – to believe in Him, trust
Him in every part of your life, receive all He longs to
give you.
Find hope in the face of suffering and death, faith to
see God at work in you and the world and know the love
your heavenly Father has for you, his precious child.
During this pandemic, with a long way still to go, it may
feel that it is too much to face the reality of your need
of God and do something about it. Even if that something,
turning to Christ and trusting in Him, will give you true
and lasting hope. Yet in this season of Lent, knowing all
is not OK, take the opportunity to stop, be open and
honest with God. Turn to Christ and know the forgiveness
of God. Take the opportunity thorough Lent to read or
listen to the Gospel of Mark, either for the first time,
or having done so many times before. Turn to God and
believe in Him.
Be embraced by the God who loves you in this life, as
well as the life to come, find hope in Jesus Christ,
that today, as well as tomorrow, despite suffering, fear
and uncertainty, will be a good day.

Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong
compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere and face the future
with hope in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
Amen.

 
Posted by Josh Taylor at 10:07 pm.


 
Wednesday, 17 February 2021:

Curate's Blog


Sunday before Lent

I wonder if, like me, you love those ‘break through’
moments? You know, the times that the sun’s rays burst
through the clouds and you hold your breath in wonder; the
times when you view a sunset over the sea, perhaps; those
moments when for a split second time stands still as you
drink in the sheer power and beauty of the scene before
you.
And in a flash the moment has gone, to be long imprinted
on our memory with a yearning to go back, to be there to
be able to experience it all again.
I wonder if that’s how it felt to Peter, James and John on
the mountain with Jesus. For that moment heaven came down
to earth and the sheer beauty of God’s glory shone so
fully through Jesus that he was transformed. What a
moment. No wonder they were terrified. No wonder they were
confused. And to hear the voice from the cloud, “This is
my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
The past and present intermingle there on that mountain
top. Are we meant to be able to understand the
transfiguration? Well, on one level we understand that
Jesus’s glory is revealed. When the disciples see Jesus
with the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, we
realise the Transfiguration places Jesus firmly alongside
these prophets, places him in the honour of these two
Jewish prophets.
The cloud covering and the voice from heaven link us back
to Jesus’s baptism, for there we heard, “You are my Son,
the beloved.” Now we hear, “This is my Son, listen to
him.” The disciples are the ones who hear, the voice is
addressed to them. So they witness the most amazing,
transformative event up there on the mountain and no
wonder they want to stay there and drink it in, no matter
how scared they must have felt. They want to stay up
there, in that place of revelation, of wonder. And what
happens?
They have to go back down. Not only that, they are told by
the very person who they saw transformed, to say nothing,
to go back down the mountain.
The Transfiguration changed the outer appearance of Jesus
but did not change who He is. The three disciples who
witnessed this were changed, however – they must have
been! And their lives were then transformed forever. God’s
left them in no doubt of who Jesus is. And they are to
journey on with Jesus while he talks of suffering and of
death, they are to journey with him as they recognize that
his words are the words of God.
“This is my Son. Listen to him.” Surely these words are
the climax of this Gospel story today, when we realise
that the Word made flesh, the Word who was there from the
very beginning of time, is God and is of God.
And we come down from the mountain top back into the
ordinary reality of life. Wanting to cling to those
moments of inspiration, those mountain top moments, but
having to come back down to earth, back to the ordinary
stuff of day to day life. And now we turn towards Lent,
towards Ash Wednesday when we are reminded we are but dust
and reminded of our own mortality.
We journey together as the church, the people of God. Like
the disciples, we are to accompany Jesus on his journey
towards the cross. We are to walk with Jesus up another
hill, when he is flanked by two other men. This time,
though, they will not be Jewish heroes, but criminals.
We are called to listen to Jesus, to listen and follow in
his way, to give hope to those who feel lost; to offer
strength to those who feel down; to listen and walk
alongside others on their own journeys.
We allow ourselves to become the disciples up on the
mountain top who have to come back down to earth and who
faithfully follow Jesus.
Yes, hold on to the spiritual highs especially in these
days of lockdown and restrictions. But allow yourself to
come back down to continue your walk alongside Jesus.
Ash Wednesday will be different this year, out of
necessity. Take time if you can to mark the sign of the
cross in ash on your forehead, and pray the little prayer
in the Lent in a Bag. Our Lent observances will be
different but God is aware of all our intentions. My
prayer is that you spend some time with him as we journey
together alongside Jesus.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:46 pm.


 
Saturday, 13 February 2021:

Jesus is different; he makes things different


Transfiguration Sunday; Racial Justice Sunday; Valentine’s Day.
Simon Foster’s Sermon for 14 March 2021
2 Corinthians 4.3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has
blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who
is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your
slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Mark 9.2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by
themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one* on earth
could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to
Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for
Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud
there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no
one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the
Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Be our living word O God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I want to invite you to stand with me in front of a picture. It is a picture that speaks of the two themes of this
day – the transfiguration – and racial justice Sunday.

It is a picture that I bought in my early twenties, and it has hung on my wall ever since. I was not then a
Christian: it would be another fifteen years until I was baptised. But I knew even then that the man at the centre
of this picture was important to me.




It is a profound, but joyful picture; a picture of Jesus gathered with his followers. Here is God’s kingdom; and
looking at it, you, and I, are standing on the edge, seeing it from a doorway, perhaps.
You are right to be thinking that this is a picture of the last supper. But it is more than that: the painter has
brought the essence of the transfiguration into the picture, as much, even, as the last supper. The
transfiguration, the story we just heard from Mark’s gospel, is the point where the disciples suddenly see for
sure that they are dealing with someone who is different.

In this picture, as in the transfiguration Jesus seems transformed in front of his close friends and disciples: he
is different; the light of heaven – we call it glory – pours onto Jesus, clothes and all. I love how the artist
has taken Jesus’ clothes, ‘dazzling white, such as no-one on earth could bleach them’ and chosen to make them an
extraordinary, vivid red. I wonder why?

We see that Jesus’ attention is on the things of heaven, even while his feet rest on earth. He is connected to
God, confident to marshal God’s kingdom in this world. Even the room where we see him feels as if it is becoming
God’s kingdom, because he is in charge of it.

Jesus is different, the picture seems to say; and he makes things different.

And I think that’s why I chose it to be – it turned out - my lifelong companion of faith: so that I could wonder,
daily, at how he is different, and how he makes things different.

But I think I chose it because this picture held another truth, too, although I didn’t fully understand that at
the time. For it reminds us that Jesus’ world was totally different from ours. Like Jesus’ community, the people
in this picture live in a culture untouched by Western life; their clothes, home, furniture, and musical
instruments are different from what I see in my home.

Why was that important to me? After a childhood growing up in a small village on the north edge of Lichfield
diocese, a place where everyone was white, I was starting adult life in Birmingham. And in Birmingham, I met
people of colour from many heritages: beautiful, gentle, hopeful people, some with clear Christian vocations and
all so obviously made in the image of God. In getting to know them, attending to them, and learning their stories,
I discovered that every one of them had to navigate life with the baggage of racism loaded on their back. I heard,
too, the way white people sometimes spoke to, or about, them. And I wondered where the kingdom of God was in that.
This poster represented my instincts that the kingdom of God would never be fully present in England until this
nation had repaired those broken relationships.

Many British churches mark 14th February as Racial Justice Sunday. We mark this because we are Christians in a
country - and even sometimes a church - which has spent centuries decimating the cultures and bodies of many
nations and races. It is a shocking history, one which most of us who are able to would rather turn away from. But
it is one that lives on, and it can mark the everyday lives of people of colour today. The woman in the hijab who
was barked at outside my house. The young black pastor who thought maybe he would be wise to carry a knife when he
walked to his pastoral visits. And the black kid who came round to my house and thought this couldn’t possibly be
Jesus, because she’d never seen Jesus look like her.

That baggage is real, and it counts. It distorts the world and our relationships and even ourselves. It is a
burden first and foremost on the people who happen to have black or brown skin, but it fractures us all; our
relationships and ourselves.
Let us return to the picture.




I wonder how it speaks to you in this moment? You stand at the edge of this room, looking in. Jesus is raising
this great bowl – bread? Or wine? We don’t know – to heaven. God’s kingdom is here; and we stand on the edge of
it. We know from the gospels that we are invited to enter the kingdom. What would you feel, if you stood on the
threshold of this particular room?

I don’t know what that would make you aware of, but it is at this point I am aware of my own whiteness. White,
black, it shouldn’t matter, but it does - because of history. Should I enter? Would I be welcome? What would the
other people here make of me if I did? Would they see me, or would they see the history of my people represented
by my skin colour? Would they want me to enter, or wish that I would go away and leave them in peace?
Of course, what makes the difference is Jesus. He invites me; and if I knock, he will allow me to enter: ‘for
everyone who knocks, the door will be opened’.

But I think too that Jesus will expect me to acknowledge those he has already gathered; those whose spirit may be
even more battered by this world than mine is. Reconciliation in the kingdom of God will not be to blithely settle
together free from the past. There will be recogintion, and naming of the burdens. God’s kingdom will be peace,
not a truce. The burdens, fears and pains of the heart will be lifted through attention to each others’ stories
and not igoring them. It will be a place of love, not merely tolerance.

I wonder how you picture God’s kingdom? And I wonder what questions you think Jesus would ask you, as he invited
you to enter? What work would he ask you to do so that the kingdom with you in it, would remain be a place of
peace. Without Jesus, it would be challenging work indeed; but this picture reminds us that Jesus is at the centre
of God’s kingdom, making that work possible, hopeful, desirable, and worthwile.

This is my picture of faith. I have stood on the edge of this room for 30 years. I hope, in standing there with me
today, you find the space to ask your own questions about justice, about Jesus, and about God’s kingdom in your
life.

Amen.

 
Posted by Josh Taylor at 9:57 pm.


 
Saturday, 13 February 2021:

From the Curate


Second Sunday before Lent

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

One of the things that saddened me when we fetched our
Christmas tree down was that I would miss the lights on
the tree. I love the decorations and each one has a
special meaning for us, but for me the lights on the tree
drew me into the story of the hope for the world offered
to us in Christ’s birth. There was something positive
about those lights. They shone out through the darkness of
the branches, offering light in the darkness. We often
sat with the tree lights and just one table lamp lit.
There was something comforting in the short, dark days in
the depths of winter when we had this light. We could
have put more lights on, of course. When you have a small
light illuminating the darkness, it is only then that we
realise how important and life-giving is that source of
light.
What is the ‘true light that enlightens everyone?’ It’s
more than tree lights, or a small table lamp. It’s more
than the flick of a switch, or the light from the night
sky, or from the sun. The true light is within us. That
true light is the knowledge of God and of his love for us.
But we are nearing Lent, when we turn towards the Cross.
The lights of Christmas may feel a dim and distant memory.
Now we will have the contrast of the darkness of Lent and
Good Friday with that light. We read, ‘the darkness has
not understood’ and ‘the world did not recognize him.’ How
true those sentences are, for we see now that Jesus was
not recognized, people questioned who he was. ‘Who is this
man?’ they asked. And we remember, only then, that John
wrote his Gospel in the knowledge of who Jesus is. He
wrote knowing that he would go towards the Cross, towards
the grave, towards the resurrection.
It’s up to us to carry the light, to speak for Christ and
to express his love and care for everyone.
We cannot do this on our own. We do this in the power of
the Holy Spirit who strengthens and upholds us through
even the darkest of days. The light of Christ is there
even when we feel we cannot see it. When we notice even
the slightest chink of light, and reflect that light, we
may make a difference to someone else.
Next week we will think about the Transfiguration, when
the glory of Christ is revealed on the mountain. Today’s
Gospel points us towards that story, ‘and we have seen his
glory.’
For over the last few weeks, Christ’s glory has been
revealed to us week by week within the Gospel readings.
The voice from heaven at his baptism, together with the
Spirit descending as a dove – “You are my son, the
beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The revelation of
who Christ is, as he called his disciples to follow him;
how he knew them before they knew Jesus himself. The
revelation, the miracle when water was changed into wine.
The absolute authority shown by Jesus in the temple. “They
were astounded at his teaching.” The man with the unclean
spirit who recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God.
Yes, week by week the glory of who Jesus is has been
revealed to us in the Gospels.
We will explore Christ’s glory in the story of the
Transfiguration next week, but for now we are left in no
uncertain terms. Christ is the Light of the world. He
was, and is, and is to come. The Alpha and the Omega, the
beginning and the end.
I wonder, what words light up God for you?
And I wonder, how has Christ’s glory been revealed to you
over the last few weeks?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:59 pm.


 
Thursday, 4 February 2021:

4th Sunday of Epiphany


Dear Friends,

These days are long and dark, with the awful news that
Covid-19 deaths now exceed 100,000 in our country. The
Archbishop of Canterbury has urged us all to pray at 6pm
each day, and to that end we’ve put the web link on the
weekly sheet, or else we have hand delivered suggestions
for prayers from the Church of England website.
6pm may be inconvenient of course – you may be travelling
home, preparing tea, hearing children read, but the idea
that as many of us as possible pray together at a similar
time is very powerful. Perhaps you can light a candle at a
time convenient to you, though – and spend just a couple
of minutes each day in prayer.
This week much of my time has been spent completing a
reflective essay about my curacy together, sadly, with
funeral ministry. There is hope. Death is not the end,
God’s love is too strong and powerful for that. Light
overcomes darkness. As Christians we believe that there is
life after death and we live in the light and hope of the
resurrection.
My time has also been spent preparing online assemblies
for Rakegate Primary School – how I long for the day when
I can visit school in person and see all the pupils and
staff again!
I received an unusual request as well. A Brownie unit in
Brighton, who are currently meeting online via Zoom,
needed to interview leaders about their jobs to learn
about what we do and to give the Brownies ideas as to what
they can aspire to. The Brownie leader sent a plea out on
social media, and – in a rush of blood – I offered to talk
to the girls. Feeling slightly nervous, I sat in front of
my laptop here in Oxley ready to Zoom with the Brownies in
Brighton. The girls asked some interesting questions! How
do you get to be a vicar? How many days a week do you
work? Do you get any time off? Are you treated any
different because you are a lady? Do your Brownies know
you are a vicar? What do you do every day? Is every day
the same? Do you know the vicar who comes into my school,
Fr Patrick? What do people call you?
Of course, I’m not ‘the vicar’ but it was going to be
tricky to explain ‘curate’ to 14 girls all on Zoom, who
were very keen to ask questions! Interesting questions
though. I was keen to tell the girls they can aim high, to
use the words of the Brownie promise ‘to be true to
themselves.’
The sermon this week is from the Right Revd Matthew
Parker, who is waiting to be consecrated as Bishop of
Stafford and who was licensed on 28th January. I note he
preaches on the Candlemass readings. Candlemass is
February 2nd and marks the end of the Christmas and
Epiphany season. With that in mind, I’d like to share a
couple of thoughts about Sunday’s Gospel, which you have
on the attached reading sheet.
The first thing I noticed is how quickly Jesus establishes
his authority in Mark’s Gospel. We are only a few weeks
away from Christmas, but already, through Mark’s Gospel,
we have read about Jesus’s own baptism, how he performed
the miracle turning water into wine at the wedding in
Cana. He has chosen, called, his disciples. And now we
notice the opposition, as it were. He heals the man with
an unclean spirit. Today we can understand this as the
things that bring us unhappiness, ill health, mental
health. Be aware that this ill man knows exactly who Jesus
is. He sees it, he gets it, before anyone else. “I know
who you are, the Holy One of God,” he says. Jesus heals
the man, and his name and fame spreads even further
afield. Just who is this man, who turns water into wine,
who heals people? This man who teaches with authority in
the synagogue? The other opposition are the teachers of
the law, those people who were reliant on traditions and
‘the right thing to do’ instead of allowing people to
freely develop their faith.
At a time when we try to abide to authority, to the
guidelines and laws and restrictions placed upon us during
the pandemic, there are many who are skeptical about the
need for the current restrictions and way of life. Our
world hasn’t changed much, has it. There will always be
those who know best, or who think that they do. Our
calling is to be true to the One who has authority over
us, the one who calls us all by name.

With my love and prayers,

Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:28 pm.


 
Thursday, 4 February 2021:

Rt Revd Matthew Parker’s sermon for 31 January 2020


The gift of hope

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany, Candlemas

The novelist Vikram Seth on Desert Island Discs chose as
one of his top discs a poignant recording made during the
war by a BBC sound engineer. The engineer was capturing
the song of nightingales in a Surrey garden but, whilst
recording, a hundred and ninety seven Lancaster bombers
passed overhead en route to a bombing raid in Germany. In
the recording you can hear the joyful song of the
nightingale and then, underneath and growing in intensity
and threatening to overwhelm the birdsong, the ominous
drone of the bombers. Seth spoke of the "heartbreaking
counterpoint of joy and pain".
(www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-35874257)
In the gospel story of the Presentation of Christ in the
Temple we have just such a heartbreaking counterpoint of
joy and sorrow. Here we see so much that is good and
beautiful.
There is a new life represented in this child only days
old. Here is extraordinary hope and anticipation.
We have the pride of grateful parents, their joy in this
child who has been brought to birth, unique, theirs, and
yet a gift from God.
Here is great faith and devotion too. Simeon and Anna are
watching and waiting for God to bring consolation and
redemption to Israel. How easy it would be for them to
become disillusioned or distracted in their waiting. But
they stick with it because they believe that God is good
and loves Israel and will act for them.
And there is a blessing given to the baby Jesus by the
elderly Simeon; the insight that this little child will
bring light not only to waiting Israel but to all the
nations of the earth. The Spirit of God is at work in Anna
and Simeon and hovers over this child and his parents. In
God's temple, God's Spirit bears witness to God's son.
Life is glorious and to be celebrated. Nightingales sing!
There is love, joy, faithfulness, gratitude, new
discoveries and the knowledge that we are in the presence
of a loving God.


But this story of Jesus presented in the temple is a
bittersweet story; there is a darker note to be heard, a
counterpoint. Because when we look at all these
characters, we sense their vulnerability, their frailty.
What, after all, is more helpless and fragile than a baby?
And what of his parents? What is poor old Joseph to make
of this strange birth? And Mary? Does the taint of
disgrace still hang around her and her newborn child? The
circumstances of Jesus' birth were, after all, let's say,
unusual. It's all a bit messy and unsatisfactory, not
quite the perfect family as seen on TV advertising, more
like our families, more like our experience of that life
is actually like.
And Simeon and Anna carry their own vulnerabilities too.
Anna's husband died seven years into their marriage. For
the greater part of her life she has been widowed and, as
a widow in those times, lives a precarious existence
dependent on the charity of her male relatives.
And Simeon, waiting and waiting and waiting, must have had
his moments of doubt and disappointment. Sometimes he
must've hoped against hope and trusted through gritted
teeth that God would console Israel.
Because Simeon and Anna carry not only their own
struggles, doubts and the infirmities of old age but also
the sadness of their people. Simeon, we are told, is
waiting for the consolation of Israel. If Israel needs
consoling then Israel is living in a time of mourning and
sadness. It was hard for pious and faithful people to see
their nation, God's chosen people, under the oppression of
the Gentile nations.
Anna, we are told, is looking for the redemption of
Jerusalem. If Jerusalem needs redeeming it is because
Jerusalem is not free. Anna and Simeon are full of hope
and expectation for Israel but they also mourn its
captivity.
So into such a world - in all its glory and all its
fragility - comes Jesus, the Lord's Christ, the glory of
his people Israel and the light that will lighten the
Gentiles. And how does he come? Does he come as the divine
fixer who will bypass all that complicated and messy human
emotion and experience? What is revealed is that, rather
than sidestepping the muddle of human life, in Jesus, God
chooses to dive straight down into it. So here is a great
mystery: the God who made the world now enters into that
world and submits to all its glory and fragility.
Simeon blesses Jesus but...
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of
many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken
against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be
revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
This is not what a mother wants to hear about her baby.
She doesn't want to hear that he will be spoken against.
She doesn't want talk of swords that pierce the heart. But
in order to redeem our suffering, God enters into our
suffering. There is great light in this Candlemas story
but there is shadow too and by far the greatest shadow is
cast by the shape of a cross. We can hear, so to speak,
the nightingale song and the drone of Lancaster bombers.
And this light and the shade cannot –in this world, at
least - be separated out, as much as we might wish it to
be so.
I don't need to labour the point. In the past year we have
seen something of the glory of human life in the selfless
work of frontline workers of all kinds, the brilliance of
scientists in creating a vaccine and in countless moments
of human kindness and neighbourliness. But we have also
heard the threatening rumble of suffering and death. We
have seen - in hospital wards, lost jobs, lost school
days, mental health problems and widening divisions
between rich and poor - the heartbreaking fragility of
human life. We have all been touched by this crisis but
for some of us this will have come painfully close to our
homes and families.
In a world of sorrow and oppression, there is much we can
do as Christians – there are actions we can take. Run
foodbanks, setup telephone helplines, lead online worship,
get the shopping for a shielding neighbour and so on. All
really good things to do but, like Simeon and Anna, we
must also carry in our hearts the fragility of the world,
waiting and praying for its consolation and redemption.
This is the world into which Jesus was born and, in
fellowship with him and with all who suffer and mourn, we
pray, longing and waiting for the greater dawning of his
Kingdom in a world of shadow and suffering.
And as we faithfully bear witness in this way to the
sorrow of the world, we also bear faithful witness to the
one who has come amongst us, whose presence is a "light to
lighten the gentiles and the glory of God's people
Israel". In this fragile little child, Anna and Simeon see
salvation – one greater even than a much needed
vaccination! They see not only the piercing sword, the
falling and rising, the rumble of the engines of war
overhead, the stealthy spread of a deadly disease, they
see salvation, God's choice is not only to share with us
in the mess but also to redeem it.
As we hold together the counterpoint of joy and pain, may
God give us the faith to live as those who look for
consolation and redemption in these dark times. May God
give us grace to stand and wait in fellowship with Jesus
and all those who endure the pain of the world. And then
may God give us the gift of hope in the One who is coming
into the world, the light who will lighten the nations.
Rt Revd Matthew Parker

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:27 pm.


 
Saturday, 23 January 2021:

Epiphany 3 Thoughts – Water into Wine



This week we are privileged to have Bishop Michael’s
sermon (see below), so just a few thoughts
from me about our Gospel reading for today.
It’s such a well- known story that I wonder if we can
become blinkered in our
thoughts. Remember we are still in the season of Epiphany.
This story reveals so
much to us of who Jesus is, if we can but see it.
We can imagine the relief of the host family at the
wedding. Everything has gone
smoothly. Guests were content, the bride looked radiant,
the groom so happy. Only
after all the guests have gone can the hosts breathe a
sigh of relief that all has gone
well.
Perhaps changing water into wine appears trivial when we
think of other miracles of
Jesus – healing people, feeding them. Jesus reminded us
the Kingdom is like a
banquet so actually this is a good place for us to think
about signs and miracles.
Jesus enjoyed a good party as much as the rest of us.
A miracle is exciting, but the point of the story is that
it is a sign. John writes, ‘Jesus
did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee.’
Signs are important – they point us in
the right direction. Signs contain a meaning deeper than
the sign itself. Jesus comes
to offer us life in all its fullness, so that the ordinary
water of our daily life should
taste like the finest champagne (or finest malt, or most
exquisite cup of tea – you get
my point.) Jesus was at the end of a long line of Jewish
prophets and teachers – God
kept the best till now.
This sign, this revelation, shows Jesus to the world. Are
we ready to see the
extraordinary in the ordinary?
This week we have been relieved to see the number of
positive Covid cases beginning
to fall. They are still horrifyingly high, however, and
Wolverhampton is still one of the
highest areas for positive cases. Please stay safe, and
pray for all who are ill, either at
home or in hospital. Pray for those tending the sick. For
those who have difficult
decisions to make. Hold in your prayers those who watch
and wait for news, those
who mourn and grieve, those who have to give others bad
news over the phone.
Pray too for those who are dying. These are long,
difficult days. Give thanks for the
continued roll-out of the vaccine, for the new life we
begin to see in our gardens, for
the new hope we have in Christ.
With my love and prayers,
Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:40 pm.


 
Saturday, 23 January 2021:

Bishop Michael’s sermon for 24 January 2020


Quantity, quality, quaffability

Third Sunday of Epiphany, 21.01.24

Are you keeping Dry January this month? I am not, but I
know many who are. It is
an important public health opportunity, giving up alcohol
for a while after the
indulgence of Christmas. This year it can be particularly
helpful for us to attend to
our drinking in these days of lockdown. But if you are
trying to keep dry January,
this morning’s gospel reading might be quite a challenge,
because it shows Jesus
doing something very different.
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, he produces a huge
amount of wine out of
water. Let’s do the mathematics. Six stone jars, each
holding between 20 or 30
gallons, are filled to the brim with water. Even if each
jar only holds 20 gallons,
this means 120 gallons, 545 litres, of wine. A standard
bottle of wine today is 75
cl: so Jesus has produced the equivalent of 727 bottles
for a party which has
already drunk its way through the cellar. On the higher
figure of 30 gallons, the
stock-taking rises to 1090 bottles, I think. If you had
been enjoying yourself at that
wedding in Cana of Galilee, you probably would have had a
very sore head next
morning.
That is a lot of wine. What is the gospel trying to tell
us? It is not really about
drinking alcohol or abstaining from alcohol. It is, as
John says, a sign: a sign of
abundance, of super-abundance.
Our God is a God of excessive generosity, exuberant in the
kindness he lavishes
upon us. This is his nature – how he is, who he is. This
theme of abundance runs
through the New Testament. The Sower scatters the grain
everywhere; most is
lost, but what falls on good soil produces amazing yields:
30, 60, 100-fold. In
another parable, workers recruited to the vineyard at the
last hour are paid with
the same generosity as others who have slaved through the
day, to the
bewilderment of all. Paul says that the love of God is
shed abroad by the Holy
Spirit into the hearts of the ungodly, and in their
justification the justice of God
bears the fruits of amazing grace. Christian faith speaks
of undeserved,
unexpected, unscientific abundance; this is the sign which
Jesus sets before us at
Cana of Galilee.
So this wedding at Cana is a story of great quantity; but
it is also a story of high
quality – the wine Jesus provides is of the very best.
There is a man called the
steward of the feast; today, we would call him the event
organiser. He is the
person who is meant to be in charge, making sure that all
the plans go right. He is
surprised that the Lord has kept the best wine till last.
One early writer says that
this steward is the only person whose judgement about the
wine we can trust. ​
Why is that? Well, because he has to organise the party,
he is the only person
there who has had to stay sober.
This best wine is kept to the end: what Jesus gives is
promised as the completion
of our time, the perfection of our human nature, a
fullness of life for which all our
days here on earth are a training and a preparation. John
says that at Cana Jesus
‘revealed his glory’: that is the word he uses for the
fulfilment of what we are
meant to be. The glorious quality of the life Jesus offers
to you and to me cannot
be beaten for quality.
So we have quantity and we have quality; but any sermon
needs three points, and
it would be good if the third also began with a ‘q’. So,
with apologies, I give you
the word ‘quaffability’: by which I mean, the urge to
drink more and more of this
wine. For an alcoholic, of course that is a problem; but
the water become wine that
Jesus gives is such that we want to return to it again and
again, because it
changes us from glory to glory drawing us closer to the
God whose nature is love.
The quaffability of this wine changes people’s lives as
they grow in their
relationship with God. The tradition of the Orthodox
Church says that the groom at
the wedding in Cana was actually Simon the Zealot, and it
was because of Cana
that he became one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus
– he had been so
affected by what he experienced there. There are
traditions which says that Simon
preached the gospel in Africa and Asia, and some say in
Britain; and that he met a
martyr’s death in Persia, or some say near Grimsby.
That may or may not be the case, but we do not have to be
one of the twelve
apostles to want to drink again and again the wine of the
Kingdom which the Lord
gives us, and to have our lives changed as we do that. At
the moment, of course,
in most of our churches we are not gathering physically
for the eucharist, and
when we can do so it will be a long time before we can
again share in the common
cup of wine. But that experience, and the opportunity of
‘spiritual communion’
which we can make online, can make us think more deeply
about this great
sacramental gift, which we can usually enjoy and which we
often take for granted.
The early Christians saw in the miracle at Cana a pointer
to the wonder of Holy
Communion. One of them, St Cyril of Jerusalem, wrote this:
‘Once at Cana in
Galilee he changed water into wine by his own will; is it
incredible that he should
change wine into blood?’ This quaffable wine of Cana draws
us closer and closer to
our generous God. Its quality speaks to us of the
unimaginable glory to which we
are called. Its sheer quantity proclaims the vastness of
God’s love poured out for
us. And what was miraculously provided as a one-off for
invited guests in one town
in Galilee is now given to us all, in God’s grace freely
lavished upon us. Even in
these times of restriction and anxiety, particularly in
these times of restriction and
anxiety, God in Christ renews the wonder of Cana: he gives
us the abundant wine
of hope, to drink again and again.
+Michael Lich
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:39 pm.


 
Saturday, 9 January 2021:

Bishop Michael's sermon for Christmas 2


Beloved children
Bishop Michael’s sermon for 10 January 2020
Epiphany 1 [Baptism of the Lord]: 10th January 2021
Mk 1.4-11 (Gen 1.1-5, Ac 19.1-7)
The Gospel of Mark tells of the Baptism of Jesus two
thousand years ago. I want to tell you about the baptism
of my granddaughter Rosaline two and a bit years ago. Our
daughter-in-law is Russian, and Rosaline was baptised in a
little church in Russia near the Estonian border. It was a
joyful celebration, with little Rosalinka sat in a huge
tub as gallons of water were poured over her, she was
drenched in oil, and a great feast was had by all. It was
so different from the baptism of her grandfather – not me,
but her Russian grandfather, 50 something years ago. That
was in Soviet days, and Evgeni’s grandmother knew that her
daughter (his mother) would not approve, as a member of
the Communist party. So she arranged for the priest to
call in secret while her daughter was out at work, and he
hurriedly baptised little Evgeny in the kitchen sink. Fast
forward to two years ago, and Evgeny’s mother’s way of
thinking had changed so much that it was actually she who
arranged her own granddaughter’s baptism.
That family understood what a precious gift baptism is in
our lives. We sometimes take it for granted, but Mark puts
the story of Jesus’ baptism right at the start of his
gospel, to underline its importance not just for the Lord
but for us his followers. So what is it all about?
First of all, it is about a new creation, a starting all
over again. There is something fresh here breaking into
the world, breaking into our lives. Our readings this
morning underline that by taking us back to the beginning
of the whole Bible, to the opening verses of Genesis.
There, in the dawn of time, was the deep water, sign and
means of baptism. And over the face of the deep there
hovered what some translations call ‘a wind from God’. But
the Hebrew word also means ‘the Spirit of God’ – there,
right at the start, were water and the Spirit, just as the
Holy Spirit hovered over Jesus like a dove as he came out
from the waters of the Jordan. The story of creation
happens all over again in the life of the Christ; and it
happens all over again in the life of us Christians.
And then, that new creation is a gift. Like being born,
this is not something we can arrange for ourselves, but
only receive in gratitude. There is a power, a strength, a
wisdom, a love from beyond that is poured upon us. This is
the greatest of gifts given to us in creation, the
uncreated gift of the Spirit who is God. In the reading
from Acts 19 appointed for this morning, St Paul makes
this very clear to some people in Ephesus who so far have
only known the baptism of John. ‘Did you receive the Holy
Spirit?’, he asks them. ‘No, we have not even heard that
there is a Holy Spirit’, they reply. So Paul baptises them
in the name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Our Christian life is not something we take for ourselves;
it is given to us in the Spirit.
As the Spirit comes down upon Jesus, there is a voice
heard from heaven. Now, this is the great climax of the
story. Think of it: there is a great crowd gathered there,
the heavens are torn apart, extraordinary things are going
on. Now is the time to get the message across – now, in
this moment of drama, when everybody’s attention is
riveted. Just imagine – what message would you want to get
across at that point if you were God? Suppose you had one
minute on prime-time TV to address a nation. What would
you want to say most of all? Suppose you had hired a plane
to pull a banner streaming across central London. What
would you write on that banner? Now is the time; what is
the message?
God’s message is so simple, it is almost an anticlimax. He
doesn’t tell people how to live; he doesn’t unveil a
secret wisdom; he doesn’t threaten; he doesn’t promise; he
doesn’t explain the future. He just says to Jesus: ‘You’re
my boy; and you’re all right’ – that’s what he means when
he says: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased’. This is the one important thing he needs to get
across: to tell Jesus how much he loves him. In other
words, this baptism is about identity: who Jesus is, and
who is the one he belongs to. And what God said to Jesus
he said to each one of us in the baptism that made us
Christians: ‘You’re my boy, my girl; and you’re all
right’. What Jesus is by nature, we become by adoption and
grace: beloved sons and daughters of a God who loves us
and make us his own.
That is the most important message God wants us to hear,
and that is why we need to take our baptism seriously:
because it assures us of our identity. We live in an age
where many people are really unsure about who they are,
confused about their identity, bewildered by the celebrity
‘icons’ paraded before them. People fight furiously about
identity, how A’s identity threatens B’s, or C’s is better
than D’s; and the more unsure of themselves they feel the
shriller they shout.
But, for us who are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ,
identity is given and secure. When my little Rosalinka was
lifted out of the tub, the priest lifted her up high above
his head and whooshed her along in front of the screen
full of icons – real icons, of saints not celebrities. Her
little face lit up with delight at their glittering golden
surfaces, but the inner joy was to know that these shining
ones were now her brothers and sisters: like you, like me,
she has become a citizen of heaven.
The great Reformer Martin Luther was troubled by doubts,
fears, anxieties throughout his life. Terrors would
suddenly grab him in the middle of the night, or when he
was sitting with friends. But he always had one way of
overcoming his fears. Lying in bed, to his wife’s
annoyance he would shout out: ‘Baptizatus sum, I have been
baptised’. Visiting his friends, to their annoyance he
would write on walls or tables with a piece of chalk:
Baptizatus sum. That identity gave him peace of mind.
Whether in the joy of celebration, or the anxiety of
mental distress, or just the everyday business of living,
this is what our baptism means for us. It marks us out as
a new creation of God. It tells us that both the start of
our Christian life and its continuance are a gift from God
the Holy Spirit. Most of all, it assures us that we are
who we are: beloved daughters and sons of God.
That identity is something which we are to carry with us
throughout our lives, and which nobody can take from us.
The theologian Elizabeth Stuart wrote these moving words
after being at the funeral of a friend:
There is only one identity stable enough to hope in … In
the end before the throne of grace everything will
dissolve except that identity … Gender, race, sexual
orientation, family, nationality and all other culturally
constructed identities will not survive the grave … [But]
the I that I am is God’s own special creation, and that is
my only ground for hope.
So, as you stand at the beginning of this new year of
2021, give thanks to God for the baptism with which he has
made you his own. Give thanks for the baptism in which he
said to you: ‘You’re my boy, my girl; and you’re all
right’. Give thanks for the baptism which gives you an
identity in which you can live your life with assurance of
love and hope of glory.
+Michael Lich

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 2:41 pm.


 
Tuesday, 5 January 2021:

Epiphany


We will be celebrating our Feast of title on Wednesday 6th
January 2021 at 7.30pm with a said mass with music.


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:54 pm.


 
Monday, 14 December 2020:

Advent 3 2020



“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”
We’re over half way through Advent. It seems strange that
today’s the third Sunday of Advent – maybe it’s because we
were unable to worship here together in church on Advent
1. It’s a bit of a shock to realise that next Sunday is
the Sunday before Christmas. There’s still so much to be
done – presents to wrap (or even buy!), cards to write,
try to work out who to bubble up with for the precious 5
days from December 23-27… but still, we wait.

Who are we waiting for?

For all of today’s readings tell us to wait. In Isaiah we
read of the joyful waiting of the people of Israel as
God’s own people. They have hope. Our Gospel tells of
John the Baptist, the herald of Christ, himself waiting
for Christ with longing and expectation. The Messiah had
long been promised, long been prophesied.
How are we waiting for Christ?

Today’s Gospel is one of my favourite passages and I think
I see something new each time I read it. I love to picture
John surrounded by all these powerful people. Just
imagine the contrast: there’s John in his simplicity with
his lack of status, and there’s all these other people of
power pressing around him, asking questions, not quite
sure what to make of him. It doesn’t faze John, however.
He has a message to deliver – repent! Say you are sorry
for the wrong things you have done or said, and start
afresh. I often think he must have been a man of such
strength of character. What made him like this, I wonder?
Could it be the story of his birth to Elizabeth and
Zechariah? Could his mother’s tales of his extraordinary
birth give him the courage to do what he has to do? For
there he is, look, in that crowd over there, right in the
middle. They’re all pressing up around him (no social
distancing then, of course) – but is he scared of the
crowd or of the Pharisees and the officials? It would
seem not. He has strength from somewhere deep within
himself. His message is consistent. “Repent! Repent!” No
training for this. Who is this man, this man of fairly
low status, looking like a wild person, eating locusts and
wild honey.

Now think of all the characters in this story. Think of
the Levites and the priests, the Pharisees and Isaiah,
John and Elijah. So early on in this Gospel we hear of
disputes and challenges. John’s authority is questioned.
Local leaders’ resentment is fuelled as their norms and
traditions are being threatened. Just who is this man?
What does he think he is doing, and who sent him? How can
he offer baptism without their permission?
And even before Jesus is on the scene, we see the stage
being set for conflict between the strong and the weak,
between the rulers and the powerless. And as we go
through the liturgical year ahead, think how we will hear
Jesus preach and teach and how he will overthrow this
hierarchy again and again and again.

And, perhaps, consider how quickly we replaced the old
Jewish hierarchy for one of our own. Think how John from
the very start insists that in the new kingdom, hierarchy
will be replaced by humility.

And picture the scene, just imagine the idea of John
untying the laces of Jesus’s sandals. This task was
forbidden to the disciples of rabbis so would have been
shocking to John’s listeners. The job of untying sandals
and washing feet was left to the slaves – the lowest of
the low. What is this message telling John’s hearers and
telling us today? It’s saying we have to act as slaves for
Jesus. Yet Jesus came to make us all brothers and
sisters, free to follow and worship him and to serve
others. Think of Jesus later in the Gospels, washing his
disciples’ feet. Now who is acting as a slave or servant?

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”

John is sent by God. He’s aware none of this is his own
doing. It fascinates me to realise that John’s ministry
differs to ours. We journey along with Jesus. John did
not have that privilege. God revealed to John that ‘here
is the Lamb of God.’ When the crowd and the religious
leaders begin to press John, they don’t quite dare to ask
the question that they are all thinking. They’re
thinking, “Is this the promised Messiah?” but they don’t
quite dare to ask, and so they ask, “who are you?” They
don’t ask, “are you the one who is to come?”
John says that this great person is already among them, as
yet not recognised.
It’s not an answer the Jewish leaders are going to be
comfortable with. We know that they will in future reject
John’s teaching just as they question and reject the
teaching and actions of the One who comes after John.
Controversy around Jesus’s identity happens even before he
is in the public eye.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”
John calls us to prepare the way of the Lord – to make
sure we allow space and time for God, to listen to Him, to
pray. Is there, perhaps, a danger that we may be tempted
not to take his words to heart. After all, John himself
was preaching over two thousand years ago and his words
are not directed at us. Or are they? Imagine John standing
here today and saying to us “the Lord is already among you
although you can’t recognise him”.
What difference that would make to the way we see each
other, the way we speak to and treat each other? What sort
of community we would build if we believe that any one of
us could be our Lord, the thong of whose sandal we are not
worthy to untie.
If John did speak to us in that way, it would not be a new
message; Jesus himself said that whatever we do for the
most humble of people we do for him. The difference might
be that in John’s urgency and passion we might hear that
message in a new way and act on it in new ways in order to
prepare the way of the Lord who is already among us.
The prophet Isaiah gives us the reassurance that God’s
chosen one will provide comfort to those in despair. He
will change the way people see themselves, how they act,
what they do, how they are thought of by others.

And still, we wait. We wait and make straight the way to
point to Christ. We wait, and we prepare our hearts for
the coming of Jesus. There is strength in waiting.
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make
straight the way of the Lord.”
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:48 pm.


 
Monday, 7 December 2020:

Advent 2 2020



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.

‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.’
How apt is that text for today. We’ve been in the grip of
the pandemic for most of the year, there have been – and
still are – restrictions on our lives. This year has
brought so much suffering to millions of people across the
globe. Illness, death, grief, redundancies, financial
worries. Fear. Loneliness. For some there is the fear of
being unsafe outside their own home. For others, the fear
of being unsafe inside their own home. You can add in your
own concerns and we’d probably all agree it’s been a year
where more than ever we need glimpses of hope. Glimpses
of comfort.

No wonder so many households have decided to put up some
decorations for Christmas earlier than they may usually
have done. One house I noticed as I passed by had
decorations up in mid -November. We have to do what is
right for ourselves as individuals, and I have to admit I
love to see Christmas lights and decorations as I travel
around, it somehow does offer a feeling of hope and
expectation.
But, of course, we are still in Advent. It is not yet
Christmas. In the midst of all our expectations and
preparations, we wait. And many of us I suspect are tired.
Tired of the restrictions, of being unable to be with or
hug family and friends. Tired of plans having to change
time and time again. Tired of second guessing what we may
or may not be able to do. Tired of hearing only Covid-
related news.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
The people Isaiah was writing to were also tired. They
were lonely, they were suffering. They can see no sign of
God; in fact, they sense that God is hidden rather than
being aware of God’s presence. They were in exile, in a
strange land, far from home. Like us, they were
desperately in need of comfort. The prophet speaks to them
– look to God, he says. God will comfort and support you.
You will get through this. Trust in God.
That’s not to say that it would be easy – far from it.
And, knowing that it would be hard to notice the glimpses
of God, the prophet signposts where God is found – in
every valley, every hill, in every town and city, God is
there. It’s a wake- up call for Isaiah’s audience.
And advent is a wake up call for us. –a time of waiting,
of longing. A time to notice how God is active in our
lives as we prepare for His coming again – both as we
remember the nativity narrative on Christmas Day, and for
his second coming. Here is God at work in our lives – just
look at the generous response to The Well and Bushbury
Buddies. God is there as we care for each other, in each
phone call, text, delivery we make. God is there where we
work, helping through the long days. God is here. We have
prayed and worshipped in our own way, despite the church
building being closed for public worship. And there is
good news of a vaccine. God is definitely at work here.
The Advent themes of longing, waiting, judgement and
preparation speak in a new way into our lives during the
pandemic. There is much to do – the pandemic has exposed
the great rift, the inequalities faced by different areas
of our country and beyond, the higher risks to people
dependent upon their ethnicity. It’s uncomfortable to
acknowledge the truth, that the less advantaged members of
our society have been more adversely hit. And so the food
banks are so desperately needed. If any of you watched
the news reports on Wednesday, you, like me, may have been
in tears watching how organisers and priests wept as they
handed out food in Burnley, such was the need and poverty
of the recipients.
As we look back over 2020, it’s easy to see all the
hardship, the difficulties, the heartache. Look closer,
and there will be glimpses of hope. The signs of nature;
of goodwill, of neighbourliness.
2020 has been a time of exile. Comfort, O comfort my
people, says your God. And into that prophecy strides John
the Baptist, shouting about repentance, telling people to
make a pathway for God. We look and we listen, and we see
Jesus.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
That’s why we have to be a voice for change. That’s why
you have been so generous in your donations to The Well
foodbank and to Bushbury Buddies. That’s why we know there
are issues to tackle, issues of inequality, of racial
justice.
We speak into the vision of change, the vision of
equality. The God we proclaim comes as Jesus, who stands
up for the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, the
marginalized. So we are right to acknowledge the pain and
the hurt of this year. But we acknowledge too that Jesus
is here with us as we work together to help others. Our
hope is grounded in God and in His faithfulness.
The light breaks in the midst of the darkness. There is
hope after despair.
Advent offers us the chance to reflect on our faith, and
the hope offered to us. Advent hope.
In the midst of all this, a baby will be reborn into our
own lives, offering us a way forward, a way of hope, of
justice, of speaking out for truth, a new way of living
that will save us. But not yet. For now, we cry,
Comfort, O comfort your people, O God.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:56 pm.


 
Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Stay awake in hope



Bishop Michael’s sermon for parishes, Advent Sunday: 29th
November 2020
A Happy New Year to you all – yes, today, Advent Sunday,
is the first day of the Church’s new year, which begins on
a note of expectancy, as we look for the coming of Jesus
our Lord. And what does the Lord say to us at the start of
this year? Mark’s Gospel is very clear: he says repeatedly
to his disciples: ‘Keep alert … keep awake … what I say to
you I say to all: Keep awake’.
‘Keep awake’. Well, you might think, did he really need to
say that to us just now. This is a time when many of us
have no problem in keeping awake; it is getting to sleep
that is difficult. What is keeping you awake at night?
Maybe it is worry over your children, your grandchildren,
your dear friend. Maybe it is concern over your own health
or that of your spouse or partner. Maybe it is anxiety
about your finances, or your job, or more generally the
state of our society and our world. Maybe the isolation is
getting to you, or you are so tired that you cannot even
sleep; maybe it is some fear that seems so big in the
small hours of the morning that you feel like the poet
Fleur Adcock in her poem ‘Things’:
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in
public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected;
There are worse things than
not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in,
and stand icily about the bed,
looking worse and worse and worse.
Mental health issues have grown severely during this
pandemic and the restrictions it has brought; we know that
for a fact, and some of you may know it as an experience.
It is not hard to stay awake at such a time.
But the wakefulness which Jesus calls for is not like
this. He tells us to stay awake in expectancy, because we
are looking forward in hope. This is not a hope which
ignores the harshness of reality – the gospel passage is
describes a time of suffering, calamity and anxiety. The
hope which is given to us is one which acknowledges loss,
pain and sadness. But it is a real hope nonetheless.
This is the last Sunday of lockdown, and our expectation
is that from next week onwards it will be possible for
services to take place in our churches again. The skill
and inventiveness of our clergy and laypeople in taking
worship online has been amazing, and I am sure that
digital church will be part of our future from now on; but
what a joy it will be when we can gather together again in
person, when we can see one another face to face (through
our masks), when we can pray alongside one another
(socially distanced), when we can receive the sacrament
(maybe in one kind only). . And as we gather again, we
will be hearing and telling stories of hope that should
fill our hearts with joy.
In a few weeks, we will be telling again the great story
of the gift of Emmanuel. His name means ‘God-is-with-us’,
and that is the meaning of his life: he comes in Jesus to
be born among us, to share our sorrows as well as our
joys, and never ever to leave us. It will be an unusual
Christmas this year, but it will certainly be Christmas.
Maybe, as some of the dear familiar things we are so used
to cannot happen this year, and the dear familiar people
we love cannot join us, we will be able to focus a bit
more clearly on what it is all about. This year we
celebrated Easter when the death rate from the virus was
at its highest, and we were locked down in our homes: what
a time to proclaim Jesus’ new life bursting from the tomb.
And at the darkest time of this dark year we will
celebrate Christmas, feast of the shining light that never
can be overcome. Here is hope for us and here is hope for
our world.
And as we come back together again over the coming weeks
and months in our churches and communities, we will have
our own stories of hope to tell too. Stories of a people
who looked out for one another and took care of the
vulnerable and the isolated. Stories of workers in the
health service, in supermarkets, in deliveries, in many
essential jobs who carried on courageously doing their
duty for us all. Stories of people who learned new skills,
who adapted to new ways of living, who gave with
extraordinary generosity.
Stories of people who learned to see the world in a new
way, who realised that there is more to life than
shopping, who started exploring what it means to pray, who
found new meaning and purpose in church online. . Stories
of people who came to terms with their grief and their
loss and started rebuilding their lives. Stories of people
who were seized with anger at the injustices of our broken
world, and set about trying to change it.
We all know that there is a great deal of sadness, pain
and anxiety in our world just now; but Advent reminds us
that we are to look out for what is also there – the signs
of hope in our churches and our communities.
Jesus calls us his people to make a conscious choice to be
a people of hope. And there are two reasons why he does
that. The first is, because we need hope to keep on going.
The great Austrian Jewish psychotherapist Viktor Frankl,
who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, grasped this
when he wrote that nobody can live without hope. But if we
have a hope that gives us a reason for living, it gives us
a capacity to cope: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear
almost any how’, Frankl said. He experienced a time
immeasurably darker than what we have known, and yet he
insisted that the most basic of human freedoms could never
be taken away: ‘the freedom to choose one’s attitude in
any given circumstances’, And in every circumstance, the
attitude we should choose is hope.
But this is only half of the story. We need hope – but
what if there actually is no hope available to us? Then,
as St Paul said, we would be of all people the most
miserable. But Jesus points his disciples to a sign, the
sign of the fig tree: ‘as soon as its branch becomes
tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is
near’. He points us to something beyond ourselves, to
something we have not imagined, to something real. That
reality is not the climatic season of summer; we are as
many months from that as we can be. Rather, it is the
reality of Christ our sun dawning on our world, on our
lives. Our hope is built on this firmest ground: that in
Jesus, God has come to us, he has shared our life and our
death, and he has overcome the power of death through
bursting from the grave. This is the truth; it is not
something we have made up for ourselves; our hope is not
in vain.
This is the message we are to share with one another, with
our communities, with our world. It is a message which
transforms our lives and turns us from sadness to
expectant joy on this Advent Sunday. Today and every day,
let us make Charles Wesley’s prayer our own:
Christ, whose glory fills the skies; Christ, the true, the
only Light;
Sun of Righteousness, arise, Triumph o’er the shades of
night:
dayspring from on high, be near; Daystar, in my heart
appear.
Visit, then, this soul of mine; pierce the gloom of sin
and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine; scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display, shining to the perfect day.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:30 pm.


 
Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Advent Sunday 2020



So here we are, at the beginning of a new liturgical year
in church. Our Gospel
readings for the most part will be from Mark’s Gospel, and
today is Advent
Sunday.
Advent is about waiting, watching. We pause as we wait.
This year becomes
more poignant, as the grip of the pandemic means we have
tight restrictions
on our lives. Nothing is the same as it was. Nothing is
as we anticipated,
nothing as we planned.
Except this; new ways of doing what is important to us.
New ways of watching
and waiting and being patient alongside millions of
others, of all faiths and
none. New ways of showing we care and that we are present
in our
communities. New ways of watching, and waiting, and
preparing.
The Advent themes of hope, longing, watching and waiting
mean as much now
as they ever did. We are called to wait with anticipation.
We may not know
what is to come, but we do know who is to come.
Only a few words from me, as we have Bishop Michael’s
sermon this week.
Next Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent December 6 th
, we will be able to
worship together back in church, to hear the Great O’s
sung, to break bread
and share Holy Communion, to be fed by Word and Sacrament.
We will be able
to light two candles on our Advent candle. We will wait,
and watch, yes, but
there is strength in watching, and waiting together.
My prayer is that we watch and wait together, with
anticipation, understanding
and longing.
May God bless you all.
Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:13 pm.


 
Sunday, 29 November 2020:

Advent Sunday


Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the
Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of
Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his
final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and
liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they
also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme
of divine judgement:
Every eye shall now behold him
robed in dreadful majesty.
(Charles Wesley)
Advent Sunday 2020 is a day like no other. Although we
cannot be together in church to worship and praise God, we
can, none the less, still pray! We will be back together
as a worshipping community on the second Sunday of Advent,
6th December.
Some of the liturgy we would use on Advent Sunday is here.
I hope it helps you to pray on this important day, the
first day of the Church’s liturgical new year.
Anne.

When the Lord comes,
he will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness,
and will disclose the purposes of the heart.
Therefore in the light of Christ let us confess our sins.

Turn to us again, O God our saviour,
and let your anger cease from us:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your compassion, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Intercessions
In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid
we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge.
We pray for your Church throughout the world. For Michael
and Clive, our Bishops. For all that church congregations
are doing to try to ease the way for others.
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
We pray for all the nations of the world, a world gripped
by the pandemic. We pray for all governments and pray for
discernment and wise decisions. We pray for our prime
minister, for our own government, for all local councils.
We pray for all schools and places of education, praying
especially for Rakegate Primary school, sadly closed due
to Covid-19. We pray for all pupils and for the staff.
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter.
We pray for all those who are ill, for those suffering the
effects of Covid-19, for those whose operations and
treatments may be on hold. We thank you that there are
hopeful signs of a vaccine, and for our NHS, all medical
staff and those working in care homes.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.



Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls.
We remember all those who have died, giving thanks for
their lives, praying for them and for all who grieve.
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you,
that with all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Maranatha:
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Silence is kept.
Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay;
give new courage to your people,
who trust in your love.
By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your
kingdom
on earth as in heaven,
where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.



Almighty God,
as your blessed Son Jesus Christ
first came to seek and to save the lost;
so may he come again to find in us
the completion of his redeeming work;
for he is now alive
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit, be with us now and always. Amen.


As we await our coming Saviour,
go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Short Passages of Scripture

Now is the time to wake out of sleep,
for now our salvation is nearer than when we first
believed.
Romans 13.11

The night is far spent, the day is at hand:
let us therefore cast off the works of darkness
and let us put on the armour of light.
Romans 13.12

Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people.
Isaiah 52.9

Lift up your heads, O gates;
be lifted up, you everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Psalm 24.7

Watch at all times, praying that you may have the strength
to
escape all these things that will take place, and to stand
before the
Son of Man.
Luke 21.36

Stand up and raise your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near.
Luke 21.28

Our Lord says, ‘Surely, I come quickly.’
Even so; come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22.20
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.



Liturgy taken from Common Worship: Times and Seasons
Archbishops’ Council 2000

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 7:06 pm.


 
Saturday, 14 November 2020:

2nd Sunday before Advent Meditation


Not my words this week, but a meditation from Nick Fawcett
from his book ‘A Most Amazing Man’ – reflections for
Lectionary Year A.
Meditation of a reader of Matthew 25

I’ll use my talents alright, don’t you worry about that!
Well, you have to, don’t you,
if you’re to get on in this world,
and, like any other, I mean to do that.
You know what they say,
‘God helps those who help themselves,’
So, spot on, Jesus:
nice parable.
What’s that you say?
I’ve got him wrong?
In what way?
You mean it’s about serving God,
not self?
About using our gifts for His glory,
His kingdom,
rather than personal gain?
I’m not sure I like the sound of that,
though I guess it does fit rather better with the man and
the message,
all that stuff of his about good news for the poor,
riches on earth,
treasure in heaven.
Shame, I was quite hopeful there,
thought I had carte blanche to feather my nest,
but it seems not,
the day coming when I’ll be called to account.
Oh well, I must overcome the habit of a lifetime, I
suppose,
learn to give rather than take
But it won’t be easy –
not without help.
Ah, you feel the same!
That’s encouraging.
At least I’m not alone.
‘In more ways than one!’ you say?
‘Not one of us left to cope on our own?’
Tell me more.




Prayer

‘God helps those who help themselves’ –
that’s what people sometimes tell us, Lord,
and that’s what we’d sometimes like the words of Jesus to
mean,
for it makes them more comfortable to live with,
fitting in nicely with our instinctive approach to life.

Yet, deep down, we know that the Gospel message
is not about doing well for ourselves,
looking after number one,
but about employing our gifts in whatever ways we can
to help further the growth of your Kingdom.

Help us to do that,
consecrating our lives to your service.
Help us to seek your glory and advancement
rather than our own.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:33 pm.


 
Monday, 9 November 2020:

Remembrance Sunday 2020


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.
As a small girl I loved spending time with my Uncle Eric.
He was fun to be with.
What he never did, however, was to tell stories about his
time in World War II when he was a rear gunner with the
Lancasters.
When I saw a Lancaster bomber plane at RAF Cosford, I
began to understand a little of the horrors he, and
thousands like him, endured. The space for the rear-gunner
was like a little bubble on the tail end of the plane.
Tiny. Surrounded by glass. How terrifying must it have
been each time they went up. It’s beyond me, what these
young men endured, these young people who were on the
front line.
Only just before his death did he tell his family that he
was on the reserve list for the Dambusters.
And like many families, we have links with the first World
War, finding the war grave of my Great Uncle Fred from the
South Staffs regiment. He died early in 1914 and his war
grave is in Soupir, France.
In the 1990s we had some wonderful family holidays in
Northern France. We explored the Landing beaches of World
War II. 360 degree cinemas revealed the sheer horror of
the D-Day landings and made us think about our own liberty
but perhaps also our mortality. The War Cemeteries so
beautifully kept, where there was almost silence. A sense
of peace. Birdsong. I remember our son Neil crying as he
went along the rows of graves at the Bayeux War Cemetery.
Most of the 4,648 burials here are from the Normandy
landings. Opposite it is the Bayeux War Memorial for the
1800 casualties from the Commonwealth forces who were
unnamed. As Neil walked along the rows of graves he was
focussed on the ages. These were young men, many aged 17,
18, 19, early 20s. Someone’s son, husband, partner,
brother. Someone’s father. Heartbreaking.
All those who died in service during the wars died for our
peace time. Sadly, war continues in countries across the
world. We remember too those in the armed forces who have
been injured serving their country. Those whose lives will
never be the same again, who are scarred mentally and
physically by their experiences as they served their
country.
So today we remember and respect all those who died in
war, serving their country. We remember and pray for those
serving today in our armed forces, and we pray for their
families.
Perhaps this year Remembrance Sunday feels more poignant
than ever, for during the pandemic many people have lost
their lives in their own service of others. Front line
doctors, nurses, carers, paramedics, fire fighters,
teachers and school staff – key workers who have lost
their own lives as they serve others through their calling
to their own vocation.
We say thank you to all these people. We may not know
them by name, but we say thank you to them and we commend
them to God.
And as we do so, we recall the sacrifice Jesus made once
and for all. The sacrifice he made of himself hanging
upon the cross, falsely accused, where he died and was
buried. Then that glorious moment of resurrection, showing
that there is hope. How he showed up with disciples on
various resurrection appearances, cooking breakfast on the
beach, breaking bread in the upper room, walking alongside
them on the road.
If we have no hope, we are lost. Jesus is our hope and our
light. As we go into the second lockdown, we hold on to
that resurrection light and hope.
They shall grow not old
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.
We will remember them.

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:26 pm.


 
Tuesday, 3 November 2020:

All Saints Sunday 2020


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit, Amen.

One of the things we’ve been doing for a few months now is
a family quiz via Zoom, like an on-line video where you
can see and hear everyone on the call. on a Friday
evening. Fridays used to be full of Rainbows, Brownies,
Guides & Rangers and Choir practice. Lockdown Fridays
became a time of ‘what do we now?’ And the family quiz was
born, a time for our family members in York, Stone,
Telford, Lawley, Wolverhampton to ‘meet’ virtually for a
few hours and test our knowledge (it’s very clear within
the family who is the ultimate founder of all knowledge.)
One of our quiz rounds was, ‘Saint or not?’ We were given
names and had to say if that person was indeed a saint.
Saint Marina? Yes! St Serena? Yes! We learned there is a
Saint Barbara (patron saint of miners and firefighters,
among others;) St Foillan (patron saint of dentists;) St
Jerome (patron saint of librarians). There’s St Lucy,
patron saint of authors; St Milo who is the saint of pig
keepers. To name but a few!

Often when we think of saints, we think of their virtue
and holiness and picture them in stained glass windows, or
plaster/ alabaster statues. Think of our cathedral at
Lichfield; that great Western front is covered with
statues of saints with more to find inside, let alone
those depicted in the beautiful stained glass windows and
icons.
Do we ever stop to consider that these people were
ordinary men and women living out their lives in ordinary
ways? Saints were people like us. No one is born a saint.
They became saints through the way they lived their lives.
Do we ever stop to think that we ourselves are called to
be saints?
In these dark days of restrictions and lockdowns and the
news full of Covid-19 related matters, it’s easy to focus
on all the negative news, all the stuff we don’t want to
hear because it’s becoming too hard and challenging to
bear. But listen out. I’ve heard local interviews where
some kindly neighbour has helped others with their
shopping, or simply checked up on others. “He’s a saint!”
declared a neighbour, or “She’s so helpful I don’t know
what I’d do without her, she’s a saint.”
I don’t think they use the word ‘saint’ lightly.
So what is a saint? Not just an image in a stained glass
window, not a carving in a church or cathedral, or an
icon.
A saint is someone who lives their lives for the benefit
of others, often without realising it.
Today’s Gospel reading is perhaps a manifesto of how we
are called to live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
I don’t think Jesus intended them to be a set of high
standards to make us aim higher, to raise our game. The
Beatitudes (for that’s what they are called, this list of
‘blessed are the ... peacemakers, the merciful, the poor
in spirit and so on) are there to challenge us, to dare us
to do more, be more with our lives. And these words of
Jesus turned things upside down, because they are the
values of the new world, the Kingdom of God.
Today’s Gospel dares us to make a difference. To be the
change needed to improve the lives and situation for those
around us. Today’s Gospel, in short, calls us to live the
lives of a saint.
For we know saints were people like us. They walked our
paths, struggled with doubt, with temptation, with fear.
They fell. Got up, tried again. In other words, they do –
they did – what today’s Gospel calls us to do.
So on All Saints Sunday we celebrate us too, for the
promise of God’s new upside down world is in every single
one of us, for we are all called to be saints.
However dark it is – and it feels pretty grim at the
moment doesn’t it, with the prospect of another national
lockdown looming – we have a message to share, a message
of light and hope and love. Each new day offers us a
chance to reflect some of God’s love as we go about our
daily lives.
If we are self-isolating, we can still contact people by
phone or online.
If we meet people through work, we can smile and try to
lighten their day.
We are called to be patient and faithful, to live by the
light of Jesus Christ.
We are all called to be saints.
Now if that makes you feel uncomfortable, good! It
certainly makes me feel edgy. Unworthy, if you like. But
we are called to be what we can be, to do whatever we can,
and to do that well. We are not called to be people we
aren’t – if that makes sense. We are called to be who we
are and to be true to ourselves. And like the seed in the
parable of the sower, we do not know what a difference we
may make to people’s lives. We leave that up to God.
We are people of hope, people with a story to tell. We are
people of prayer, of action, of love. And together we make
a difference.
Look at the footballer Marcus Rashford. He may be famous,
an incredible footballer, but he has never forgotten his
roots. His campaign for children to be fed during the
school holidays has gained so much momentum and publicity.
And no matter what football team you support – or don’t –
he is to be admired for his passion and care for others,
especially at this tough time for so many families when
jobs are on the line and incomes greatly reduced. He gets
it, because he experienced it himself. He uses that
experience to make a difference to others.
That’s what we are called to do, in our own way, in our
own lived-in experiences. We’re called to make a
difference to others.
We’re called to be a saint.
Holy and merciful God, write the values of the Beatitudes
into our hearts and lives; and help us, with all your
saints and angels, to seek your face and happily walk in
your way. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:01 am.


 
Sunday, 18 October 2020:

Thoughts for the week 11.10.20


Trinity 18 (Proper 23)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Today’s Gospel sounds harsh, doesn’t it, with murders and
punishment. There is good news as well; of God never
giving up on us, everyone being included. But you may be
relieved to hear that actually I’m going to preach about
Psalm 23, which is the psalm set for today – that’s why
we’ve included it on the reading sheet.
I bet we all know this psalm so well. We may be singing it
in our heads as a hymn, or as from the Psalter, or perhaps
an anthem. This is one of the most well- known psalms, so
you may wonder why I’ve chosen to focus on this today,
rather than perhaps our Gospel reading.
Well, I’m mindful that after today’s service we have our
Annual Parochial Church Meeting – our APCM. I’m also aware
– who can’t be? – of potential announcements of further
measures of lockdown during this pandemic. In my mind I’m
also thinking of World Mental Health day, which was
yesterday 10th October, and how this year more than ever
we need to look out for others and be aware that they may
not be ok. And with the independent report released this
week on abuse within the Church of England, there’s a need
for us to face the fact that yes, over the years the
Church as an institution has not done enough to protect
others.
So it seems a gift that Psalm 23 is today’s psalm, for
here is a psalm that’s so well -known we can perhaps
concentrate on the message it brings, focus on the current
crisis of the pandemic, and try to look at it through a
new lens.
Have you ever watched how sheep are rounded up? I’ve seen
on Countryfile how the shepherd and his/her dog care for
the sheep and round them up to move them to new grazing
pastures. It’s fascinating to watch, and when the
shepherds are interviewed their care and compassion for
the animals in their charge speaks volumes. Without the
shepherd’s care, the sheep are easy prey for animals and
to danger. In the psalmist’s time, this danger would have
been tenfold; wild animals would abound in the hills.
We recognise the imagery, I’m sure. There are green
pastures for grazing, still waters for drinking and
restoration, the right paths are there to move to fresh
fields. God provides, God nurtures, God feeds, God
protects.
Psalm 23 follows psalm 22 – of course it does! And I think
both psalms are meant to be read together. We usually
hear psalm 22 sung by the choir as we strip the sanctuary
on Maundy Thursday. Psalm 22 says, ‘My God, My God, why
have you forsaken me? Why do you not hear me?’ I wonder
how many people have thought that over the years if
they’ve been historically abused within the church. Or how
many people are thinking that, with further restrictions
about the pandemic. I’ve lost count how many conversations
I’ve had when people have asked, “How can God allow the
pandemic to happen?” Or how many people are feeling so
lonely and desperate that they can’t see any way out.
Psalm 23 provides an answer, if we can but see it. It says
how God can give peace in the midst of conflict. In a
world where God is often scorned or used as an
exclamation, the Shepherd calls us to follow Him.
Following Him won’t be easy and may divide us from others.
He cares, He provides.
Our culture is want, want, want! But we will have all we
need. And our souls can be restored if we rest beside
green pastures.
I wonder, what is the equivalent of the green pastures for
you? Where do you go, physically or perhaps in your mind,
when you recognise you need space and time out? A walk to
the canal, or to a local park? Or perhaps in your mind to
a favourite beach or coastline or viewpoint. It’s
important to have somewhere to go even if we have to
imagine ourselves there. It helps our mental well- being.
It reminds us of good times. It gives us hope.
If we come to church to be restored, Psalm 23 offers us
the chance to remind ourselves of God’s gifts to us. God
remains with us even when times are hard. How often might
you have said, “I really don’t know how we got through
that!” when you’ve had a particularly tough time. And then
you look back, and realisation dawns that God carried you
through, like the well know Footprints poem. Goodness and
mercy will follow us – God has our back! And whatever
happens, we are invited to the table, to the feast where
we receive the overflowing abundance of God’s love.
Our world is changed forever. Covid-19 has left nothing
the same. Children taught in class or year bubbles.
Wearing masks. Forever washing our hands, applying hand
gel, not getting close to people. No physical contact. I
watched the news on Friday night and texted someone, ‘this
is so depressing!’ More and more statistics. It gets to
the point when I don’t want to watch the news, or hear any
more conspiracy theories, or hear what we can or cannot
do. What I want, what I need, are words of hope. I want
to be reminded that the Lord is my Shepherd. I want to be
reassured that, in the words of the mystic Julian of
Norwich, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and
all manner of things shall be well.’
And our time here at Oxley is changed, too. A fresh start.
Chance to look back and see what we’ve done well, and
where we can improve. Chance to air and share ideas. Some
stability. For us all, and certainly for me, a fresh
challenge as we work together to further God’s Kingdom
here in this place, in this parish, in our lives.
In all our readings today, there is an over-riding theme
of God as the giver, and how people respond. With Psalm
23, we have the most wonderful reminders that God
nurtures, God provides, God sustains, God protects. Try
praying the psalm two or three times each day, taking each
line slowly. Allow the words to seep into you. Allow
their freshness to touch you.
The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:18 pm.


 
Sunday, 20 September 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity XV Matthew 20:1-16
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my
redeemer. Amen

Think of the times you may have queued at the supermarket
till, waiting to be served. You carefully load all your
shopping onto the belt, and wait for what seems an age for
the person in front of you to be served. They’re taking
their time, slowly packing everything away, and then
fumble for their purse or wallet. It seems to take
eternity for the customer to proffer their money or card,
and for either the card to be processed or change given to
the customer – who then has to wheel the trolley away,
full of shopping. In the meantime, you look at your watch,
maybe have a little sigh. Someone comes behind you and
begins to put their shopping on the conveyor belt behind
your shopping. Then comes the ‘bing bong’ supermarket
tannoy system. A disembodied voice announces that the till
next to yours is to open. Quick as a flash, the person
behind you gathers their shopping back into the trolley
and is there at the next till before you can say ‘sprint
finish.’ And you’re sure you can see a smug expression on
their face as they walk past you with their shopping all
checked through, while you are still stuck in the slowest
queue in the world with the slowest cashier.
I bet we can all identify with that.
So in today’s Gospel we can perhaps feel some sympathy for
those workers who have grafted all day under a hot sun and
who see other workers join them throughout the day, only
for those who have worked the least amount of time to be
paid not only first but who collect a full day’s pay.
Where’s the fairness in that?

There are several ways of looking at today’s Gospel
passage. Think of the landowner’s question: “Are you
envious because I am generous?” This employer has been
perhaps the busiest person in the story. He’s been out
five times to find workers. And he makes sure that all
his employees are paid a day’s pay so that they can earn
enough to support their families. Where were they all day,
the last few workers who were possibly the sort of people
some didn’t want to mix with? Why were they not seen
earlier on in the day? They are described as ‘idlers’ but
I think that means unemployed. What we do know is that
they wanted to work.
We can of course make comparisons with today’s society.
We know of the existence of sweat shops in third world
countries – sadly, there are probably some in our country
today. People on zero hours contracts who don’t know from
one day to the next if they will earn enough to support
themselves and their families. Or migrant workers who find
themselves involved in modern day slavery. People who were
on furlough during lockdown and who are now made
redundant. And we have some people earning thousands and
thousands of pounds and others scraping a living on less
than the living wage.
Where’s the fairness in that?
Yes, those labourers who were employed early in the day
have worked hard in the heat - but equally those hired
towards the end of the day have had to endure the heat
together with the knowledge that they were probably going
to return home with very little if anything to keep them
going.
And I wonder if, before they moaned about fairness or
otherwise, those workers who had been chosen earlier in
the day were secretly pleased to see more people join them
during the day. Chance to ease off a little, perhaps, an
opportunity to work a little less hard because now the
landowner would see more results from employing more
people.
They took home the money due to them. The money agreed
when they were hired.
The labourers employed towards the end of the day had to
rely on the landowner paying them something – they had no
idea what he might give them. They still had this sense of
insecurity. And at the very end of the day there would be
a shared sense of insecurity held by all the labourers,
who tomorrow will have to wait to see if they are hired
for another day’s work.
The landowner is gracious – and yes many read this parable
as an allegory for God’s graciousness.
Do we look at others and envy their good fortune?
Do we look at others and wonder why God chooses to reward
others and wonder when our time will come?
Do we stop, and remember all that God has given us?
God looks out for all of us. Not just us here in church.
He looks out for those who find it hard to come to church.
He looks out for those who are aware of an ache, a gap in
their lives and who just can’t work out what that longing
might be. He looks out for the workers, the homeless, the
marginalised. He looks out for us whether or not we are
aware of His care.
God watches out for us and is gracious to us.
Can we be grateful for His love and guidance? Can we
emulate graciousness in our own lives? When we are up
against it, no matter how right we are, can we give way
with a good grace?
For Jesus, the Kingdom is offered to all. It’s not ours to
hug to ourselves. The Kingdom is for everyone who wants to
do better, who is sorry for wrong- doing. This is the
heart of Matthew’s Gospel. There are no grades of being a
Christian and a disciple of Christ. We are all in this
together, all on an equal footing before God. Perhaps we
should imagine God out there in the market place, looking
for people to join in His work, repeatedly looking out for
those who are on the edges, who want to be part of His
Kingdom but who are unsure how.
“Are you envious because I am generous?” Think of your own
gifts and limitations, and at those of people we are close
to, people around us. Do we rejoice at the gifts and
talents given to others? God’s love is poured out upon us
like a fountain, or a waterfall if the imagery works for
you – everyone is invited to be drenched with this living
water and love. This love is for sharing. Pray that we
here in Oxley can share that love with others, and that we
can pull ourselves back when we are tempted to ask,
“where’s the fairness in that?”
Amen

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:51 pm.


 
Sunday, 6 September 2020:

Thoughts for the week


St Gregory the Great/Trinity XIII 6.9.20
It feels right today to think of Gregory the Great, whose
feast day it was on Thursday. Partly because it allows us
to look more closely at the life of St Gregory and to ask
ourselves what, in the light of today’s Bible readings,
his message might be to us today. Also because, of course,
it helps us to keep our friends from St Gregory’s firmly
in our minds and in our prayers at this difficult time.

Gregory was born in Rome into troubled times in the year
540. For the times, he was well educated, and worked for
the Roman government. Later he converted to monastic life,
and it is said he experienced a lifelong conflict between
his personal desire for the contemplative life, and a
public duty to serve others.
He established a monastery dedicated to St Andrew, and
founded six further monasteries. He was elected Pope,
somewhat unwillingly, in the year 590.
It was Gregory who sent St Augustine to Kent in 597 to
bring Roman Christianity to a country whose Celtic
Christians did not recognise the supremacy of Rome and
where paganism still flourished. We have a lot to thank
him for.
Gregory wrote extensively during a time of dispute between
the state and the church, and became a famous preacher.
His true holiness was in his humility, and he called
himself a “servant of the servants of God.” He placed high
importance on the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and
his thoughts on salvation, defined the Medieval Church.
He lived what he preached, working tirelessly to serve the
women and men in his care. He challenged bishops and
priests to live the Gospel virtues faithfully and humbly,
and thousands came to hear him preach. Gregory died in
March 604, and was canonised – made a saint - immediately.

A Servant of the Servants of God. Living his faith,
humbly, but not frightened to speak out. I wonder what
Gregory would make of the current world situation, and how
he would react to the global pandemic. I rather suspect
he would be at the forefront of those speaking out to
pledge safety and fairness for all; he would be speaking
out to ensure children do not go hungry, he would be
speaking to migrants and refugees.
Our Gospel today speaks of how we should resolve potential
conflict in private, and speak together in love, listening
to each other, caring for each other. Being attentive to
other’s needs and moods.
I think those were Gregory’s values, too. To stay humble,
to pray, to act as a light in our troubled world, to pose
questions which may be uncomfortable both for us to ask
and for others to hear and consider. Our vocation – like
Gregory’s – is to pray – to remain faithful to God in
prayer.

He was an unwilling leader. A servant. God’s servant. We,
in our turn, are called to serve others, to be attentive
to them, and to allow ourselves to be served, too – as it
says in the hymn Brother Sister let me serve you, let me
be as Christ to you, pray that I may have the grace to let
you be my servant, too.

Gregory saw Jesus as a leader, but not as a tyrant
(remember this was Rome in the early hundreds and Rome was
a formidable power.) He appealed to the heart. Where is
God found? In the heart. A friend of mine said to me only
this week, “Anne, I’m trying so hard to hear God with my
heart not my head.”

Today, nearly fourteen hundred years later, we can hold
fast to Gregory’s beliefs and values. To listen to God
with our heart. To stay humble, to remain constant in
prayer, to speak out against injustice, to remain faithful
and reverent to the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament
of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, which we will share
together in a few minutes.

"Servant of the servants of God.” May we take that phrase
and mull it over in our hearts over the coming days and
weeks. How can you become a servant of the servants of
God? I wonder, what is that asking of us?
Pray. Stay humble. And aim to be a true servant of the
servants of God.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:27 pm.


 
Sunday, 30 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity XII

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
How quickly our Gospel story races on! Last week, Peter
was called the Rock, the rock on which the church is to be
built. This week, Peter is likened to Satan. What’s going
on here?
I wonder where this story took place. Perhaps on the road
from Caesarea Philippi, as Jesus and his disciples
travelled back to Galilee. Or, maybe in a corner of a
room. I can imagine the expressions on the disciples’
faces – incredulity, confusion. I can imagine Peter
stumbling back as Jesus rebukes him.

For today, we hear Jesus declaring what will happen once
he arrives in Jerusalem. I think we can understand Peter’s
reaction. He has just declared Jesus as the Messiah – of
course, he doesn’t want to think about the images Jesus
describes of torture, execution, and resurrection. Peter’s
human. He’s spending all his time with this man, has had a
flash of insight as to who Jesus is, and then is told that
they will head to Jerusalem and of the suffering Jesus
will undergo.
No wonder Peter says, “This can’t happen to you, Lord, God
forbid it!”

And I wonder how he felt when Jesus – cuttingly, but I
suspect with love – replies that Peter must not hold him
back, and likens him to Satan, the tempter. For Jesus’s
awareness of God’s plan means that he cannot deviate from
it. He chooses not to deviate from it. Peter is a
stumbling block if he projects his own desires, his own
wishes, onto Jesus.
How often do we do that? How often do we try to hold on to
what we know and what is safe, projecting our own desires
to be safe and secure in the knowledge that ‘this is how
it is, this is how it has to be’ without branching out
into the future and trusting God to hold us in our
insecurity.

For God goes before us. Jesus knew that. God goes before
us, after us, with us. I’m reminded of the Welsh poet R.S.
Thomas’s words in his poem Pilgrimages:
‘He is such a fast God, always before us, and leaving as
we arrive.’
For like Peter, as soon as we think we’ve ‘got it’ or
gained insight as to what God wants from us, God moves on
and we’re left thinking, “did that really happen? What
now, what next?”

It’s comforting that we are no different to Peter, getting
it so right at times and so wrong at others. God will
always be with us, but of course, we can say that in the
light of the resurrection. Peter wasn’t to know. He
didn’t understand. He focusses on his fear of loss,
forgetting that Jesus asks them to follow him. Nothing can
prepare the disciples for this. The questions that must
have raced through their minds. How can God possibly want
Jesus to go through all this? How can this possibly be
God’s plan?

For it is, of course, God’s plan, for God sees the whole,
not the part. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For now
we see through a glass darkly.” We can’t possibly see the
whole picture. Only God can do that.
Our calling is to follow Jesus Christ – we would not be
here in church today if we had not heard that call. It can
be costly, following Jesus. Our Epistle gives us a list of
how we should live our lives as His followers. It’s not a
list of things to do to gain favour with God. It’s what we
should do if we truly love our neighbour, care for our
community, care for God’s creation. Spend some time this
week, if you can find five minutes, and re-read our
Epistle from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. It’s talking
about the Christian way of life but it doesn’t mean be
passive and let life go on around you. It means stick your
neck out if injustice happens, speak and act, offer
Christian love and go on doing it again, and again, and
again. And perhaps we have to practice these virtues as
they do not always come easily. A bit like if we want to
be the best at our chosen sport we have to keep practicing
and training – we are to keep going in the knowledge that
this what we are called to do. There will be temptations
along the way and we are to resist them, for this is God’s
way.

Jesus shows he chooses God’s way although he knew it would
lead to crucifixion. He knew he would rise on the third
day. He knew death was not the end.

Peter does not ‘get it’ at this point, just as there are
times in our lives when we don’t get it, when we do not
understand why God might be calling us to do something. We
can take comfort in that. Peter does, though, ‘get it’ at
the end and understands it so much that he becomes the
bedrock of the new church.


So what are we to take from today’s Lectionary readings?

That Christian love in action can be costly, but we are to
listen for God’s word.
That, like Peter, we will mess up time and time again. God
knows that. He loves us anyway; he loves us
unconditionally. We are to keep trying.
We are to decide what’s really important in our lives.
Let go of the rest, and set our minds on divine things –
set our minds on Jesus. We are to deny ourselves, take up
our cross and follow Him.

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:43 pm.


 
Wednesday, 26 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity XI
“Who do you say that I am?”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen

Every now and then we come into contact with someone who
makes a real impact on us. We recognise there is something
special about them. We may not be able to say what we mean
by that, but we recognise that this person has something
about them, some quality that makes them stand out from
the crowd.

Jesus must have been like that. It must have been amazing
to see him, watch him interact with the crowds, healing
people, speaking, teaching. I often wonder what it would
have been like to be part of the crowd watching, learning,
following. To see what went on, hear the noise of it all.
It must have been amazing.

For the disciples to hear Jesus say to them, “Who do
people say the Son of Man is?” might be a bit of an
unfair question – after all, they’ve given up everything
to follow this man! The question does however offer an
opportunity for them to name who crowds say Jesus is. The
names they give are prominent figures in the Jewish faith:
John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah or other prophets.
“But who do you say I am?” asks Jesus. Peter had spent a
lot of his time with Jesus, so it’s no surprise that he is
the spokesperson. “You are the Messiah, says Peter. “You
are the Son of the Living God.”

This was extraordinary. To say Jesus is the Messiah, was
extraordinary and it’s even more extraordinary when Peter
follows up with, “the Son of the Living God.” Here is the
transforming moment for Peter, that split second, the
flashpoint of insight when he recognises and is able to
name what Jesus represents.

Just as we think we’ve worked out what’s going on, the
goalposts seem to change. For it’s not enough to know that
Jesus is special. We have to name him as King.
And that’s the challenge for us. That’s the challenge in
our lives today, for if we name Jesus as our Lord and
King, our lives will never be the same again. Just as
noticing special qualities about people we meet changes
us, so naming Jesus as our King changes our lives forever.
We see the world through different lenses. We begin to
love more, to care more, to act more. We pray more. And
yes we will fall short of our own expectations but we hold
on to the fact that Jesus is Lord.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus questions the disciples when
they arrive at Caesarea Philippi. This was a city outside
Galilee. And the location matters, for this was a near a
prominent trade route. Nearby was a cave and a spring that
feeds into the River Jordan. Over the years, the cave and
spring had been dedicated to the Greek god Pan and to
other gods. Nearby was also a temple built by Herod the
Great. Here his son was in charge and the temple was the
administrative centre of his government. The location was
important. So when Jesus asks, “and you, who do you say I
am?” at Caesarea Philippi, the disciples – and the readers
of Matthew’s Gospel – would be fully aware of the
importance of this place. A place made sacred by other
religions, an important place for trade and a centre of
government. This is not only a question about who Jesus
is. It’s also all about loyalty and faithfulness to
Jesus.

Peter declares Jesus as the Messiah, the saviour. Jesus
gives Peter a new name and declares that he is the rock on
whom the church is built. Jesus isn’t going to build a
city or a building but will build a community of believers
who affirm him as King. Over the last two weeks, we’ve
thought about faith. Today’s Gospel takes us one step
further. “Be transformed so that you can discern the will
of God,” writes St Paul in our Epistle today.
“Who do you say that I am?” If we answer, “You are my Lord
and King,” we are to be prepared for life to take us on
unexpected paths.
What does Jesus mean to you?
Who do you say Jesus is?
And what difference will that make to your life?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:27 pm.


 
Sunday, 16 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Assumption)
16/8/2020 (Year A)
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
A break this week from Jesus teaching, healing,
challenging, and resting. Today we think about the Virgin
Mary. An important feast day, I think, for it allows us
time to think about Mary outside the Christmas narrative.
Our Gospel reading is what we know as The Magnificat, the
song of Mary. She proclaims God’s greatness and says she
is blessed.
What would make you celebrate wildly? Perhaps someone
close to you has recovered from illness, or maybe the
prospect of a new job, which will lessen financial
worries. Maybe you’d celebrate Wolves winning a big match.
The chance to meet up with friends and family after months
of isolation? What is special to you that would make you
celebrate wildly with your friends and family?
For here we have a young girl celebrating the fact that
she is pregnant.
A young girl who said “Yes,” to God, and whose ‘yes’
changed countless lives forever. She recognised that
something momentous was about to happen. Why would Mary
think she was blessed? From our perspective we might
struggle to see that she is blessed. A young girl of 14 or
15, unmarried, pregnant, risking humiliation and shame. A
village girl, from a peasant family. A girl living under
Roman occupation and inhumane treatment. She will see her
child grow up facing rejection, torture, and crucifixion.
But for now, Mary together with her older cousin
Elizabeth, blesses God.
And the song she sings, well known to us, sings of the
dream of Israel, that all nations will be blessed, for God
to ‘rescue’ the world. Almost every line of the Magnificat
is a line from the Scriptures. Mary and Elizabeth know
that God will bless their children, and celebrate and sing
in joy what God will do through their sons.
So Mary praises God, echoing words Hannah said when Hannah
was pregnant with Samuel (we read about her in the first
book of Samuel.) She sings about God’s strength,
recognising that God’s work on earth happens here, now.
Her feast day (which we’ve transferred from yesterday)
coincided with the 75th anniversary of VJ day, the end of
the second World War. Jesus came to bring peace. Mary
told his followers “Do whatever he tells you.” Last week
we thought about how difficult forgiveness can be; today
we pray for peace in our own lives and in the world around
us, praying for the peace that Jesus can bring.
We celebrate that Mary’s ‘yes’ to God offers salvation and
peace to the whole world.
And for us here in church, an opportunity to pause and
reflect on the enormity of Mary’s ‘yes’ to God, as we
listen to a recording of The Magnificat.
Amen.
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his
servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me
blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their
hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:09 am.


 
Sunday, 16 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity IX
Jesus’s words to his disciples: “Take heart, it is I; do
not be afraid.”
Last week, our Gospel story was the Feeding of the Five
Thousand. We heard how we could read that story as a life
of Christian vocation, of love and faith in action.
Today’s Gospel speaks to us of faith. Actually, it speaks
to us of doubt and faith and fear and love all combined –
which may or may not describe your Christian faith! I
think it certainly describes mine!

Have you ever watched a young child being taught to swim?
Picture the scene. A swimming pool, lifeguards on view. A
small child wearing bright orange arm bands, holds on to a
parent’s hand. Gently, the trusted adult urges the child
into the water. The child is excited, but as water
splashes onto his face, the excitement turns to fear. He
clings to his Dad, tightly wrapping his arms around his
Dad’s neck. The swimming pool is out of his experience and
he can’t understand how he will float. Gently, the father
prises the child’s arms from around his neck and, holding
the child in the water, says, “Trust me. I won’t let you
sink. You can float.”

The Sea of Galilee is one of those seas where the weather
can change in the blink of an eye, with strong winds and
sudden storms. The fishermen amongst the disciples would
have known the dangers of fishing there. Not for them the
luxury of a weather forecast, although they would be very
much attuned to local weather conditions. Jesus sends the
disciples out in a boat into the middle of the lake, while
he takes some time out to go up the mountain to be with
God. Maybe this is Jesus’s self-care, finding it
exhausting to be with so many people.

As we read of Peter’s actions, I wonder what you first
thought. Idiot? Impetuous? What was he trying to prove?
I wonder, too, if perhaps Peter stands for each one of us.
A staunch defender of Jesus, each time we read about him
in whichever Gospel we look at, he seems to mess up.
Today is no exception. Brave, impetuous, but flawed and
foolish too.

As soon as Peter sees Jesus, he decides to brave the
waves. Is he testing his own faith? Showing off, perhaps?
Whatever the reason, things quickly go pear shaped. The
boat has been blown out to sea further than expected. The
wind will be against Peter. If you’ve ever walked along a
beach with the wind against you, you’ll know how you have
to fight for every step. Peter almost passes this
challenge until his ‘little faith’ got in the way.

Peter confirms his humanity in this story. Jesus confirms
his divinity. “It’s me,” Jesus says.

Peter had to rely totally on Jesus to stop him from
drowning. “Lord, save me!” he cried. Spontaneous,
heartfelt prayer. Prayer uttered from the very depths of
him. And the answer swiftly came,
“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
I doubt we will be called to walk on water in the literal
sense. I rather suspect Matthew wants his readers to hear
this story in the context of their own lives.

Think of your own journey of faith. Struggles, perhaps,
with doubt. Wondering what will happen next, where the
future will take you. Recognising the glory of God’s
creation, a sense of ‘knowing’ God, finding thoughts
difficult to articulate. So many times, it can feel that
what we are asked to do, as Christians, can be almost
impossible. How can we have a regular prayer life when
we’re so busy? How can we possibly get on with what we are
called to do, when we are unsure of our own capabilities?

Today’s Gospel offers us the answer. “Take heart. I am
here. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus’ powers were not magic, despite what Peter may have
originally thought. Here he is recognised as the Son of
God. And when we recognise that, and truly believe, our
boat is calmed, our inner storm stilled.

Is there any chance that we would get out of our boat and
walk towards Jesus?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:08 am.


 
Thursday, 6 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity VIII
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
heart, be acceptable in your sight Oh Lord our strength
and our redeemer. Amen.
Think back to a time when you were really sad. Perhaps
you went somewhere to be by yourself for a few hours. You
wanted to hide away, to be quiet. Perhaps you wanted to
pray. You craved some time out, some time for yourself,
so that people did not surround you.
Jesus was no different to us.
He withdrew to a deserted place to be by himself – he went
out in a boat to a deserted spot by himself.
He had just heard the news of the death of John the
Baptist. He needed time to process this, to grieve, to
understand what this may mean for his own ministry.
He withdrew to a deserted place to be by himself.
And what happens? The crowd finds out where he is, and
follow him.
You’d think Jesus would have had enough. Tell them to go
away, maybe. Tell them he needs some downtime.
But no. What does he feel?
We read that he was full of compassion for the crowd, and
he cured the sick. The disciples tried to tell him to
send the crowds away so that they (the crowds) could have
chance to buy food for their supper.
No need, said Jesus.
And they were fed from five loaves and two fish. A huge
crowd of 5000 people, fed with food left over to fill
twelve baskets.
What implications does today’s Gospel have on our lives?
Well, firstly I think it’s important for us all to take
some time out to rest awhile. I realise I’m the world’s
worst at this – clergy are meant to have 6 Sundays off
each year and so far I’ve been here all the time! But
there are times when we really do need to rest. To take
stock, to relax, to give thanks for what has been and what
is yet to come – but to really relax in the present is
hard. As was the case for thousands of other people, our
family holiday this year was cancelled – we had planned to
go to Porthmadog in June. But we can take some time out
(she says preaching to herself) to unwind and recharge the
batteries. When Jesus wanted to speak with God, we note
that he took time out – and so should we. We need to take
some time for ourselves, to tend to our own emotions, to
our inner self. To pay attention to God’s call on our
lives in the midst of the business and demands made upon
us .
Jesus was out there trying to come to terms with John’s
death. He wanted time and space to be alone. The crowd
had other ideas. And Jesus heard God – he must have done,
otherwise he could have stayed out in the boat. I wonder
what he heard God say. “Come on Jesus, go and do what
you’re meant to do. Heal the sick; feed the hungry. Go
on. I’m with you.”
Secondly, what strikes me as the important message in
today’s miracle story is the compassion Jesus felt when he
saw the crowd. He didn’t feel annoyed, or angry. He felt
compassion. And Jesus’s compassion overruled his sorrow.
Think what Jesus said to his disciples. “They need not go
away. You give them something to eat.” You. In other
words, he tells the disciples to get on with the task of
feeding everyone. Maybe there’s a message there for us.
Don’t keep expecting others to get on and do God’s work.
Perhaps we have to take a deep breath and get on with it
ourselves. It’s up to us.
God often seems to work in this way. We can worry all we
like and we can long for God’s word to tell us exactly
what we should do – then we find ourselves in a situation,
which is in itself the answer. Get on with things, says
God. You do it. And we answer back, “I can’t! I’m not good
enough… or I don’t have time… or others can do it much
better than me!” And we can sense God’s smile. If we offer
what we can, God will take care of the rest.
So – to return to the Gospel – the small boy offers all he
has. God takes care of the rest, and everyone eats their
fill. Jesus thanks God, blesses the food, breaks bread,
and offers it round. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing in
a few minutes’ time at the Eucharist.
We blunder around with our ideas or our thoughts, and God
takes hold of them and gives them back to us. This is
Christian vocation. Our thoughts lead us to things we had
never previously had in our minds. Jesus takes our
talent, our skills, our loaves and fishes, our energy,
whatever we can offer. He blesses it, and gives it back.
Watch what happens to it when we begin to believe in
ourselves, to feel compassion, and love for others.
This week we took 3 big bags of donations to the Well
foodbank. Sadly, their need is in even greater demand
following lockdown, furlough, redundancies. Currently they
have enough volunteers, but we can play our part by
donating what we can to help others. This is compassion;
this is love in action. This is part of loving others.
Today’s Gospel is a story about a miracle. It’s a bit like
last week’s story of the mustard seed. But it’s also a
story of love and compassion. After teaching about the
kingdom of Heaven (which we’ve thought about over the last
three weeks) Jesus shows the crowd and the disciples what
the Kingdom looks like in practical living. He makes it
real, through his teaching, healing, and feeding. We too
are called to attend to the physical and spiritual needs
of others.
And we are called to attend to our own spiritual needs,
perhaps through receiving Holy Communion, through times of
private prayer, through taking time out. This week John
and I had a day on a gloriously deserted beach on
Anglesey, only a day but it felt a real holiday. Time out
to be out in the fresh sea air and to marvel at the
beautiful scenery around us. Time to thank God (as I
paddled along the shoreline) for all His goodness.
I wonder, what lies on your mind? How is God expecting you
to take responsibility?
And what are you doing to pay attention to God in your own
life? - Are you finding that deserted place to rest
awhile?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:24 pm.


 
Thursday, 6 August 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity VII
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Small children, we all know, can be very resilient. The
small children I know seem to have adapted to the pandemic
and to restrictions remarkably well. Thankfully, they’ve
been able to get out to explore local surroundings.
They’ve been allowed to get muddy, to play in the rain.
They’ve watched as spring flowers grew and spring turned
into summer. In their own way, they knew why life had
changed – why brothers and sisters were not at school, why
they might not be in nursery or preschool, why their own
surroundings and routine might have changed. One 4 year
old knew exactly why we were in lockdown. “It’s because of
coronavirus,” he said. He continued, “Although I haven’t
seen him yet!”
From his perspective, trying to understand about lockdown,
he understood the virus to be a person or thing.
The pandemic has been a challenging time. Something so
small that we cannot see with the naked eye grows briskly
as a destructive force. For the last five months it has
consumed media attention, it has been the main focus
worldwide, it has affected all our lives.
Today’s Gospel offers us a counter image to the
destructive force. The Kingdom of Heaven comes from things
we cannot see. This Kingdom also grows at a rapid rate.
It is worthy of all our attention, all our resources.
Now that Matthew’s got going on the parables, it seems he
just can’t stop! Each builds on the other, and although
they may read as a list of similes, let’s have a think
about their meaning.
The parable of the mustard seed – here, Jesus tells us
that something as tiny as a mustard seed, something so
microscopic, can become great.
The yeast – shows hidden growth, transformation.
Treasure – it may be hidden, but it is infinitely
desirable.
The parable of the pearl - the merchant searches and gives
up all he has.
The fisher’s net – the catch is full.
The images pile up and we need to think about them, try to
tease out what Jesus is saying. Jane Williams in her
reflections says that these parables offer up two words –
unpredictability and excitement. Small things, that not
many people know about, that swell and take over the
world. Things so beautiful and valuable that you discover
by accident and can’t live without.
The mustard seed and the yeast are everyday miracles,
things that we all know about, and yet we still marvel at
how yeast can transform bread and make it rise. Mustard
seeds are so tiny they are almost microscopic.

Have we ever stopped to think that the Kingdom of Heaven
might be like the yeast, or like a mustard seed? We
imagine, don’t we, that the Kingdom of Heaven must be
huge. God’s Kingdom must be spectacular, not something so
tiny that it’s hardly seen, something working away
tirelessly until you can’t miss it.
The surprise in these parables is not what the yeast or
the mustard seed do, for we are aware of what they do. No,
the surprise is in things we may not be so familiar with,
that they also may grow. Big things come from small
beginnings.
The treasure and the pearl parables feed our imagination.
We can dream about finding treasure, but the odd thing
about the people who find the treasure and the pearl is
what they do with it. They appreciate the beauty of what
they find; something so beautiful that they sell what they
can to keep hold of this beauty. They don’t sell to get
richer; they sell to appreciate the new found beauty.
The woman baking bread, the sower sowing the seed, the
merchant seeking his fortune and the fisherman are no
different to people the world over today.
In our ordinary tasks we are invited to see the Kingdom
all around us in our day to day lives.
I wonder, what do we expect to see?
And where do we expect to find it?
Do we have different values through trying to live our
lives as Christians?
We know that understanding emerges over time. We know that
we can suddenly see things in a different way, see things
with fresh eyes as the saying goes.

In our Old Testament reading, Solomon realises that
wisdom is priceless. In Hebrew Scriptures, wisdom is
understood as a divine presence. Solomon has worked it
out. He cannot act in his own strength alone, he needs the
hand of God to guide him. And Paul’s words, from our New
Testament reading, are comforting and familiar to many of
us. He tells us (for the letter could well be written to
us today) that God has not abandoned us. God works on our
behalf – has worked on our behalf, and will do so in the
future. As we read Paul’s letter we are drawn into the
‘brothers and sisters’ comment; we are included. Paul
looks at how God’s love is in action whether or not we are
aware of it. When we try to pray but can find no words,
Paul says the Holy Spirit guides us. Indeed, I’ve found
during lockdown that being still in the garden can be
prayer; doing a repetitive task such as ironing can lead
into prayer. If we allow ourselves to be still, God will
know the intentions of our hearts. Nothing can separate us
from God, says Paul.
Do we believe that knowing God in Christ Jesus is the
greatest treasure we can have in this world and the next?
What word would you use to describe the kingdom of heaven?
Over the coming week, perhaps you can spend some time
thinking about God’s Kingdom, what it means to you, and
how it can be shared.
Amen

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:15 pm.


 
Saturday, 25 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity VI
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen

From our acclamation at the beginning of today’s service:
“You are the temple of the living God,
And the Spirit of God dwells in you.
The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway of heaven.”
During lockdown, it’s been said over and over again that
the church is not the building, it’s the people. And of
course, that’s right. We have all in our own way been
ministering to others during lockdown, and will continue
to do so, for that’s how and who we are. I know some of
you will be thinking, “I haven’t done anything!” But that
text you sent to someone, or that call you made just at
the right time? That’s ministering to others. Your work as
a key worker, which has probably been very difficult at
times throughout the last few months – that’s ministering
to others. Shopping for others, caring for them, checking
up on them? Ministering to others. That’s ‘being’ the
church.

I wonder how you feel now that we are back in church. If
you have made the decision not to return just yet, I
wonder how you feel about actually returning through these
doors.
For our church building looks different with so many
chairs removed. Our Sunday Eucharist service has a
different feel to it, it’s a said Mass with some music
played by Paul on the organ. It’s easy to spot what is
missing – singing, servers, the choir, sitting closer
together – all the things that help to make us who we are
here in Oxley, and things that help us to find God in our
worship.
So why do we come to church?
People attend church for all sorts of reasons. They come
here for services of baptism, or for a blessing. They come
to attend a funeral or to remember someone they loved.
People come to church for weddings, for private prayer, or
to find a listening ear. Mostly, though, people come into
church to encounter God, to find something of the beauty
and glory of God. They come to find peace.
What brings you to church this morning?
I rather suspect there will be many different reasons.
Maybe you’ve come because for some reason you feel you
should be here, although you may not be able to explain
why. Maybe you’ve come because you have missed seeing
everyone. Perhaps you are here because somehow in some way
you feel closer to God when you are in church. Could it be
because you feel you need to receive the Sacrament, the
Body of Christ? Maybe you’ve come because you want to see
how it feels and what church looks like. Maybe you have
absolutely no idea why are here but found yourself here
anyway.
Whatever the reason, that is the right reason for you.
There is no right or wrong answer – it wasn’t a trick
question! Whatever your reason for being here, you
recognise that this is none other than the house of God,
and the gateway to heaven.
For here we receive nourishment in Word and Sacrament to
help us in our everyday lives.
Here we are fed with God’s word.
Here we receive the Body of Christ to nourish and sustain
us for the week ahead.
I know that church is not the only place where we pray.
During lockdown we’ve realised prayer happens everywhere;
in the kitchen, the dining room, the bedroom, the garden,
wherever we are we know that God hears our prayer. There
is something special, however, in being in a ‘prayed in’
place and that’s what this House of God is. It’s a prayed
in place, prayed in for 60 years. Some of us will have
longed to be back here with everyone, worshipping God.
Here we encounter God in the Sacrament. Here we find the
peace that only Christ can offer, through God’s grace.
Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah speaks of the
timelessness of God. This is our God, into whose hands we
can confidently entrust our future, because He knows it
already. This is the God on whom we can depend in our
times of greatest anxiety, because He is changeless.
‘There is no other rock; I know not one.’ These words were
God’s words of comfort to the Judean exiles six centuries
BC. And today they offer comfort to the countless number
of people suffering physical and emotional disruption –
Covid 19 pandemic, racism, violence, climate change.
‘There is no other rock; I know not one.’
The parable in today’s Gospel gives us the message of
patience. Patience to allow crops to grow before wading in
to remove the weeds. Patience as we slowly begin to
rebuild our lives although the pandemic is still here –
the virus has not gone away. And we need that patience,
for this time is a gift. There might be an urge to return
to how we were pre Covid 19, but the gift of time offers
a chance to think about what works and what might be
changed. There is help as we wait – for we are offered
heavenly food. And here in Oxley we wait patiently to see
what happens next in our situation in a joint benefice,
amidst the sad closure of St Gregory’s, as together with
all our Christian family we wait for the harvest time.
As we seek to find God and to encounter Him in this place,
I’m reminded of a comment written by Margaret Silf in her
book ‘Taste and See.’ She writes about how we can try to
seek what God is like, about how His kingdom is, and how
He is asking us to be, and to join in. Returning to church
might feel daunting for some, joyful for others. However
it feels, think of this analogy: think of a jigsaw.
Picture yourself holding a piece of the jigsaw in your
hand. Without the whole, your piece has no meaning.
Without your piece, the meaning can never be whole.

It is so good to be here today, to be with you and
celebrating Holy Communion as we re-enter our beloved
church building.
You are the temple of the living God,
And the Spirit of God dwells in you.
The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
This is none other than the house of God,
And this is the gateway of heaven.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:44 pm.


 
Monday, 13 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity V
I’m not much of a gardener. In the past, our garden has
been a football pitch;
it’s only the last couple of years that John and I have
had opportunity to
reclaim the garden and to begin to enjoy it. There is no
doubt that the garden
has been a blessing especially during the initial stages
of lockdown. Plants are
thriving through no help from ourselves, I hasten to add,
other than watering
them in dry periods. Our prized gooseberry bush, which
came originally from
my Nanny’s garden, has delivered plump, juicy berries,
which we duly passed
on to Mum and Dad. (I don’t like gooseberries but am very
attached to the
gooseberry bush!) The vibrant colours of the lavender and
the rose petals and
the glory of plants unnamed have been spectacular. (I
warned you I’m not a
gardener.) The bright colours have attracted all kinds of
bees and we have seen
dragonflies, butterflies, moths, even watched wasps
attracted to the colours
and pollen in the garden.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about how seeds may grow.
Now, I presume that
seeds grow better if planted in rich soil, nurtured,
protected by the rich
compost. So if the ground is trodden down, as it was on
the football pitch that
was our garden until a couple of years ago, any seeds
planted there will not be
able to develop in soil. They will simply stay on top of
the earth where the
birds will peck at them. And seeds sown on rocky soil (ie
where the soil began
to cover paving slabs in our garden) will not grow as
their roots cannot develop
properly. Seeds sown among thorns will not grow either -
ask Josh, who has
been generous in giving of his time to ensure our church
grounds are kept in as
good a condition as we can manage at the moment. He will
tell you how
quickly the thorns or invasive weeds will grow! But seeds
grown in cultivated
soil can thrive if they are nurtured.
Jesus explains his parable and we can see where he is
going with this. Jesus
gently talks with his listeners and takes time to explain.
I bet most of us
recognise ourselves in this parable. How difficult it has
been in recent weeks
and months to stay strong when we’re not being fed
spiritually by Holy
Communion and when we have been unable to support each
other face to
face. This parable reminded me to try to pay attention to
the soil of our lives.
So how can we do this? How can we try not to give up at
the first obstacle, or
how can we stay patient, positive and firm in our faith?
Jesus knows our

strengths and weaknesses. Whatever we do, it is enough if
we do it in loving
service of the One to whom we owe our very being. We
should not compare
ourselves to others but I bet many of us do! Whatever we
do for Christ, it is
enough.
As lockdown eases and life returns around us, what seed
represents you at the
moment?
Can you see a way to change from being a seed on the path,
or on the
trampled ground?
How can we help ourselves to be the good soil, to nurture
God’s word and to
spend time with Him? God’s word takes root, develops and
comes to maturity
within each one of us, if we allow it.
And finally, how can we help and encourage others to
cultivate good soil too?
I turn now to today’s Psalm, Psalm 65 that is on the
reading sheet. You may
recognise it as a psalm of thanksgiving and in past years,
we’ve said or sung this
especially at Harvest time. The theologian Walter
Brueggemann would
describe this as a ‘psalm of re-orientation’ following
challenging times as the
people of God came together to praise God. It strikes me
that it’s the perfect
psalm after the challenges of lockdown. Whether we’ve been
a key worker,
working flat out over recent months, or whether we have
been furloughed or
shielding at home, there is a feeling of re-ordering in
our lives. The last few
months have been difficult in different ways for different
people. We can give
thanks to God for bringing us thus far, thanking Him as
our lives begin to
reshape to the new challenges around us.
It seems an appropriate psalm as we prepare to reopen our
Church building for
public worship and to meet together to praise and pray.
Alas, we will not be
able to ‘shout for joy’ as the psalmist says, but we can
do so in the quiet of our
own hearts. However we choose to respond to Christ, we
know that God walks
this way with us.
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:25 pm.


 
Saturday, 4 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity 4
I wonder, what are your favourite childhood memories? Or,
if you have worked with young children, what sort of
things have made you smile?
As an ex primary school teacher, one of the privileges I
had was working alongside all ages within a primary
school, from Reception (ages 4-5) up till Year 6 (ages 10-
11.) Reception age children learn through play. Within the
school nursery and Reception classrooms there were many
things to stimulate children’s imaginations. ‘Home
corners’ (I bet they’re not called that now!) encouraged
children to role play. I remember children playing in
shops, zoos, a circus, making plays with hand puppets;
they recreated their school world, ‘teaching’ their
friends and toys numbers and letter sounds. They made
sense of their world through stimulated play, guided by
nurturing adults.
A few years ago, the Brownies made bug hotels, which they
left around the church hall grounds. I remember
overhearing a conversation between two 8 year olds. “Let’s
make the hotel here, find more sticks!” said Brownie A.
“Yeah, and let’s make little beds for the insects, I’ve
found some feathers and flower petals!” enthusiastically
replied Brownie B.
So it’s fairly easy to picture the market place scene
Jesus talks about, where children recreate their world
around them, where in their culture they would have
experienced the wailing of mourners at funerals and the
joy of family life at weddings. I wonder why Jesus used
these examples when he taught his disciples and the
crowds. He spoke with those who had rejected John the
Baptist’s message, and with those who were quite frankly
confused by Jesus’s own message. And I wonder what Jesus
made of their lack of understanding. He speaks of
‘wisdom,’ which the Jews would have recognised through
their sacred writings. Wisdom was seen as the Law, part of
the creation spirit. Jesus – as ever – shocks. Wisdom
here, he says, is revealed to the children – in other
words to the ignored, to the lowly.
Jesus finishes by saying, “Come to me, and I will give you
rest. I will comfort you.” I wonder, of what were they
weary? He invites us all to come to Him. Are we weary of
everyday life, or of the inner battles we have within
ourselves? Weary of the battle of feeling never quite
accepted, or good enough? Whatever the burden, says Jesus,
lay it upon him. He could also have been referring to the
religious burdens of the time, the relentless rules that
seemed to turn people from God through their exclusivity.
Today’s Gospel speaks to our current time as we gently
ease out of lockdown as the impact of the pandemic
decreases. Covid 19 is still there, though. We mustn’t
become complacent, we still have to remain alert. This can
help us to think through our faith, too. We must try not
to become complacent, and think through how we can be
content and how we can rest with Jesus.
Of course, this doesn’t mean life will be simple or easy.
Probably the opposite if I’m honest, for to follow Jesus
means that we too are to speak up for justice, to speak
out when there is inequality, to recognise those in our
society who have no voice. True rest in Jesus is the
certainty that we work in his service, upheld in his love.
As we look to reopen church for public worship, I’m
mindful that this may seem a scary step. There will be
more news next week about how the building will look, how
we can safely receive Holy Communion and so on. Rest
assured we are working hard behind the scenes to try to
get all this right. We are well aware that some people are
still shielding. We are aware, too, how scary it can be
to go out and about if you are in the ‘vulnerable’
category – being in that category myself, I totally get
it. I’m also mindful that new habits can very quickly
become the norm. I’m delighted that so many of you have
been able to worship, albeit virtually, at Lichfield
Cathedral Sunday by Sunday during lockdown. And I know
from conversations with many of you that you’ve found it
an interesting experience to ‘attend’ church still in your
pyjamas, with your coffee and breakfast to hand! But I’d
like you to think also about how we receive Christ. We
take the Sacraments seriously. At the Eucharist we have
chance to come as we are before Christ. There is something
almost indescribable, beyond description happening here.
We come towards the altar just as we are, with
outstretched hands, humbly offering all of ourselves to
the One who sustains us, the One who gives us life. And we
receive Him in bread and in wine (although for now Holy
Communion has to be in one kind only.) “The Body of
Christ,” the priest says as the bread is placed into your
hands. In some way, Christ is present. The real presence
of Christ is felt as we offer ourselves around the altar.
We take, we bless, we break, we share, as the Body of
Christ.
Jesus encourages us to accept his love, his welcome. By
doing so we share His love and welcome with others.
So for today and this week, a couple of questions to mull
over.
Are we brave enough to let go of our burdens, and allow
ourselves to be carried by Christ?
If so, how do we allow ourselves to be fed spiritually?
Are we humble enough to walk this journey with Jesus?
Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:34 pm.


 
Saturday, 4 July 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity 3
On the retreat before I was ordained deacon two years ago,
the retreat conductor used a particular prayer at the
beginning and end of each address. She gave five
addresses, based as you might expect on vocation. She
talked about telling the Story and telling our own story;
telling the story of a place; listening to and telling
difficult stories; thinking about other peoples’ stories;
and finally preach and live the story.
The prayer she used each time was the prayer set for the
post-communion prayer today. This prayer had a great
impact on me, and I was delighted when I saw it is today’s
prayer. One of my favourite post communion prayers, I
think it goes deeper each time I read it.
Post Communion prayer for Trinity 3

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

I find this prayer particularly helpful when I can’t find
the words I need. Prayer isn’t always about words, and
this prayer gives me images which help me. Beauty is in
the eye of the beholder, goes the saying, and what I
perceive as beautiful might not appeal to someone else,
and vice versa. I’m pretty sure, however, that we all
experience in some way those moments that speak to us of
God. Those moments when a sunset might make you catch your
breath, or of a tiny child smiling at a trusted adult, or
of a beautiful sky at night – you will have your own
images, I’m sure. Two weeks ago, John and I sat in the
garden one evening to say Night Prayer. Just as we
finished, the sky clouded over and everywhere went still.
The whole atmosphere changed; we could sense how electric
and sultry it became. The evening sky grew dark and then
came release as a torrential downpour. And then came that
moment, that ‘beyond my imagining’ moment, of the most
glorious rainbow arching its way in the sky over the
housetops, the glorious sign of God’s promise to us all of
His faithfulness to us, his children.
The prayer also beseeches God to show us his glory as far
as we can grasp it. We see God everywhere. In creation, in
each other, in acts of loving kindness. Sometimes, though,
we may have that glimpse of something so powerful we have
no words with which to articulate our feelings, and so the
‘shield us from knowing more than we can bear’ is an
acknowledgment that all we are and all we have comes from
God.
So, what’s this to do with today’s Gospel?
Simply this. We are instructed to go out as Disciples of
Christ to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. There
will be good times, and difficult times. Whether we are
still shielding at home, working from home, or whether we
have been working as a key worker throughout this
pandemic, or are now beginning to return to work, we are
still called to do God’s work. We are called to proclaim
God’s word in word and deed. I said two weeks ago that
what we do, matters. What we say, matters. Never more
has that been so, as lockdown restrictions ease and some
of us are given a sense of freedom. That comes with a
price – to be responsible we have to obey social
distancing rules, and be mindful of all the hygiene
suggestions.
And yes, we long to be together again as the Body of
Christ, to worship together and to receive the Sacrament
of Holy Communion. But the Church is not the building – we
are the Church. Jesus told his disciples to go and spread
the Word of God. And each time we pray, or speak of God or
our faith, or do an act of kindness, or work to the best
of our ability in whatever we do, or make that unexpected
telephone call, we are doing as those early disciples were
asked to do. I can’t pretend it’s easy – some days are
easier than others. Which brings me back to the post
communion prayer. If we truly believe we are God’s beloved
children, we have the freedom to acknowledge that we’re
not perfect, that we won’t always get things right, that
there are times when we think we ‘get it’ and times when
we can’t see God at work no matter how hard we try. This
prayer grounds us. If we let it.
O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

As ever, you are in my prayers.
Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:33 pm.


 
Saturday, 20 June 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity 2
As a small girl, I can well remember saying to my Mum,
“It’s not fair!” when I wanted to be able to join the
choir in church. Back then, it was men/boys only in the
choir and in the sanctuary: male servers, male priest, a
choir of men and boys. “I know it’s not fair,” replied
Mum, and so I went off to join the Brownies, an
organisation just for girls. Well, I don’t remember my
brothers saying that wasn’t fair either! (Had they wanted
to, they could have joined the Scouting organisation.)
However, joining the Brownies was the best thing I could
ever have done, for there I found space to be me. I’ve
said many times that my faith in God and my lifetime
involvement in Girlguiding have formed me into who I am,
in to the person God intended me to be.
And in recent months, during lockdown, we have all been
aware of a sense of how unfair situations in life can be.
How can it be fair that some people were critically ill,
and others not; how can it be fair that some people lost
their jobs, how can it be fair that school pupils have
lost so much of their education. How can it be fair for
some places of work to re-open, and not others? And the
biggest question of all, how could God allow such a virus
to spread through the world?
My reply to that question – yes, it came up a lot in phone
conversations – was that God is with us throughout – but
more of that in a minute.
Manchester United player Marcus Rashford used his fame and
his huge following to campaign for children in lower
income families to have access to meals during the summer
holidays. The campaign was swift, gained huge momentum and
was successful in its conclusion. Vouchers will now be
made available to those families known to schools to be in
need. Marcus looks to be taking this a step further,
looking at how universal credit is applied and asking the
question, “is this fair?” Added to the fears over Covid 19
and the questions that arise from the Black Lives Matter
rallies, I cannot think of a better ambassador to help us
move to be a fairer, more just society. He remembers his
roots, his history, and is prepared to speak out.

In our Old Testament reading, there is a cry of outrage
against God, and our Epistle speaks of a new life in
Christ. In our Gospel reading, Jesus warns his disciples
that they will face tough times. He reassures the
disciples that God knows every hair on their heads, that
they are valued. They are loved.
And we are loved, loved by God, the God to whom we turn in
good times and bad, the God on whom we can rely, the God
who watches over us and who wants us to be part of his
Kingdom. God is involved in every aspect of our lives. And
I think it’s okay for us not to know the answers (I
certainly don’t) – but to rest in the belief that God’s
got this. Following Jesus is never going to be an easy
ride. We are called to speak out against injustice, to
serve others.
Whilst mulling over this week’s readings, I listened to
Classic FM and heard one of my favourite pieces of music,
Finlandia by Sibelius. I offer the words of the hymn, ‘Be
Still, My Soul, which we sing to the tune of Finlandia, as
a way of encouragement for the week ahead, with my love
and prayers as always.
Anne.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still my soul; your best, your heavn’ly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.


Be still my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake,
all now mysterious shall be clear at last.
Be still, my soul: the tempests still obey
His voice, who ruled them once on Galilee.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be for ever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgotten, love’s pure joy restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Katharina von Schlegel translated Jane L. Borthwick
CCLI 430363

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:38 pm.


 
Thursday, 18 June 2020:

Thoughts for the week


Trinity 1
Arranging a pastoral visit in someone’s garden a couple of
days ago, I found myself thinking, “I hope it doesn’t
rain!” What else have I hoped for? Like many of you, I
hope that life can safely return to some kind of normality
soon. I hope Wolves can continue to win matches when the
Premier league continues to play their games behind closed
doors. I hope that the global pandemic will ease. I hope
that countries can work together for the good of all. I
hope that injustice and social unrest can be talked
through, learned from, and that we can be more
understanding of each other.
Hope is a strange word in a way. It can be used as a wish
list, looking ahead to what you think or know will happen.
Paul’s message of hope in today’s Epistle means far more
than any wish list. It expresses a deep hope in God:
absolute trust in Him to whom we owe our very being. This
is not confidence in our own ability, but confidence in
God’s strength, through faith.
In our Old Testament reading, the children of Israel
arrive at Mount Sinai. This marks the fulfilment of God’s
promise to Moses at the burning bush - you can read about
that in Exodus 3. Here we have the covenant made between
God and the children of Israel.
And our Gospel reading today reminds us of those early
disciples. Those ordinary people, who so often got things
wrong, who denied they knew Jesus, who doubted, who
betrayed Jesus. Ordinary men and women like you and me.
They made mistakes. They kept going. They kept trying.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus teaching, healing, and
preaching. The disciples are called to do the same.
Jesus gives them their instructions to proclaim the Good
News of the Kingdom. We are called to do this by our
actions as well as our words. That text you send to
someone who is shielding might be the very thing he or she
needs to hear. The phone call you make might be the only
conversation someone has that day. Your smile might make
all the difference to a tired shop assistant. What we do,
matters. What we say, matters.
Every one of us is called to minister to others, to do as
those first disciples did. We are called to spread the
Good News. To speak about Jesus and His love. We are
called to continue Christ’s work here on earth. Speak out
against injustice; try to understand others’ points of
view, point the way to Christ.
One helpful way to pray when words are hard to come by and
time is precious, is to repeat a few words several times.
Earlier this week, someone sent me this mantra: ‘Be
joyful, keep the faith, do the little things.’ Is this
what Jesus was intimating? Rejoice in God’s promise, stay
firm in your faith, do what you can.
As I prayed through the Lectionary readings for today, a
prayer from the Ignatian tradition kept coming into my
head. I offer it to you now – many of you will know it –
together with the mantra ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, do
the little things.’
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.
As ever, you remain in my prayers. We are working hard to
be able to open church for private prayer; please hold
Janet and John in prayer as they check the risks involved
in opening our beloved building.
With love,
Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:28 pm.


 
Sunday, 10 May 2020:

Dementia Action Week




As restrictions on our daily lives continue it offers us
opportunities to reflect. Our normal social activities
and methods of contact are put on hold and our chances to
celebrate, comfort and support one another restricted.
As we head into Dementia Action Week I ask that as a
church we continue with our support and prayers for those
Living with Dementia. It would be lovely if those of you
who can use your skills to knit twiddle muffs or an
activity blanket that we could either distribute to homes
in need in the local area or keep in church for those who
may need them. A twiddle muff has been proven effective
in minimising agitation and other behavioural symptoms
for those with Dementia. Please see the instructions
included, this could be adapted in anyway to suit
yourself!

During the week I ask that you pray for those living with
Dementia, their carers, their loved ones and for all
those who dedicate time and intelligence in to Dementia
research. This time last year the BBC aired a programme
called ‘The Dementia Choir’ I may have already spoken
about this but it was incredible to watch, extremely
emotional, heart warming yet heart wrenching at the same
time. The confidence, support and joy the choir brought
to all was incredible. The programme proved how, sadly,
this disease can affect ANYONE.
During these unprecedented times I feel for those living
with dementia who are no longer able to have visits from
their loved ones, for the families who wonder if they
will be remembered when they are able to visit again, for
the dementia choir who bring so much joy to all and are
having to adapt and sing together via video call. We pay
for the strength carers need not only to work alongside
those with Dementia but also with the added pressures of
the current COVID-19 situation, the way they have adapted
to continue contact with family and friends and continue
to offer their support and stimulation to those in need.

Let prayer be our help, let prayer be our strength, let
prayer rise like a fountain of love.
May we come together in prayer for all those affected by
Dementia.

With love and prayers, Jenni Ellis Church Dementia
Coordinator.



 
Posted by Josh Taylor at 7:32 pm.


 
Thursday, 30 April 2020:

60th Anniversary


Today (30th April 2020) is the 60th Anniversary of the
Consecration of the
Church of the Epiphany by the Bishop of Lichfield.




We had plans to celebrate this but for now all plans are on
hold.

But today we can still pray for the church family and the
parish including all the homes, schools and businesses
within it.


God bless
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 3:13 pm.


 
Saturday, 25 April 2020:

Prayers


We pray for all of those who work in our National Health
Service, care sectors and for key workers and for all
their families.

We also remember all of those who are struggling with
isolation. We pray for those who feel alone, vulnerable
and are overwhelmed by anxiety at this time.

God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists,
and all who are working to discover the right medicines
to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times,
you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:34 pm.


 
Sunday, 19 April 2020:

Thoughts for the week


A couple of thoughts for today and this week.

Our Gospel reading from John chapter 20 reminds us that
Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to hold onto him, and that
he tells the disciples to touch him.
The reality of the Resurrection means that life will never
be the same as before. The disciples and Mary can no
longer hold on to the Jesus they once knew, nor can they
have the past back. They – and we – cannot possess Jesus.
We cannot hold him, but we are assured that he holds us.

After this pandemic – and there will be some sort of end –
life will not return back to normal, whatever ‘normal’
was. We may return to work, or to visiting people, back to
meetings and – with joy, I hope – back to worship
together, but none of us will be the same. We will all
have changed, and maybe we need to acknowledge that. We
need each other, we need our own space, and maybe we
should acknowledge our need of God, too. Whatever our
situation now, we know that he loves us, and holds us as
we move forwards.
Anne


From A Most Amazing Man by Nick Fawcett :
Meditation of Matthew
I feel sorry for Thomas,
For people talk of him in the same breath as doubt,
As if the two are synonymous,
Each belonging together.
OK, so he didn’t believe at first, I’ll grant you that,
But he wasn’t alone:
We all struggled at the beginning to accept it was really
him –
Our friend Jesus, returned to life
And standing there among us.
We’d seen him crucified, remember,
His body dragged from the cross and laid in a tomb,
Limp and lifeless.
And when we’d gathered together that first day of the
week,
The doors were locked and bolted,
For we were scared stiff our enemies would come for us
As they’d come just days before for Jesus.
Would you have expected him to stroll in suddenly,
As if nothing had happened?
To appear out of the blue by your side,
Alive and well?
Of course not.
You’d have pinched yourself, as we did,
Rubbed your eyes in amazement
Convinced you were seeing things,
The light playing tricks with your eyes.
None of us believed completely
Until he showed us his hand and his side;
And we could see for ourselves it was true.
So don’t be too hard on Thomas…
Or on yourself.
For Jesus didn’t condemn him any more than the rest of us.
He asks for faith,
And he’ll help it to grow,
But he understands doubt,
And will help that to go.



Loving God,
When we find faith hard,
All kinds of questions forcing themselves into our mind,
All sorts of doubts arising, unbidden and refusing to be
quelled,
Save us from hiding them away,
As if they are a guilty secret,
A weakness to be ashamed of;
And save us from pretending they aren’t there –
Sweeping them under the carpet
And struggling on with them unresolved.
Teach us to bring them honestly before you,
Seeking your guidance and insight,
So that we may understand more of you and your ways.
Nurture our belief,
And help us to deal with our unbelief,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:53 am.


 
Wednesday, 8 April 2020:

Stations of the Cross


This year as we can't physically follow the Stations of the Cross in church we have
brought them to you here with prayers that are relevant to the current global
situation. Please take a few moments with each station while reading the prayer.































 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:48 pm.


 
Wednesday, 25 March 2020:

Curate's Blog


What strange times we live in.
Half the population on ‘lockdown’ and only going out for
essential shopping or for some exercise. Children are at
home in the main, although schools and nurseries are open
for children who need care if parents are key workers.
Children at home brings its own problems; some schools
sending out packs of work to be completed, others try to
teach through the internet and virtual classrooms, others
direct pupils to use various websites and apps. This puts
pressure on parents and carers to recreate school at home
– an almost impossible scenario – so life at home may not
be as harmonious as many would have us believe. Then there
are the workers – those who have to work, although they
may feel at risk: doctors, nurses, all hospital staff,
pharmacists, pharmacy dispensers, shop assistants,
delivery drivers, shelf stackers, post office workers,
teachers and school staff, priests and ministers and so
on.
The government advice is to stay safe, to stay at home if
possible, to keep a safe space between us if we do have to
venture out.

So half of the country is on ‘lock down’ and winding down,
learning how to use their time and how to stay in touch
with people when we can’t just pop out to have a chat.
Others are risking their own health by still working
because their occupation means that they are classed as a
key worker.

Nothing feels the same. Everything feels different.

So where is God in all this?
Part of me feels all over the place, missing routine,
meeting with people, popping in for a chat and a coffee –
that sort of thing. We’re missing our church services, our
fellowship, Holy Communion; in short, we are missing being
face to face with others. I’m getting used to Chapter
(local clergy) meetings over the internet by video links.
But we are still in Lent, when we remember Jesus was in
the wilderness, on his own, challenged.
Exactly as we are.
And God walks with us now as He always has and He always
will. “I am with you always,” said Jesus.
We may feel on our own; we may feel frightened and anxious
– normal feelings in the circumstances, I think. Try to
rest in God, whether you are a key worker or at home.
Trust in the God who cares for you. Trust in God who holds
you.
And pray. And if all around you feels hopeless, try
lighting a candle and just stare at the flame. Remember
you are not on your own. You are always in God’s presence
and you are a beloved child of God.

With my love and prayers,
Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:43 pm.


 
Friday, 3 January 2020:

60 Years Anniversary


This year marks the 60 year anniversary of the Church of the
Epiphany being on it's current site and 50 years of our
church hall.

We will, hopefully, be having some events to celebrate this.

Starting off with our Feast of title on Monday 6th January
2020. There will be a Eucharist with Clive, Bishop of
Wolverhampton, presiding followed by refreshments in the
hall.

Keep checking back here for more information about events
later in the year.
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:54 pm.


 
Friday, 25 October 2019:

Curate's Blog


I write this on my return from a curates’ study weekend at
Queen’s. It was good to have the
opportunity to live in community, to study, pray and
worship together. What made it a special
weekend is that the timetable allowed us the opportunity
to reflect, relax, to simply ‘be.’ Sometimes
we can be too busy to allow things to settle, to reflect.
And we were blessed with such beautiful weather! I sat
outside in the sun with my book, journal, and
water. Loads of things raced round my head – thoughts
about mission and ministry and apologetics,
my head felt as if it was like a spider’s web with so many
thoughts going off at tangents. Eventually,
thoughts must have flown out of my head. I was acutely
aware of the warmth of the sun’s rays on
my skin, aware of the bird song, the rustle of the
squirrels in the trees and in the fallen leaves on the
grass. The sky – had it ever been such a deep blue?
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, conscious
thought disappeared. Without realising it and certainly
not by design, I was aware of God.
Similarly, during a recent walk with John, over Cannock
Chase, I couldn’t help but notice the stunning
spiders’ webs in the trees and heather. We heard squirrels
chittering away to each other, and heard
their movements in the trees above us as they leapt from
tree to tree. We watched with amusement
as the squirrels darted around, delicately picking
blackberries off the bushes and sat nibbling them
with evident enjoyment. Again, I became aware of the
quiet. All my senses seemed to play as one –
aware of the breeze on my face, the sound of the birdsong,
the stunning colour of berries and the
leaves turning colour. I was aware of God. Yes, I gloried
in His creation not to worship the creation
but the Creator Himself.
I remembered that Jesus often went into the desert or the
hillside to pray. It was one way to escape
the crowds, but I wonder if it was also a way for him to
feel closer to his Father.
One of the ways I am keeping this season of Creationtide
is to follow a short morning prayer taken
from Eco Church Southwest. Today’s reflection feels
timely, so I quote:
There are lots of people who feel close to God in church,
and churches are designed to aid that
encounter. But for many people—most people, even—
they feel closer to God when they are outside,
walking the dog, or pottering in the garden, or climbing a
mountain, or out on the bike.
So often people feel afraid to admit this, even to
themselves, and so think that because they struggle
to engage with God in a church building then perhaps they
can’t engage with God at all—this is not
true. God is the same everywhere, but we are not.
Do you have a particular place where you feel closer to
God?
(B. Stanley ‘Forest Church’, Mystic Christ Press 2013)
Something to think about.
Rev Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 1:11 pm.


 
Tuesday, 20 August 2019:

Curate's Blog


Time to look forward, and time to reflect

This time last year, I wrote about looking for God in the
unexpected – noticing God’s creation around
us, trying to slow down to allow God ‘s voice to be heard,
to notice and to be attentive to the world
around us.
I would still like to say that today, but in a slightly
different way.
We are now in a period of Interregnum, or Vacancy, as
Gennie has moved to take up a new post in
Scotland. The Church of England doesn’t seem to move
quickly; there are processes to go through in
appointing our next vicar and the wardens and PCC will be
actively involved in this process.
However, we could be without a parish priest for quite a
while. During the interregnum, however,
our life at Epiphany will continue and if we allow it, can
grow. What do I mean by that?
Well, I mean that we all have a part to play. Without
wishing to rehash my sermon about vocation,
we are all called to be who we are, with our various gifts
and talents. We can all look out for each
other – the wardens have already asked us to do that. Can
you help with flowers, or clean, or make
coffee? Can you offer to serve, or think about joining the
choir? Could you read a lesson, or the
intercessions? Do you have any ideas for the social
committee? Would you like to learn more about
what goes on behind the scenes, or to have a monthly Bible
study group?
All gifts and talents are from God. Yes, we nurture them
and practice, or rehearse, or learn, new
things to enhance our gifts, but remember our gifts are
God-given. So in worship we offer our very
selves to God. And if we are worshipping in that way, we
will grow.
We have chance to reflect on the past, and to change our
future. If we hold our focus on God, and
our witness to the community here in Oxley, and take time
to listen to God and to pray and be
together, we will grow. We will grow as a worshipping
community in love for each other, and we will
grow spiritually ourselves.
My prayer is that we will all find time and space to
reflect where we are as individuals, and to offer
our gifts and talents in whatever way we can to God.
Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:30 pm.


 
Friday, 28 June 2019:

Summer Fayre


Thank you to everyone who supported our Summer Fayre.
We raised £850 and still have donations coming in.



 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:36 am.


 
Saturday, 1 June 2019:

Raffle prizes


Below are some of the prizes in our Grand Raffle which
will be held at our Summer Fayre on Saturday 15th June
2019 at 11am, the draw will take place at approx 1pm.
We would like to than everyone who has donated prizes; see
list below.

Top 3 prizes

£50 Experience day Voucher -
http://www.experiencedays.co.uk/

Cream tea for 2 - Halfpenny Green Wine Estate

£25 voucher - David Austin Roses



Some of the other prizes, not in order:

6 Half price tickets for the Panto - Grand Theatre

Selection of stationery - Oxley Stationers and Printers

7 day family pass - Nuffield Health

1 Month membership pass - Nuffield Health

2 Family passes - The Judge's Lodging

1 Bicycle helmet - Hatley's bike shop

6 Admission and race cards - Monmore Green Greyhound track

2 x 2 Brewery tour vouchers - Bank's Brewery

2 children's tickets - Dudley Zoo

2 Main meals - Gatehouse, Hungry Horse

1 Manicure voucher - Pure Beauty

Plus many more.


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:28 pm.


 
Friday, 12 April 2019:

Curate's Blog


Curate’s blog
With Holy Week and Easter fast approaching, the APCM,
services to prepare, sermons to pray through and write, it
feels as if time is running away with me. We all get so
busy it’s good to take a few moments to reflect and to
take time to breathe.

I wonder if you stop for a moment to consider all that
goes on behind the scenes for our services. Hymns are
chosen, reading sheets prepared, notices emailed to
Michael to go on the weekly sheet, which is then produced
and printed off for our use. In church, bread and wine is
out ready, candles lit, lights switched on, microphone
switched on, fire exits opened, altar candles filled with
oil, the collection plate is in situ ready for our
offerings – the list goes on. Readers prepare to read,
intercessions are written, the altar is prepared and we’re
good to go. There’s more to it than that, though. Sermons
do not write themselves – they are thought through, prayed
over, as they are prepared. Our worship each Sunday
morning happens because so many folk know what they are
doing and are prepared, for which I – for one – say a huge
thank you.

Recently I’ve visited people, both for funerals and for
more general pastoral visits. I’ve attended a study day
at Shallowford, and a day course on upkeep of church
buildings, churchyards and fundraising. Support from my
fellow curates, as ever, is invaluable as we all minister
in different situations and we learn from each other. I’m
preparing for Holy Week, beginning to source liturgy and
to think through sermons. School assemblies form part of
my brief; having delivered an assembly on Lent, I’m now
preparing the Easter assembly for Rakegate Primary and
Gennie will be doing the same at Bushbury Lane Academy
and Long Knowle Primary. .

What is the driving force behind what we do? The big thing
for me is that we do all this not in our own strength, but
in God’s, as we minister in His name and to His glory. We
have such a lot to share, we should shout it from the
rooftops!

It’s so important to try not to be too busy to hear God’s
still, small voice. To that end, I’m reading a new book
entitled The Easter Stories by Trevor Dennis, and, with
Leanne, am reading a Margaret Silf book ‘O Taste and See’.
The latter gives insights as to how we can still ourselves
to find God around and within us. It certainly offers food
for thought.

Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:56 pm.


 
Thursday, 14 February 2019:

Curate's Blog


Curate’s blog
In church on the fourth Sunday of Epiphany, Gennie
suggested that we try to allow ourselves time to
think of things we are grateful for. It’s often easy to
think of what’s going wrong in our lives, or of
challenges and difficulties which we all face from time to
time. Being grateful for blessings received
and trying to be open and aware to the good things in our
lives is I think partly a state of mind. If I’m
really fed up, I will struggle to remember to be grateful
for things and will see only a huge ‘to-do’ list
which seems endless. So, I try very hard each day to find
something to be positive and grateful
about. Once I began to think like this, it’s hard to stop
at just one thing each day – but thinking of
one thing each day is a good place to begin.

Last week, I felt tired and under pressure to complete
assignments (yes, I still have essays to write)
together with all the other things I am expected to do. I
felt fairly grotty too, which didn’t help. One
afternoon I had to go out for an hour. As I climbed
wearily out of the car, I heard the most beautiful
song coming from branches above me. It was a very dreary
and dismal day, and it was easy to spot
the most beautiful little robin amongst the branches. He
sang so loudly and clearly and for five
minutes, I stayed still, watching and listening.

On one level, this is a story of a little robin singing.
On another, it spoke to me of God. It was a
blessing, a few minutes respite, and certainly something
to be grateful for. I needed to refocus and to
remember the bigger picture. One writer who writes about
thinking in this way is Margaret Silf. I’ve
mentioned her before, she writes about Ignation
spirituality and shows how we can focus on God in
our everyday lives. I find myself repeatedly drawn back
to her books and each time I learn a little
more about myself, and become a little more aware of God
at work in our lives. If you’d like to
borrow any of her books or find out a little more about
her or Ignation spirituality, have a word with
me.

With Lent beginning on March 6 th , we have opportunities
to go deeper with God. Some of you will be
aware that we had ‘diocese mystery worshippers’ visit us
in October last year. They said how friendly
and welcoming we are as a church and congregation, but one
of the comments they made was that it
is very noisy before the Eucharist service. Is it worth
trying to be in church five or ten minutes earlier
than usual before our Sunday Eucharist, and using the time
for quiet prayer, as a Lentern discipline?

Just a thought.

Rev Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 4:27 pm.


 
Sunday, 16 December 2018:

Christmas poem


Christmas Poem

This has to be my favourite Christmas poem of all time.
The author was a Quaker who used to write a new poem each
year to send in Christmas cards to her friends. I love
the way that this poem plays with the ‘before’ (BC) and
turns it into AD (the year of our Lord.) The year of our
Lord. It strikes me afresh each Christmas that the year
Christ was born, everything, but everything, changed. It
was an ordinary event. The birth of a child born to a
young couple, an everyday occurrence. But it was no
ordinary baby, no ordinary birth, and we are invited to
walk ‘haphazard into starlight’ into the kingdom of
heaven.
Plenty to think about!
Rev Anne
BC:AD

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.
U.A. Fanthorpe

Rev Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:03 pm.


 
Sunday, 21 October 2018:

Remembrance


Remembrance
This year the memories of the end of World War I may
appear more poignant. We remember the end
of World War I each year, but this year we will be
commemorating 100 years since the end of the
Great War. When we remember, what are we doing?
There is an argument as we remember the end of the war,
on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day
of the eleventh month, that we are glorifying war and all
the associated thoughts and ideas.
However, I think that it is important to
remember. Those soldiers were being disciples, doing
their
discipleship just as Jesus did. I suspect none of us
wants war and it is painful to remember that,
twenty years after WWI, WWII began. The important thing
is for us to remember ALL nationalities,
not just ‘our brave lads’. Each memory has another side
to it. For example, as we remember the
Dambusters from WWII, it is important to remember that,
for the Germans, it was a civilian disaster
as the valley was flooded. Ordinary people, people like
you and me, drawn into a war that they
probably did not want.
How can we achieve peace? Hope UK has 100 days of peace,
with prayers and readings from 4 th
August until 11 November – have a look at their website
for prayers for peace. Alternatively, light a
candle and stay in the quiet, remembering, and praying
for peace. All those who were involved in
WWI believed that they were fighting for peace. A
worldwide peace will never happen until nations
allow themselves to listen to other nations, to
understand where they are coming from, to
remember. Peace has to be built.
We can pray. We can remember, and in the two minutes
silence allow ourselves to go deeper into the
silence. We can pray for the armed forces of today and
for their families.
A prayer for Remembrance Sunday from the Church of
England website:
O Lord, our maker and our strength, from whose love in
Christ we can never be parted either by
death or defeat: May our remembrance this day deepen our
sorrow for the loss and wastes of war,
make us more grateful to those who courageously gave
their lives to defend this land and
commonwealth; and may all who bear the scars and memories
of conflicts, past and present, know
your healing love for the sake of Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace. Amen

Rev Anne
 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:16 pm.


 
Monday, 10 September 2018:

Curate's Scribbles from Rev. Anne


Curate’s Scribbles

It’s been a whirlwind 6 months or so, with lectures,
residential weekends and assignments to complete, so it
was almost a relief to reach the middle of June and
submit all the assignments required. However, there was
no time to rest! My robes and clerical blouses had not
arrived, we were already receiving notification of the
next stage of our training as curates, John and I were
trying to arrange the caterers for the party for after my
ordination and the list goes on and on.
So in a way it was almost a relief to reach the end of
June and to go on our pre-ordination retreat. Firstly,
the 18 curates to be ordained Deacon at Lichfield
Cathedral had to go to a rehearsal at the Cathedral,
wearing our cassocks, on Thursday 28th June. Following
this, we all went to Shallowford House near Stone for our
retreat. Of course, Shallowford now feels very well
known to me, but I was struck afresh by its prayerful
atmosphere.
Our retreat was conducted by a residential canon,
Georgina, from Worcester Cathedral and the theme was
‘Telling the Story.’ Over the weekend we had five
addresses from Georgina, plus a Eucharist. We had
silence and plenty of time to walk around and to read. I
read a book by Paula Gooder, ‘Phoebe’ which I will write
about at a later date; it was perfect reading and I
thoroughly recommend it. On Saturday Bishop Michael came
to hear us swear our oaths in the Chapel, wearing our
cassocks – a solemn moment – and to give us his charge.
That afternoon ten of the ordinands departed for the
Cathedral ready for their ordination service that
evening.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us and who came
along to the Cathedral to support me. July 1st was a day
that will live long in my memory. I think I cried through
much of the service. It felt very profound that, on that
Sunday morning, the ordinands were all women. The choir
was amazing, I loved the Elgar anthem which felt as if it
washed over us during Communion. The sun shone, the music
was sublime, and the preacher preached about Wolves! What
was not to like? The service was meaningful and very
special.
Thank you, too, to everyone who was able to come back to
the church hall at Oxley and celebrate with us. It was
wonderful to see Fr Colin, who left Oxley 30 years ago,
joining us along with previous curates, priests and
interim ministers – Pat, Roberta and Keith, who came to
celebrate with us.
So, what now? Time to rest? Well, given that the new
Curates had a meeting at Shallowford two days later, not
really! We have been given our curate handbooks and have
dates for residential weekends and for training days and
evenings. I know already that in the new year I have to
hand in a 5000 word essay based on our parish … so the
academic work continues for the next three years. The
big difference of course is that I can ‘do’ things. It
was a privilege to baptise Cameron in our morning
Eucharist on Sunday 8th July, and again to baptise little
Rachel Sharon Louise on Sunday 29th July. Please pray
for them and for their families and Godparents/Sponsors
in their new beginnings as Christians.
There is much to learn, and I am grateful to Fr Michael
and Gennie for opportunities and time to reflect. I’m
excited about the new beginnings and am really looking
forward to my year as Deacon. Thank you to you all for
your support and encouragement; it is such a privilege to
be in this position.
Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 8:08 pm.


 
Tuesday, 22 May 2018:

Thank you


On Sunday we thanked John for his 20+ years as Church
Warden.

A big thank you from us all, we really appreciate all you
have done and will still be doing.




 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:37 pm.


 
Friday, 27 April 2018:

Ordinand’s report April 2018


It feels strange to think that, after all this time, you
are reading my penultimate Ordinand’s report! How time
flies. We (as ordinands) are nearing the end of our
studies and time together. We have almost finished our
second module on Doctrine, and we are still working on
Christian Theology, Ritual and Pastoral Care, and
Preparing for Denominational Ministry.
Sadly, our 4th study/residential weekend at Queen’s was
cancelled due to the snow we experienced in March. I was
partly relieved at not having to travel but also partly
gutted. We have only one weekend left now, plus Easter
School. I was so looking forward to that particular
weekend as well, for we were looking at Baptism and
liturgy associated with that, as well as there being a
clerical clothing event in college so that we would have
the opportunity to try on clerical shirts, robes and so
on. Also, I’m keenly aware that my study time with some
of my friends is coming to an end and many of us felt
cheated out of time spent together!
I will be away at Queen’s for Easter School from 7th
April. We’ll be studying Psalms and also Baptism and
Funeral rites and so on. Our week will be crammed full
as we have the missed weekend to try to catch up on.
Looking ahead, and we are now very, very busy.
Assignment deadlines come thick and fast, made more
difficult now that Queen’s Library (one of the best
theological libraries in the country) is out of action
for much of the time due to 3 old Victorian pipes
bursting on that snowy weekend. In a way, it’s a good
job our residential weekend was cancelled or else we
would all have had to be evacuated. Ceilings came down,
obviously there was water damage to the student kitchens
and bedrooms on both accommodation floors of the Old
Building and there was damage to the library and student
common room. Thankfully only 78 books have had to be
sent to go in a freezer to dry out, but with health and
safety in force the library is open at reduced times.
Queen’s are doing their best to ensure that we all have
some access to books but it’s not the same as browsing
the shelves yourself!
In addition to the assignments, we have tutorials with
our personal tutors and meetings with bishops – I have
met with Bishop Clive, and have an appointment to see
Bishop Michael in Lichfield. Then there’s the ordering of
clergy robes and so on – it’s so complicated!
Thankfully, Diane has taken all the necessary
measurements and I will be able to order my cassock,
surplice and cassock-alb and my clergy shirts. My stoles
are already ordered – and I am very excited about these!
Many of my friends are from the Stafford/Shrewsbury/Stoke
areas and they will be ordained at the Cathedral on
Saturday 30th June. I will be ordained Deacon on Sunday
July 1st with my friends who will be serving curacies in
Lichfield or Wolverhampton. More details will be
available soon.

Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:41 pm.


 
Monday, 12 March 2018:

Ordinand's blog


Ordinands Notes Jan 2018
At the beginning of our 3rd year of training, back in
September, we were told that we should be prepared for
our 3rd year to race by. It certainly seems to be the
case!
We have only 2 residential weekends left, plus Easter
School. Weekly lectures continue at Shallowford. Im
working hard on assignments and presentations/theological
reflections, actually I learn a lot from doing them but I
will be glad when theyre all done. My friends are
finding out where they will be stationed, in the case of
my Methodist friends, or where they will serve their
curacies in the case of the Anglicans. Im really
excited that some of my friends will be in Wolverhampton!
Obviously, as an OLM my curacy will be here in our
benefice; Ive met with Bishop Clive and have been
offered and accepted the curacy. I will be ordained
Deacon at Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday 1st July, with
the service beginning at 10am. Its a very exciting time
but also a bit scary. I really couldnt be doing any of
this without your prayers and support. Thank you.
Anne

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:53 pm.


 
Sunday, 3 December 2017:

Advent,Christmas and Epiphany thoughts


Advent, Christmas and Epiphany thoughts

As I begin to write, it is 21st November. Christmas
lights will be switched on in the city centre tomorrow
night. Already as I drive around, I have seen Christmas
decorations in windows of peoples homes. Shops are
full of Christmas cards and the sound of Christmas carols
and songs are being played in many shops and
supermarkets. Websites and shops urge us to spend our
money on gifts, and finding the perfect gift is a
statement we often hear. What is this all about?
Advent begins on December 3rd this year. Advent, a time
of preparation and waiting. This year we could be
forgiven for feeling short- changed, as Advent 4 will
also be Christmas Eve. Advent offers us an opportunity to
get ready, not by rushing around (or not!) buying cards
and presents and trying to get organised wrapping gifts
and writing cards, but chance to prepare ourselves
spiritually. O come O come Emmanuel is one of the most
beautiful, haunting Advent hymns, urging us to wait, to
be prepared as we wait for the arrival of the Christ
Child. The hymn retells our faith story, where the
prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Immanuel, which
means, literally translated, God with us.
Here is our perfect gift, this child, God made man. He
comes to us in the messiness of human life. He is born
in a stable, full of mess and noise, a far cry from our
traditional image of sweet little nativity plays which
will be seen in schools up and down the country. And
Christmas begins once again. Christmas, where Christ
comes to us as a baby. We marvel at this gift of the
Incarnate God, and we rejoice that Christ is here among
us. Yes, a helpless baby lying in a manger, but also God
in all His deity. Its a lot to get our heads round.
For we know the baby grows up to be the adult Jesus who
constantly challenges us, who calls us to follow him.
Christmas begins on December 25th; it does not end then!
We continue to reflect on Gods gift to us, the gift of
his Son, as we move towards Epiphany. Of course, this is
our feast of title, and we will celebrate on January 6th
with a full sung Eucharist. What are we celebrating? We
remember and retell the story of the wise men who
journeyed to visit the young child. It has two things for
us to think about; firstly, that the word epiphany
means revelation or sudden awakening. Those moments when
God breaks through into our lives are true epiphany
moments and we need to be awake to notice them.
Secondly, God reveals himself as the God of all, not only
the God of Israel and the Jews but the God of all.
May we all be blessed with moments to prepare ourselves
for the rebirth of the Christ-child into our lives, as we
continue to follow in His ways.
Anne Martin

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:12 pm.


 
Monday, 6 November 2017:

Remembrance


Remembrance.

This year the Royal British Legion is asking everyone to
Rethink remembrance. Theyre asking us to recognise
the sacrifice made by thousands of people, past and
present, as serving members of the Armed Forces. The
poppy has become a symbol of remembrance in many
countries, but what does it mean to you?

Is it merely the symbol of yet another charity fund, or
is it a visual way you can recognise the sacrifice made
by many, who fought so that we can enjoy the democratic
freedoms we have? Is it a sign of hope, or a sign of
peace? What does it mean to you?

On Remembrance Sunday we will be thinking about these
questions when local Guiders talk about Remembrance and
offer thoughts and ideas during the service at 10:45am.

Remembrance Day is a day when we remember those who have
died fighting in wars. On the local news the other day I
saw that a primary school in Telford had attempted to
make the act of remembering more real for their pupils.
Each child painted a rock and on it wrote the name of a
soldier who had died in war. The rocks and stones were
hidden around their locality in the hope that many of
them will be returned to school, where the pupils will
build a rockery from the stones as a lasting tribute to
the fallen. One child said, We hope that all the rocks
will come back but we know that some wont. Thats what
happened to those who are fighting in wars; some will
come back home and others wont and it helps us to
remember them all.

It is so important to remember, to build up memories. We
will never know all who died during conflict, but God
does. We can pray for peace and try to enact that in our
lives. Our Christian faith is built on stories, stories
told around campfires by countless Israelites as they
remembered their shared story, before writing down their
shared history and traditions. This is our story. The
story telling continued in Jesus time and eventually was
written down. Why were they written? To ensure future
generations would hear and understand the shared history
and tradition and to come to faith.

Remembrance Sunday has become part of our culture and our
shared story. We are given space and time to come
together in communities and to rethink our story. We can
pray for peace, but we should never forget.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Anne


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:56 pm.


 
Thursday, 10 August 2017:

Summer


Summer Days

Summertime and the living is easy. George Gershwins
words could be aptly applied to August, when many of us
take holiday. Its a month to focus on summertime: family
time and barbeques; the beach and ice cream; long days
with no school! It is time to wind down from the frenetic
pace of our normal routines.


However, while summer is a season, it is also a state of
mind. We all have periods in life, which are summer-like,
when life goes well. How can we walk by faith in the
summers or good times of our spiritual lives?
When we go through times of sickness, financial
pressure, difficult relationships and other problems, we
more easily focus on God. In a spiritual summer season,
we can subtly find ourselves enjoying the gifts without
acknowledging the Giver! The greatest danger in the
summertime season of life is to forget who is responsible
for the good life that we are enjoying.

Our normal routine revolves around clocks and calendars,
but we can easily get distracted when we break these
disciplined routines. In the spiritual summer seasons of
life, there is a temptation to miss out on our regular
times with God in Bible reading and prayer! Things that
make summer seasons enjoyable can also become big
distractions.

How can we make the most of this summer season and keep
focused on God? We need to maintain a gratitude
attitude: thankful to God for all His blessings to us.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord
your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful
that you do not forget the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy
8:10/11). So, stay close and stay grateful to God in this
summer season of life!


Many thanks to Gennie for giving me the opportunity to
include this piece which I am sure will speak to many of
us.
Carolyn (at St Gregorys)

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:54 am.


 
Monday, 19 June 2017:

Church of the Epiphany 2017 Annual Meeting Address.



I want to start with a big thank you. Ive lived here a
year now, even if its not quite a liturgical year. Its
been a good year and I want to thank all of you for your
support and welcome. Im only going to make some very
short individual thank yous, and that to the wardens,
Father Michael , Alan and ordinand Anne for their support
and work together. This church has good team work, and
there are lots of people who do many things, some seen
like the music or PCC but many more unseen, that Im
still finding out about. So a huge thank you to everyone.
Many of the highlights have actually been covered in
other reports.
My priorities throughout my ministry have always been
worship and then pastoral care. If we get these right,
then the rest will follow. Obviously it has been a year
also of working out how to be the Vicar of two parishes
but today I am just talking about here at Oxley.
I think the worship on the whole is good, and I guess I
would highlight for myself, the remembrance service and
Blue Christmas, the other Christmas services especially
our name feast and the turns afterwards. That was fun.
My most special thing though, occurs during our
celebration of Holy Communion, and although we started
distributing Communion with me sitting due to my
arthritis, it actually for me, has become very special.
There is that little bit more time so that I pray for
every person individually as I share the bread. It feels
very holy and pastoral,
and this leads me onto pastoral care.
Gradually as time goes by I am asked for more
involvement, and it takes time for you to trust me or
even believe that I am available, but I am. I do like to
visit people in hospital, or know when someones dying or
died, but I havent always known in time, or at all.
We might need to improve the communication a little.
I want to bring my chosen text in here.
As you therefore 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.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with
thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us that God will
open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the
mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I
may reveal it clearly, as I should.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the
most of the time. Let your speech be gracious, seasoned
with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer
everyone.
It has been a delight to worship here with people who
have received Christ,... abounding in thanksgiving; we
dont always remember that St Paul enjoins his folk to
pray and worship.
Having done a year, I might want us to play a little
more, enrich the liturgy a bit.

It is good to be in church of grown up Christians, and
the challenge is to continue to live our lives in him,
rooted and built up in him. We need to think about how we
grow, get fed as mature Christians. Many of you are
living the kingdom out in important work places, and are
we enabling you and your faith to be there? Are we
resourcing you?

I want to move on to the second part of my text, where it
talks about outsiders and opening a door for the
word.
We have treasure here, and there have been couple of
things that have sprung up as opportunities, Bushbury
Lane school, coming regularly and wanting our
involvement.
Maybe the science park will develop, and we do good
funerals and baptism, but maybe we need to think again
how to follow them up.

We dont get passing trade where people come and try
out the church much. In fact I can almost name the Sunday
s when there has been someone new.
Christmas, is one of the ideal times to reach out to new
people and the wardens and I have talked about this and
we thought that we want to keep our treasure of worship
and traditional worship but in addition, we are want to
run a Community Carol service this year, hopefully
with involvement from the schools, and community groups.
And really make a go of advertising well.
We are going to try and focus in that in the Autumn.
And we need to think a little more about our publicity
and signage.

Basically I see us developing, going in the same
direction, that we have been going in.
Rowan Williams used to say that trick to mission was to
look around and see what God was up to and join in. Maybe
we could be just a bit more focussed, more explicit about
being open.
One of treasures is our theology, a practice of welcome.
There is an organisation called Inclusive Church and I
think we fit with them very well. Ive put their belief
statement on the sheet with the text.
"We believe in inclusive Church - church which does not
discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power,
gender, mental health, physical ability, race or
sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves
all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is
scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel
afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of
the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and
long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ."
Weve already committed ourselves to looking at how to be
a dementia friendly church and we know we have some
more work to do on being more accessible.
There isnt a church in this city that actually says
explicitly, that it welcomes gay people, and Id like to
work towards that and being more open for all, on all the
fronts.
We need to think about what barriers there are to people
knowing about us, coming in and trying us out or
participating more. When weve done that we can trust God
then to do the rest.
Particularly I want to also get us to begin to think
about the white working class, that live in our parish,
those that feel disenfranchised, thats also in
Inclusive Churchs statement at the beginning. I think
we could use some of their material. There is a local rep
and Id like to ask him to come and talk to us and see
what we can do.
I guess I want to go back to our text.
And ask you to think, where are you on this and where
are we as a church?
Are you, we, rooted and being built up, and if not what
would help,
do you need help with growing in prayer, have you got a
pastoral need for yourself or someone you know,
are we open to outsiders , and what can we do to
improve that.
As you therefore 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.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with
thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us that God will
open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the
mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I
may reveal it clearly, as I should.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the
most of the time. Let your speech be gracious, seasoned
with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer
everyone.
If you have any comments on this or anything else, then
please let me or the wardens know. !
All of this is so that we may continue to declare the
mystery of Christ in this place, making the most of our
time.
Thank you.
Revd Gennie Evans

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:31 pm.


 
Friday, 21 April 2017:

Jesus knows us and loves us


This week in church we have the story of Jesus and the
Samaritan woman at the well, from chapter 4 of Johns
gospel. Maybe it was like this:

Noreen at the well

Narrator: Jesus came,
By himself,
to Jacobs well in the town Sychar.
He was tried and sat down about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw some water
And Jesus said to her,

Jesus: Can I have a drink of water?

Narrator: The woman answered,

Noreen: You are a Jew,
I am a Samaritan.
How can you ask me for a drink?

Jesus: If only you knew what God gives
And who was asking you for a drink,
You would ask him
And he would give you life giving water,
And you would never be thirsty again.

Noreen: Can I have some of that water?

Jesus: Go and call your husband and come back.

Noreen: I havent got a husband

Jesus: Youre right.
Youve had five
And the man you have now isnt your
husband.

Noreen: I see you are a prophet.
And I know that when the Messiah comes,
Hell tell us everything

Jesus: I am he.
I who am talking to you now.

Noreen: Well what could I say?

Harrys lying in his bed
Waiting for me to come back and make the
dinner
And Im standing gabbing on to some other man...
another man...
And hes a Jew...

But...

Anyway...

I dont think Ive ever talked to a man
who understood me.
But this man did.

It was if
Everything Ive never been able to tell anyone...

I could tell him,
Even the things
I dont like admitting to myself...

And he knew, he understood. I could tell him everything
and he knew...he told me right back
He told me everything Ive ever done,

and it was all right.

It was like saying
the best prayer of my life
and having it answered there and then.

(From Present on earth by the Wild Geese Worship
Group)

Its a good story, it was hot, and Jesus was thirsty, so
he said
Would you give me a drink please?
Yes, and then he told her things about herself. She
didnt tell him, and he didnt have to guess. Jesus knew,
because he was God.
It was bit of a miracle, that Jesus knew everything about
her. She was amazed, and surprised.
Jesus knew all the good things about her, and also all
the bad things that shed done.
But he wanted to be her friend. And he loved her,
accepted her, knowing everything, good bad, secrets
everything.

The woman went and told everyone back in the village that
Jesus was the Christ, God, that he told her everything
that shed ever done, and wanted to be her friend, that
he came to help people.

It is the same today, whether youre young, old, black,
gay, straight, white, single, married, got a partner,
whatever.
Jesus knows all about you, us,
and he says I want to be your friend, Come, drink my
water. Be my friend.

And we can. One of the ways we are Jesus friends is by
coming to church, and later sharing his bread and wine.

And we all need to remember that, that Jesus knows about
us, we dont have to be afraid, and he loves us.

Thank you Jesus that you know all about us, and love us
and want to be our friend.

Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:56 am.


 
Thursday, 9 March 2017:

From Rev Gennie


Its January as I write this, a new year, a time for
reflection. We have also been thinking about the
Epiphany.

It is an odd word, and yet that word means a moment of
sudden and great revelation or realisation

Its like a moment of mystery, when suddenly things make
sense. And it used for the time when Jesus was made
manifest to the gentiles, the magi, the wisest people,
and there was a mystery. Following a star.

We have spent some time reflecting on what the story can
mean for us.
You may like to do the same.

The wise Magi set out to follow a star:
God is found in the moments of wonder that make us stop
and ponder the mystery.

What have been your own awakening moments of wonder
that have led you deeper into mystery?

The stars light was seen in the darkness:
In their darker moments they trusted that the light was
still to be found.

How have you experienced the dark?
Where/how did you recognise the light?


They asked questions when they were lost:
Continuing to try to make sense of where they were and
where they were being led, they looked for help.

What are the questions you live with?
Who are wisdom figures for you?
Who has helped you with your questions?


They traveled together:
We dont know how many of them, but we can imagine the
little community that they became as they traveled
together, sharing this experience.

Where do you experience community?
What does this add to your journeying?


They met King Herod on the way:
For his own reasons of power and control he tried to
deceive them.
We need to recognise the twisted value systems of our
world and not get caught up in them or be misled by them.
In what ways are you most often pulled off course?
They bowed down in adoration:
Falling on their knees they worshiped the King a moment
beyond intellectual understanding, and of recognition.
We can imagine that moment of knowing in the deep
silence.

Do you cultivate silence in your life so that there can
be moments of knowing and of recognition?


They offered their gifts:
To be in the presence demanded a response, an offering
of themselves and of their gifts.
Identify your own gifts. What are you offering of
yourself, your time and your material possessions?


In a dream they were shown the truth:
Because of the danger, they were warned to return by a
different way.
Revelation can come to us through our dreams.
Have you ever experienced this? How else do you
experience Gods revealing of the way to you?

For prayerful pondering:
So at the beginning of a new year, maybe spend some time
reflecting:
Name and give thanks for a moment of wonder.
Resolve to offer your gift this year in a
particular way.
Name some aspect of darkness and pray for light.
Name a companion on the journey and give thanks
for their support.

A blessed new year from Revd Gennie

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:05 pm.


 
Monday, 5 December 2016:

From Rev Gennie


As I write this we are coming up to the last Sunday of
the churchs year, and the feast day of Christ the King.
And it is the day that Donald Trump has become President
of the USA. So I am thinking about what sort of king, or
the most powerful man in earth is going to be, and what
sort of King is Jesus.

In the reading set for the Christ the King Sunday, Luke
tells the profoundly moving story of three men dying on
crosses. One of them is angry, the second repentant and
aware, the third is Jesus, the firstborn of all
creation, but he is also dying on the cross.

And the repentant man recognizes the difference between
them, sees the sign above Jesus head, This is the King
of the Jews, and despite what his eyes see, just another
dying manhe makes a strange request of Jesus: Remember
me when you come into your kingdom.
But Jesus reply gives him much more, he says, Today you
will be with me in Paradise. He promises relief and
heaven. There is a glimpse of who Jesus is, offered at
this most hopeless of moments.

Jesus rarely revealed his divine authority. He chose the
way of justice, love, and humility in the short earthly
life that led him to the cross. But here and there we
find a few glimpses of the glory: the stories of his
birth hint at this with all the heavenly host, the
angels, proclaiming the glory of his birth.

And the writer of the Colossians writes years laterfor
in him all things in heaven and on earth were created. .
. It is a glory he had known beforehe, himself, is
before all things;

There is the sudden appearance of the Holy Spirit Jesus
Baptism and the words only the few heard, You are my
Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased (Mark
1:11b);

We also remember the transfiguration for the chosen three
disciples; where his shining glory was shown. We remember
the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with cloaks and leafy
branches spread before him to the accompaniment of
Hosannas; and, finally, this moment at the crucifixion
when he assures the penitent thief of a place in
Paradise.

The Sunday of Christ the King, and all through the
Christmas season we are faced with thinking about what
this means. We are given clues of what the scoffers think
of Jesus as king, at the cross saying Are you not the
Messiah, Save yourself and us. This is another
temptation for Jesus like the devil offered him in the
desert three years earlier.
Jesus is offered the chance to save himself, to avoid the
cross, and to save the criminals as well. He is tempted
to choose another vocation, to be a different sort of
king, perhaps a political figure. And yet Jesus remains
steadfast.

Jesus saves others, including us, by not saving himself.
He is committed to Gods plan, which has included
betrayal and death. Only in the powerlessness of the
cross can he demonstrate the authority over the universe,
that ultimately rescues criminals, scoffers, religious
leaders and us. Jesus defines what sort of king he is.

The Christian faith is not a power struggle, that follows
the rules of this world, of retaliation, competition,
greed and domination. Instead Jesus goes to the cross,
and beyond.

The dying thief, sees the truth, he acknowledges his
guilt, but he sees that Jesus will enter the kingly
realm, not by coming down from the cross, but by dying.
The thief shows extraordinary faith and insight and says
Jesus remember me, when you come into kingdom.

This is a confession of faith, and shows that he has
understood the gospel, that all the mocking, trials and
crucifixion are needed to go through to the resurrection.
Jesus loved his killers. The love of Jesus, his
forgiveness, shows that there is another way.
It shows that love is stronger than evil, love is
stronger than death. That love undoes these powers of sin
and death.

Most people are aware that they fail, that they get
things wrong, that they are estranged from God, and
themselves, that they will die. And yet we can have more.
We can pray this prayer for ourselves, Jesus, remember
me We can pray this prayer knowing that he does,
knowing that he is the Lord, that he has overcome
violence, sin and death, and that he knows and loves us.

And we can let that love into our lives. Do we accept
Jesus as our king? We need to keep doing so. He will not
force himself on you, that is not his way. He may be the
Lord who holds the universe together, but the cross shows
he forces nothing, but shows love.

If we want to be part of his kingdom, we need to just
ask, we all need to receive his forgiveness, and let him
wash the dirt away, receive the life, the eternal life.
The kingdom of God, is about seeking the lost, offering
salvation to those who call out to him and making friends
of enemies. And we share in it.

We may want to also pray that our church and all
Christians can show this love, that we can be accepting
of those who have been criminals.
We can pray for reconciliation, a different sort of power
in the world.
But it begins with us.
Let us pray that we will not only ask Jesus to remember
us, but that we will remember him.

And Jesus reply, when we call out to him?
You will be with me in paradise.


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:04 am.


 
Sunday, 23 October 2016:

Ordinand's blog


With the dark nights and cooler weather looming, we know
that we are coming towards the autumn. Liturgically we
are approaching the end of the Churchs year. As I write
we are about to celebrate our Harvest Festival. This
year we have linked it to Creationtide, when we are able
to think about Gods creation and also to think about
environmental issues. The Youth Group were able to focus
on this when they visited the Reflections garden at
Beaudesert on their retreat camp. So were about to
celebrate Creation tide and Harvest, but we must look
ahead.
For many people the end of October and beginning of
November means Remembrance. Everyone knows the secular
festival of Halloween but not everyone knows that it
stems from a holy day. We celebrate All Saints Day on
November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd. The root
word of Halloween is hallow which means holy, and
een is an abbreviation for evening. So it refers to
the evening before All Saints Day when we honour the
saintly people of the past. More than a thousand years
ago in Ireland and Britain, a common custom of Christians
was to come together on the eve of the feast of All
Hallows Day to ask for God's blessing and protection from
evil in the world. Often, they would dress in costumes of
saints or evil spirits and act out the battle between
good and evil around bonfires. That's the source of the
modern observance of Halloween.
Churches often hold Remembrance services on Remembrance
Sunday. We will hold our act of remembrance during our
10:45 service as we think about issues of war and peace,
and loss. May we also remember those who are on active
service in our armed forces today, and their families.
With images of war-torn Syria filling our TV screens and
the footage from the world wars, we could be forgiven for
wondering where is God in all this? War is made by
people, not God. God is there in the suffering and in
the silences, God is there in the aid convoys and the
medical expertise. God is there through the prayers of
countless people. God is there.
Through our words and actions, can we show people that
God is here with us all today in Oxley?

Anne


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 6:39 pm.


 
Monday, 8 August 2016:

Anne's article


Come away to a deserted placeand rest awhile. We find
these words in Mark chapter 6. At this time of year I
suspect many of us are turning our thoughts towards
holidays or time away from the norm.
Not everyone will have the luxury of a complete break
during the summer, I know, but what I think we can take
from Mark 6 verses 30-31 is that we all do need to have
some sort of down time. Whatever we call it - a
holiday, a mini-break, a day out, or even a couple of
hours spent in the garden, we need some time away from
the normality of everyday life.
We know from reading the Bible that Jesus went away - or
tried to get away - for time alone with God before key
moments in his ministry. He recognised that it was
important to make time for himself, for time for him to
be with God and for him to try to recharge his batteries.
We may be away on holiday or we may not, but we can try
to use sensibly what time we can have to relax. Maybe
try to tune in with nature around you - actually listen
to the tunes the birds sing, or watch the ducks or
seagulls inflight. Notice how the breeze rustles the
grass or the leaves on the trees, or how it causes waves
to ripple. Feel the breeze on your face. Take time to
smell the fresh, earthy smell after the rain. In short,
take time.
This isnt easy to do, I know, but in so doing we can
become more in tune with creation and with our Creator
God. When I had a tough month full of assignment
deadlines and with sermons to prepare on placement, I
found that there were times when I simply had to move
away from the computer or from my books and notes. A
short walk which took perhaps 20 minutes was enough to
refresh me. I noticed the dandelions growing in the
cracks in the pavement, I heard the birdsong around me;
in fact those 20 minutes revived me. I was aware of
Gods presence in our world.
May we all become more aware and in our own way reflect
Gods presence to those around us.
Anne
(Im an ordinand at Oxley)

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 11:34 pm.


 
Saturday, 2 July 2016:

Pentecost


As I write this message it is the feast of Pentecost. I
want to talk for a moment about natural power. Wild fires
like in Canada or hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions and tsunami waves, they all
fascinate us. There are lots of TV programmes on them.
Their destructive force seems to come out of nowhere to
wreak havoc upon man and nature. Television gives many
people the chance to watch their devastation from a safe
distance, so that they mean only fantastic images in the
minds eye.
It is very different for those who undergo one
first hand. I know people who have been in the Caribbean
when theres been a hurricane, or the volcano on
Montserrat. Suddenly, theres a new respect for the
immense power residing in nature, real and dangerous.
It is a power that before the catastrophe had no
meaning or existence, so hidden and remote did it remain
from the predictable routine of daily life. Such an
experience changes lives. In an instant the world is
turned upside down by the tremendous release of energy
through water, air, fire, and earth. An unrecognizable
landscape and devastated communities are left in its
wake. And it can take years for people to recover.
Science helps us to understand the systems behind
this release of energy. But the world continues to be
caught by surprise by its many manifestations. We are
continually reminded of our fragile existence within
creation.
There is another power, a creative power of an
altogether different sort and size that informs our
faith. It is this power that changes lives at Pentecost.
It is the power behind creation and it is the power that
was received by a small, insignificant, and
unsophisticated group of men and women, gathered in
Jerusalem waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.
The horizons of their world were limited to the
countryside of Galilee and Palestine until the Spirit
opened their hearts and minds to a greater world beyond.
Nothing could have prepared them for the magnitude of
their enlightenment, as they responded to this world-
shattering experience of the supernatural creative spirit
of God.
To stand in its path was to catch fire with divine love.
In an instant their world was turned inside out by a
tremendous rush of creative power released into their
hearts and minds, souls and bodies, manifesting as flames
about their heads.
This inrush of creative energy, that brings
together, unifies, heals, more powerfully than natural
powers tear apart, this power poured itself out among
them. Their eyes and hearts were opened to a completely
different category of experience, unknown to the world.
They saw a new world, through new eyes. The differences
of culture and language that separated one from another
crumbled before this unifying power. Suddenly each could
speak and hear, with the same understanding, the stories
of Gods deeds of power.
As the power of nature, opens us up to the enormity of
its scale and its ability to destroy, -so too the power
of the Spirit opens our hearts to a new relation among
people, a new intimacy with God.
Man-made bridges crumble before natural disasters; But
the Spirit builds bridges beyond time and space, between
slave and free, man and woman, Jew and Gentile.
It is this power, the power of the Spirit of God,
that changes lives at Pentecost. This is the supernatural
power that sustains creation, that raised Jesus from the
dead, that reunites what has been torn apart, reconciles
the alienated. The spirit of Pentecost rushes into the
world as if out of nowhere, and breathes life into the
midst of death. This is Pentecost, the outpouring of
Gods spirit upon the disciples, then and now.
God opened the way and taught their hearts, and
now other languages, other voices, other experiences, are
no longer foreign to our own. All are one in Gods love
through the power of his reconciling spirit. For Gods
power has been received and has shown the coming together
of creation, which exceeds beyond our capacity to
comprehend, and beyond the power of nature and man to
destroy.
Suddenly the systems of oppression and sin that
bind and imprison seem insignificant compared to the
marvellous freedom the spirit of God breathes into us,
his fragile beloved children.
And we can have this, we can be filled, again and
again. Today. We say quietly Come Holy Spirit into us.
And then filled with the power of God, we are made
capable of sharing Gods mercy, Gods compassion, Gods
forgiveness to the blind world.
Today we are reminded of the creative energy of
God, which overwhelms the destructive powers of man and
nature so that we too might learn to see the Spirit as it
rushes through our own world, reconciling, reuniting all
of creation through us, within us, for us.
The spirit leads us into a new life, of love,
where slaves are made children, sinners forgiven, old
wounds from abuse are healed, there are visions and
dreams that speak of a reality that does not conform to a
world
dark and bloodied by the violence of our blindness.
How? We pray, we call on God, and as Peter tells
us, Call on the Lords name and be saved, God has
provided access to the Spirit, through the sacraments of
bread and wine, and holy oil, and just simply calling on
his name.
So look here in this church and around and about
Oxley for people going quietly about Gods work, creating
order out of chaos, offering compassion to the suffering
and hope to the desperate.
This is God at work, in spectacular and
unspectacular, quiet loving ways. The Holy Spirit of God,
here. In ordinary and extraordinary ways, at the scene
of natural disasters and the more unnatural ones like
wars and oppression, and in our ordinary struggles of
this life, the Spirit of God flows in to heal and mend,
to recreate anew.
This is Pentecost. So we pray, Come Holy Spirit,
come fill our hearts with your power, and your love. Come
Holy Spirit.

This is Pentecost.

Amen

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:10 pm.


 
Saturday, 16 April 2016:

Gennie's first article


Magazine article
Greetings. Happy Easter.
This is my first magazine article for the parishes of
Oxley, the Epiphany and Wednesfield, St Gregory the
Great. I am writing this, in a study that feels decidedly
unsettled, with boxes all around as I prepare to move
vicarages. And the rest of the house is full of more.
Moving is an unsettling process and probably a little
unsettling for the parishes too, but maybe a little
information as way of introduction will help.
I am 54 and I grew up in Wolverhampton and went to school
in Oxley and Wednesfield before going to Manchester to
study Biology and Microbiology.
I had grown in faith from being a teenager and in my
twenties I deepened my experience of church tradition to
include a real commitment to social justice in all forms.
So yes I was involved in the peace movement and went to
Greenham Common. My early jobs included youth projects,
working in a refuge for abused women, and other community
projects. I was drawn to work in mental health and
throughout my spiritual journey I have found something of
God in the hard places. My ministry has always been in
inner urban areas. I discovered prayer and was fortunate
to be guided well.
Despite loving my youth or social work I also found I
wanted to be able to integrate talking about the eternal
and I entered religious life in London and was a novice
for two years. I loved the prayer but in the end it
seemed that I should really be a parish priest. I trained
at St Michaels Llandaff, Cardiff and had a curacy in two
newly joined together parishes in Moss Side in
Manchester.
Yes, at times this was on the edge, but I learned my
trade as a priest before going to the Pleck in Walsall
for the last 8 years. I have loved being a vicar there,
but am also really excited about coming to Wolverhampton.
What else to write about me, I have three cats, I love
the outdoors and used to be a rock climber and
mountaineer. I now struggle with arthritis and have
adapted some of the sports to non weight bearing ones. I
sometime use an electric bike or float down rivers in a
kayak. I like watching the birds and painting, music
As I prepare to come to my new life I am minded of the
joke that is often told that if you want to give God a
good laugh, then tell him your plans. And I think there
is an element of truth in that.
I cant remember who taught me many years ago, that the
the secret to mission (the real buzz word in church
circles these days) is to look for what God is doing in a
place and join in.
I do not have plans yet, unless we count planning to look
and listen.
I know that God has been and is at work and I really look
forward to finding how and where I can join in, in Oxley
and Wednesfield.

God Bless, Gennie

March 3rd 2016

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:39 pm.


 
Sunday, 14 February 2016:

Rev Keith's last blog


A Farewell from Rev Keith Duckett, Interim Minister at
St. Gregorys, Wednesfield & Church of the Epiphany,
Oxley
It seems strange to be saying goodbye already, but nine
and a half months have gone quickly and it is time to
move on! I hope it is in fact au revoir more than
goodbye and I will still be living in Wednesfield, so
hope to see you in the future. Above all, I want to say
thankyou to Bishop Clive, Archdeacon Sue and your
Parish Wardens for giving me the opportunity to minister
with you, and a thankyou to the church members who have
welcomed and supported me. It has been a time of
rejuvenation of my spirituality and ministry, for which I
will always be grateful.
I am moving on to be part-time chaplain based mainly at
Walsall Palliative Care Centre within Walsall Healthcare
NHS Trust, whilst carrying on with my Counselling
training at Staffordshire University for another year or
so. Walsall Healthcare chaplains share on-call duties
with New Cross Hospital chaplains across both Trusts, so
if you see me there in an official capacity youll know
why. As some of you know, Ive also been doing a few
hours as a Chaplain for Wellbeing with the Edgbaston
Wellbeing Hub and some GP Medical Centres in Birmingham.
Current arrangements will not be able to continue, but I
am hoping I may be able to continue this in some other
way in the future, or do some work for the Association of
Chaplains in General Practice.
I have been with you at a very significant time in the
life of your churches as the new United Benefice was
formed over the Summer. This new arrangement can be a
source of enrichment and fresh opportunities, but
probably also difficult challenges. This is likely to be
especially true for your new Vicar, Rev Gennie Evans; I
was going to say: so please support her; but I will
word that differently and say please SHOW HER your
support. It was great to have someone come to me after a
service the other day and thank me for something I said
in the sermon which helped them cope better with their
circumstances at home. We dont often get feedback, and I
can assure you that ministers are only human and it is
helpful to hear the positive stuff. Equally, we need to
hear the negatives, so I would urge you to find a way to
have a quiet, constructive conversation with your Vicar
or a Warden if there are things you are unhappy about in
the future.
There are likely to be tough times ahead for ministry and
mission in all churches, not just for us in Wolverhampton
and the Black Country, but nationally and globally too.
So it was lovely to have such a good turnout from both
churches at the service for the Feast of the Epiphany in
Oxley on the 6th January where I felt we were able to
remind ourselves of some of the essentials of our faith
and discipleship. Church life may at times lead to
disagreements about priorities and how to do things, but
I repeat one of the points I mentioned in the sermon on
that day: the theme and readings reminded me of Psalm
34:5 Look to God and be radiant. Lets keep getting
back to basics: feast the eyes of your soul upon God (in
scripture, sacrament, nature, fellowship, meditation,
icons, whatever is right for you) and you will reflect
Gods light in the world. Every time we sense a tension
rising amongst our congregation members, perhaps we could
turn back to this verse.
It has been suggested that we print an extract from a
meditation that I read out in my Sermon on Sunday 10th
January when we celebrated the Baptism of Christ, so here
it is, from John ODonohues book Benedictus. A Book of
Blessings (published in 2007 by Bantam Press). It is from
a Chapter entitled: To Retrieve the Lost Art of
Blessing and may God indeed bless all your futures
through all his words and mine. Amen!

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 10:24 pm.


 
Saturday, 2 January 2016:

From Rev Keith - November


Rev Keith, Interim Minister writes:
I am writing this in the week following the atrocities in Paris and just after the announcement that you have a new Vicar, Rev Gennie Evans, who is currently at St. Johns in the Pleck, Walsall. The events in Paris make us wonder if beliefs and faith and ideologies are worth fighting for. To what extent should we try to impose our own views of right and wrong, good and bad, on others? Does it always end up in arguments, disagreements, falling out, even violence? The alternative extreme is to be always watering down our own views to please others, so that others do not get upset; or even to give up altogether, to back-off and leave it to others to fight over religion and politics.

Lets be honest, all of us generally think that we are right! Some of us deal with this by trying to manipulate the world, the church, our relatives, our colleagues, into our way of seeing things and doing things. Others deal with this by staying on the edge of community life or church life; some even think stuff what the world thinks; I am going off into my own private world, with people who are like me, to do my own thing. But is there another way?

It is a delight to know that you will have a new Vicar starting with you early next year, but there will inevitably be differences of opinion about how things should be done in the future. Not least the fact that you and Gennie will have to work out how best to share her time between the two parishes and the two congregations. Expectations will be many and varied. Gennie will bring her own gifts, ideas and priorities, which some of you will agree with or even love. Others will find change a bit difficult to handle (whether it is planned or unplanned, unintended or unforeseen). There will be exciting new developments and there will be misunderstandings and mistakes from all quarters.

Some of you may feel like objecting to certain things. Others will find a new lease of life, preferring the different approaches which may arise. Still others will be uncomfortable or unhappy, but will just quietly back off and vote with their feet. Is there another way? How do we learn to live and work together in a world full of numerous different points of view?

I am also sitting here pondering my sermon for the Feast of Christ the King this coming Sunday. And theres something in the Gospel reading which may be of help for us here. Im looking specifically at John chapter 18, verse 37. The version printed in my Lectionary book is this:
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (NRSV)
As you know, I often look at different translations to get a different angle on things So have a look at this:
All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. (Jerusalem Bible)
People who are interested in the truth listen to me. (Good as New Translation)
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (New International Version)
Here I get the sense of:
If you are seeking truth (wisdom), you will not be afraid to give me a fair hearing.
If you are secure in yourself, you will have courage to listen for further revelations of truth, no matter who is speaking.
If you are insecure and fearful of change, you will not be open to others.
As the First Letter of John says: Perfect love casts out fear. As St Paul says in Romans chapter 8: You have not received a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption You are adopted because God loves you and so you do not need to fear. Instead, you can be a listener; always open to others feelings and points of view; not afraid to be challenged. I pray that we will all become a community of deeper listeners, setting an example to the world and each other that truth is discovered in the love of listening.
In John 18 verse 36, Jesus distances himself from the forms of power that colour most human institutions: domination, manipulation, violence, bullying my kingdom (my way of ruling) is not from this world We do things differently where I come from; I am here to encourage a community of listening, says Jesus. And so how about this translation of 1 John 17 to finish with:
Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgement fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is. (New Jerusalem Bible)
Let us have no less an ambition than to become as he is, by the grace of God. Amen.

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 12:30 am.


 
Friday, 2 October 2015:

From Rev. Keith


Rev Keith, Interim Minister for Epiphany, Oxley & St. Gregorys, Wednesfield, writes:
As I sit down to type this article, I am looking forward to a weekend away when we shall be going to Cardiff for two Rugby World Cup matches at the Millenium Stadium. (Yes, I got very lucky in the public draw for tickets!)
By the time you read this, youll know what happened. I wonder if it will include a serious injury or two? The Wales squad have already lost two key players to injury before the tournament has even started. Every now and again there are some really serious injuries in the world of rugby. Is it worth it? Well of course some of you will have no interest in rugby whatsoever, but imagine how those who enjoy watching or playing it might answer that question
Players who take part do so at their own risk. Seriously injured players probably make up a tiny proportion of the total number of players across the world at all age levels. (Someone google that for me.) But, still, is it worth it? Well, you can guess my answer. Even after having seen a recent TV documentary about the prevalence and long-term dangers of mild and hidden concussion in the sport, I still find myself looking forward to this weekend (but glad that it is other people playing like gladiators with me watching on from a safe distance!!).
How did I come to be thinking all this stuff about rugby? Well, I was wondering about how to suggest a little something at both Church Council meetings about the place of the offering of money within the liturgy on a Sunday morning. And I was reminded of the chapters in a little book that my wife used to structure a service when we were both training at Queens Theological College back in the late 90s. Its by Henri Nouwen, published in 1992, and its called Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World. (Ive found our copy and intend to read it properly for the first time; if you like the sound of it, I notice you can currently get it for £2.34 on Amazon!) Some of the chapters were called:
Taken
Blessed
Broken
Given

Anyway, to pull all these threads together: here goes! You may recall that, at church on a Sunday morning, after the Offertory (when people collect and bring forward the bread, wine and money) and before the Eucharistic Prayer (the big long prayer where the priest stands behind the altar table), there is usually another little section. Its entitled The Preparation of the Table / The Taking of the Bread and Wine. At Epiphany there is no prayer printed and the priest chooses some words to use. At St Gregorys, a prayer is printed, and you have probably noticed that I use a slightly different version of whats there.
For me, the reason we bring up a collection of money at this point in the service is because it symbolises our offering of ourselves our being taken - as part of Holy Communion. When we bring forward the bread and wine, we are bringing gifts of creation to use as Jesus did.
The important thing here is that Holy Communion involves four elements or actions: Taking, Blessing, Breaking and Giving, to help us follow what Jesus did. You may or may not realise that these four actions are represented by four different prayers and actions in the service. The Blessing part is the bit we call The Eucharistic Prayer (Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord etc, etc). The Breaking part is obvious: We break this bread to share in the body of Christ etc. The Giving part is, of course, when the priest and other Eucharistic ministers distribute the body and blood (the consecrated bread and wine).
But what about the first part the Taking? For me, this is about us being taken by God taken in order to be blessed, so that we can be broken for the life of the world; broken so that we can be given by God to the world for the sake of growing his kingdom (on earth as in heaven). Broken here means three possible things to me:
Changed as God takes us, sometimes he remoulds us
(The experience of every rugby match improves a players matchplay wisdom every time we allow ourselves to be taken by the Eucharist, we can be moulded a bit more by God for kingdom wisdom)
Shared as God takes us, sometimes he shares us with others
(Each rugby player shares their talents and physical prowess for the sake of their teammates and the watching audienceWe do not just come to the Eucharist for ourselves or for even for our fellow members)
Turned upside down and inside out as God takes us, sometimes he allows us to be taken apart before being re-built/transformed
(Sometimes players get hurt no-one wants this but it happens In the same way, God does not want us to go through the pain of breakdowns of any kind, whether its a persons inner struggle or a split between people but sometimes the ball has to hit the ground before it can bounce back up, if you see what I mean).

God takes us just as we are (thats the confession bit, with forgiveness assured). He then blesses us BEFORE we are broken. Only then does God ask us to allow ourselves to be given in the service of his kingdom.
So, to make the link, as some other churches do, I was wondering about holding up the plate of money as I say the second part of this prayer, to symbolise us offering ourselves to be taken:
(Holding up the bread and wine)
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation
Through your goodness we have this bread and wine to offer
Fruits of the earth and work of human hands
They will become for us the bread of life and cup of salvation
Blessed be God for ever!
---
(Holding up the plate of money)
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation
Through your goodness we have ourselves to offer
Fruits of the womb and work of your love
We shall become for you a holy people
Blessed be God for ever!

What dyou think? Let me or a member of the PCC know Hope my explanation helps, or at least provokes your own ideas about what the different sections of worship are all about. Sorry if you knew all this stuff already, but its good to return to the heart of our lives as a worshipping community and check out if what were doing chimes with what we believe.

I guess you could do a whole lot more with the rugby analogy. Taken = training? Blessed = singing the national anthem? Broken and given? And theres a whole new article to be written about how we apply these four elements to our lives beyond Sunday worship Being taken, blessed, broken and given in the world, Monday to Saturday but I will read Nouwens book first and ponder all this some more!
Yours in Christ
Keith

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:53 pm.


 
Friday, 2 October 2015:

From Rev. Keith


Rev Keith, Interim Minister for Epiphany, Oxley & St. Gregorys, Wednesfield, writes:
As I sit down to type this article, I am looking forward to a weekend away when we shall be going to Cardiff for two Rugby World Cup matches at the Millenium Stadium. (Yes, I got very lucky in the public draw for tickets!)
By the time you read this, youll know what happened. I wonder if it will include a serious injury or two? The Wales squad have already lost two key players to injury before the tournament has even started. Every now and again there are some really serious injuries in the world of rugby. Is it worth it? Well of course some of you will have no interest in rugby whatsoever, but imagine how those who enjoy watching or playing it might answer that question
Players who take part do so at their own risk. Seriously injured players probably make up a tiny proportion of the total number of players across the world at all age levels. (Someone google that for me.) But, still, is it worth it? Well, you can guess my answer. Even after having seen a recent TV documentary about the prevalence and long-term dangers of mild and hidden concussion in the sport, I still find myself looking forward to this weekend (but glad that it is other people playing like gladiators with me watching on from a safe distance!!).
How did I come to be thinking all this stuff about rugby? Well, I was wondering about how to suggest a little something at both Church Council meetings about the place of the offering of money within the liturgy on a Sunday morning. And I was reminded of the chapters in a little book that my wife used to structure a service when we were both training at Queens Theological College back in the late 90s. Its by Henri Nouwen, published in 1992, and its called Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World. (Ive found our copy and intend to read it properly for the first time; if you like the sound of it, I notice you can currently get it for £2.34 on Amazon!) Some of the chapters were called:
Taken
Blessed
Broken
Given

Anyway, to pull all these threads together: here goes! You may recall that, at church on a Sunday morning, after the Offertory (when people collect and bring forward the bread, wine and money) and before the Eucharistic Prayer (the big long prayer where the priest stands behind the altar table), there is usually another little section. Its entitled The Preparation of the Table / The Taking of the Bread and Wine. At Epiphany there is no prayer printed and the priest chooses some words to use. At St Gregorys, a prayer is printed, and you have probably noticed that I use a slightly different version of whats there.
For me, the reason we bring up a collection of money at this point in the service is because it symbolises our offering of ourselves our being taken - as part of Holy Communion. When we bring forward the bread and wine, we are bringing gifts of creation to use as Jesus did.
The important thing here is that Holy Communion involves four elements or actions: Taking, Blessing, Breaking and Giving, to help us follow what Jesus did. You may or may not realise that these four actions are represented by four different prayers and actions in the service. The Blessing part is the bit we call The Eucharistic Prayer (Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord etc, etc). The Breaking part is obvious: We break this bread to share in the body of Christ etc. The Giving part is, of course, when the priest and other Eucharistic ministers distribute the body and blood (the consecrated bread and wine).
But what about the first part the Taking? For me, this is about us being taken by God taken in order to be blessed, so that we can be broken for the life of the world; broken so that we can be given by God to the world for the sake of growing his kingdom (on earth as in heaven). Broken here means three possible things to me:
Changed as God takes us, sometimes he remoulds us
(The experience of every rugby match improves a players matchplay wisdom every time we allow ourselves to be taken by the Eucharist, we can be moulded a bit more by God for kingdom wisdom)
Shared as God takes us, sometimes he shares us with others
(Each rugby player shares their talents and physical prowess for the sake of their teammates and the watching audienceWe do not just come to the Eucharist for ourselves or for even for our fellow members)
Turned upside down and inside out as God takes us, sometimes he allows us to be taken apart before being re-built/transformed
(Sometimes players get hurt no-one wants this but it happens In the same way, God does not want us to go through the pain of breakdowns of any kind, whether its a persons inner struggle or a split between people but sometimes the ball has to hit the ground before it can bounce back up, if you see what I mean).

God takes us just as we are (thats the confession bit, with forgiveness assured). He then blesses us BEFORE we are broken. Only then does God ask us to allow ourselves to be given in the service of his kingdom.
So, to make the link, as some other churches do, I was wondering about holding up the plate of money as I say the second part of this prayer, to symbolise us offering ourselves to be taken:
(Holding up the bread and wine)
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation
Through your goodness we have this bread and wine to offer
Fruits of the earth and work of human hands
They will become for us the bread of life and cup of salvation
Blessed be God for ever!
---
(Holding up the plate of money)
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation
Through your goodness we have ourselves to offer
Fruits of the womb and work of your love
We shall become for you a holy people
Blessed be God for ever!

What dyou think? Let me or a member of the PCC know Hope my explanation helps, or at least provokes your own ideas about what the different sections of worship are all about. Sorry if you knew all this stuff already, but its good to return to the heart of our lives as a worshipping community and check out if what were doing chimes with what we believe.

I guess you could do a whole lot more with the rugby analogy. Taken = training? Blessed = singing the national anthem? Broken and given? And theres a whole new article to be written about how we apply these four elements to our lives beyond Sunday worship Being taken, blessed, broken and given in the world, Monday to Saturday but I will read Nouwens book first and ponder all this some more!
Yours in Christ
Keith

 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 9:51 pm.


 
Thursday, 6 August 2015:

From Rev. Keith


As I sit here to write in mid-July, I have just been reminded that this article is for an edition which will be out at the time of our Harvest Service at Epiphany. I havent had a break for a Summer holiday yet, but already my thoughts must turn to Harvest too!
The Harvest Service at Epiphany this year will be on 27th September at 10.45am, followed by a Harvest Lunch perhaps a good Sunday to aim at inviting family, friends or neighbours who do not normally come or have not been for a long time. Have a think if there is someone you could invite and encourage after all, a lot of what Jesus did was based around food!
At St Gregorys, the Harvest service will be on the following Sunday (4th October at 9.15am), but by then we will already have had a big celebration of the Feast Day of St Gregory. This will take place as part of the Sunday morning service on Sunday 6th September at 9.15am when we hope to have the Marching Band taking part as well! Perhaps another occasion to invite someone to join you?
Ill get back to my harvest theme later, but first: Why do we want people to come to church? This might seem like a surprising question for someone like me to be asking, but I have been reminded of some words written by Richard Rohr which I read the other day in his book called What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self. And it goes like this:
Jesus invites us as the Church to become a new community of human beings; he calls us a little flock (Luke 12:32). I dont believe he ever wanted us to be the whole only the part. He said we should be the yeast, the leaven, not the whole loaf. He called us to be the salt, but we want to be the whole meal. He urged us to be the light that illuminates the mountaintop, but we want to be the whole mountain. The images that Jesus uses are very modest and yet very strong.
Its very difficult to be yeast, salt or light on your own (to be small, modest and strong at the same time) we need to be part of small communities that support each other, dotted about all over the world. This way we can feel more confident and enriched by each other to go into our daily lives and be a bit of good flavour in the world. This is why we need to find ways to be communities that others can feel comfortable to join and get involved in. We need them! But this almost certainly means that when someone new shows an interest or joins in, we must be prepared to be changed by them (forever even if just a little tiny bit).
But youve heard all this before Ministers subtly (or not so subtly) going on about the need to change, to grow, to be open, etc, etc, etc! I understand it is scary to have to be prepared to adapt. It means sacrificing a little bit of our treasured ways and habits. But maybe this is not such a bad thing: in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus does talk about the possibility of salt losing its saltiness. I know from personal experience what it is like to go stale I didnt realise it at the time when it was happening, but looking back I now realise that I had gone stale in a job I used to do. I know I am mixing lots of metaphors here, but perhaps one way to keep fresh is to allow other chemicals (new people) to react with our own chemical properties (to force us to change).
Apparently yeast boosts flavour as well as causing the dough to rise; salt of course can add flavour too (I like a bit on my chips); and light has been crucial for the growth of my potato plants. Too much yeast, salt or light, however, without other key ingredients, and things can be a disaster. Too much of any of these (churchy) ingredients and not enough of other (worldly) things and we might just have a mess on our hands. We are all witnessing on the news channels the effects of too much over-zealous religion in our world today. So, although we have some flavour to offer the world, we also need to be flavoured by the world! Also, maybe if we listen to others, they are more likely to listen to us. As our Area Dean said recently at Deanery Synod, we are way past the days when we could expect people to listen to us.
End of sermon; back to harvest-time! I had wanted to have a go at growing vegetables for a long time, but never quite got round to it. The real reason I think, if Im honest, was fear of failure. (I like getting things right and perfect, so I have never really been much good at trying things unless I was really sure I knew what I was doing.) But in the end I decided last Autumn that I had to just have a go trial and error; read a couple of books on the subject, not 10; experiment a bit; make the best of the resources I had or could afford; and so on. Aha, like me, you can probably see another sermon arising out of my keyboard here.! If Im honest, I often write sermons and essays like this start writing and see what words might sprout out of the seedbed of the last paragraph. Risky I know, and not what you are supposed to do in essay-writing or sermon preparation. But sometimes it works! I have passed all my essays so far on my current course, and, as for the sermons well, youll have to ask the punters what they really think!
But anyway, as with my counselling work, cricket coaching, leaving my last job, and even becoming an Interim Minister, so with the vegetable growing a bit of planning, a lot of faith, sprinkle in some enthusiasm and a dose of have a go and see and my daughter and I are enjoying digging up a weekly crop of vegetables. Perhaps in church life we need to be a bit more experimental with our recipes. And remember that God is the chef we are just the ingredients!
Wow; I hope that all made some sense close to the editorial deadline, I just had to practice what Ive just been preaching and have a go. Some of what Ive said might be wrong; or I might even change my mind in the future; but I guess the important thing was to have a go and invite feedback let me know what you think and maybe we can be changed by each other! Amen!


 
Posted by Janet Taylor at 5:21 pm.


 
Friday, 22 May 2015:

From the Interim Minister


Rev Keith Duckett, Interim Minister of Church of the Epiphany, Oxley, and St Gregory, Wednesfield, writes: Well its been about a month since I joined you as part-time Interim Minister on 13 April (although I enjoyed a few opportunities to be with you before that in Lent, Holy Week and the beginnings of Easter). So publication of a Parish Magazine for June in both parishes seems like a perfect time to take stock and reflect.
Firstly can I say a big thankyou to both congregations, and especially their Church Wardens, for your enthusiastic welcome. I do believe that welcome, inclusivity and hospitality are at the heart of the Gospel and so it has been lovely to experience that myself. Secondly, congratulations to you all for keeping faithful and keeping so much going in challenging times. Challenging for you as you go through the process of remaining as two parishes whilst joining together to share a Vicar in the future. Challenging for all Christians in our society as we face so many pressures to remain faithful and to discover the right way forward for church, religion and humanity.
One of the privileges of working for two parishes is that I see how different churches do things differently. This reminds me that there are many different ways to go about being church and being faithful to God. None of us can ever be sure of what the right way is, so I thank you for being patient with me as I feel my way forward in ministry; and I hope we can be understanding of each other as we march or fumble our way into the next stages of our lives.
For me, one of the most important spiritual writers of recent times has been Richard Rohr. One of the things he wrote about in one of his books (sorry I cant remember which one!) is as follows. He notes that one of the dangerous but inevitable things about any organisation or institution is that it will always end up spending at least some of its energies in keeping itself going. Of course, on one level, this is right and necessary. The problem comes when that begins to take over as the primary purpose. So I enjoyed reading what Archdeacon Sue Weller proposed as the wording for part of my Working Agreement. We are currently in the middle of asking your two Church Councils to accept the full document (or not, as they choose!). But this bit seems so essential and so much beyond argument that I feel it is acceptable to print it now. It goes like this:
Aim of Post: leading and encouraging the congregations in Gospel engagement in the parishes. This will be done by identifying with and working alongside the present congregations. I think this is an ideal way to capture the core Christian purpose for all of us, as well as the core method of achieving it; could this be a Working Agreement for each one of us?
1. Encouraging ourselves and others to engage with the Gospel.
2. Learning to understand (identify with) and get alongside other people, so that we can all do this work of encouragement and engagement.
Finally for now, three things:
1. After over 12 years as a chaplain in hospitals, a hospice and a school, it has been refreshing for me to join you all in congregational life. I have particularly enjoyed preaching and presiding at the main Sunday services, so thanks again for having me!
2. In some ways I feel like a beginner. But I also hope I bring valuable experience and insights from the past 12 years of ministry on the frontline with the wider world. Much of my time was spent with fringe Christians, ex-Christians and non-Christians - something I felt inspired to do; people I was often inspired by.
3. All of which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: In the beginners mind there are many possibilities; in the experts mind there are few (Shunryu Suzuki). Thanks for reading!

 
Posted by Keith Duckett at 5:52 pm.


 
Friday, 27 February 2015:

Thoughts during Lent


Looking at the grey cold afternoon outside from the comfort of my study I wondered how the saints we celebrate in Lent coped with the cold and snow they encountered as they travelled around Britain on their missionary journeys, If youve ever been to St Davids cell on the south western tip of west Wales you can marvel at the view on a summers day: however, it would be extremely stormy and bitterly cold during the winter months. St David was used to hardship and discomfort as the Monastic Rule of David prescribed that the monks had to pull the plough themselves without draught animals: to drink only water:to eat only bread with salt and herbs and to spend the evening in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed; to utter the words this is my book was an offence. St David lived a very simple life and he practiced asceticism, teaching his followers to refrain from eating meat and to abstain from drinking alcohol. His symbol, like the symbol of Wales is a leek.
St Chad who we celebrate on the 2nd March spent his early life travelling around Ireland on foot teaching and preaching. He had to rely on the hospitality of local people and very often between settlements had to sleep in fields. Even later in life when he became a bishop he led a simple life denying himself the comforts other people took for granted.
St Patrick who we celebrate on March 17th led an adventurous life. He was born in Roman Britain at Banna Venta Bernaie in Caphornius. His father was a deacon, his grandfather Potitius was a priest. At the age of 16 he was captured and carried off as a slave to Ireland. Patrick worked as a herdsman and remained a captive for 6 years. Patrick wrote that his faith grew whilst he was in captivity as he prayed on a daily basis. After 6 years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon return home and then the ship was ready to sail. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port over 200 miles away. There he found a ship and after numerous adventures he returned to his family. Patrick was aged 20 at this point.
Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home. He said I saw a man coming, as if it were from Ireland. His name was Victorius who carried many letters and gave one of them to read. The heading at the top of the letter read The Voice of the Irish. As I continued to read the letter I imagined that Id heard the voice of those very poor people who were close to the wood at Foclut, which is situated near to the western sea and they cried out as if with one voice We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.
In each of these cases the saint makes nothing of hardship under which he was living, but rather they concentrate on the important focus of their life, which is spreading the gospel. We all need times of challenge to remind us of the many good things that we have been given. We also need reminding at times for our need of God. We live in relative comfort so we tend to lose the urgency to nourish and renew our spiritual lives. St David, Chad and Patrick lived daily with the need to rely on God for His grace to do His work.
As we enter the season of Lent we should make time to recover our sense of need. By the discipline of fasting, even in a small way we are encouraged to pray for the strength to continue through the 40 days of Lent. It is in this way we will be reminded of our daily need of prayer in order to grow in our relationship with Christ. So may we use this time of Lent to develop our spiritual health in preparation for the fantastic events of Easter.
 
Posted by Fr Simon at 5:04 pm.


 
Sunday, 21 September 2014:

"Lord, for the Years"


"Lord for the years, Your love has kept and guided", the first verse of a hymn which has long been one of my favourites and which I chose for my first service here at The Epiphany on 27th May 2004. That proved to have been a good choice as, unbeknown to me, it was something of an Epiphany anthem. So of course I had it as my final hymn at my last service here on 7th September 2014. In the ten years between those two services we have shared so much together here in Oxley, and I take with me to Lichfield many, many memories. My thanks to all of you who have shared those years with me go deeper than I can find words to express. And now, changes and challenges lie ahead for all of us, some of which we may welcome, and others we will not. But in it all there is one constant, the love of God which has never failed us, nor ever will. So there seems only one way to sign off my last blog here "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always".
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 11:55 am.


 
Wednesday, 6 August 2014:

The light in the darkness


Like thousands of others, millions probably, on 4th August 2014 at 10pm I lit a candle, turned out my lights, and watched the coverage of the Westminster Abbey commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1. Among the many moving moments of that service, the sound of a prayer read in German was particularly poignant. And then, at the end, one hundred years to the very minute, the sight of a single candle flame burning above the grave representing those many, many, unnamed dead. But not just any candle flame, rather the light of the Paschal, the Easter, candle which speaks not of easy comfort but of resurrection, new life precisely where hope seems impossible. This was not the war to end all wars, and the tragedies which are unfolding around us this very day are no easier to comprehend. In the midst of it all, our call as Christians is to live in service of the light and to take every opportunity we can to share it.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 11:22 am.


 
Friday, 25 July 2014:

"Sons of Thunder"


I realise that some people are frightened of thunder, and I can imagine some situations in which I would not care to be caught in a storm. but I must admit there is something about the energy and drama of a "good" storm that exhilarates me. So, when Jesus gave the nickname "Sons of Thunder" to two of his disciples, the brothers James and John, I am not convinced that he meant it entirely as a criticism. At any rate, as I read the stories about St. James, whose feast day it is today, I find myself grateful for their evidence that there is a place for the stroppy and the insecure in the kingdom of heaven. And thankful for the transformation that can take place as people grow into their relationship with Jesus; so James' bombastic bravado becomes the courage that led him to become one of the first martyrs.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 8:45 pm.


 
Thursday, 19 June 2014:

Different glimpses of glory




Nestling between the hills of Burgundy are the remains of the once great Abbey of Cluny. Before the building of St. Peter's in Rome the Abbey Church here was the largest building in Christendom, and in its heyday (around 1,000 years ago) the glory of the liturgy drew pilgrims from across Europe, as the influence of its worship spread. All of that is long gone now, but a bare 10 km away, in the little village of Taize, lies the quiet grave of a man who settled there in the dark days of World War Two and started praying. And the liturgy of the Taize brothers draws pilgrims from across Europe, and beyond, as the influence of its worship has spread. The contexts and styles, not least of building, are radically different, but I find the echoes extraordinary: the glory of God shining out through lives given to Him.


 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 11:36 am.


 
Monday, 14 April 2014:

Walking the Walk


A labyrinth is an ancient form of prayer which has become popular again in recent years. The idea is that as your feet follow the twists and turns so you reflect on the journey with and to God. Some years ago our youth group made a labyrinth and yesterday evening we took it to Lichfield Cathedral. Along the path of the labyrinth were footprints, telling the different stages of the story of Holy Week. This is a journey we are all invited to share, to walk in prayer with Jesus as he journeys to the cross and beyond. At the centre of our labyrinth yesterday we placed the account of the first Easter morning, the hope that is at the heart of our faith.


We took the labyrinth to Lichfield, along with some prayer stations, as part of "Ekklesia" for young people (11-29), held there on the second Sunday of each month. if you haven't given it a try you are missing out.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 7:03 am.


 
Saturday, 5 April 2014:

Out of the depths


The Gospel reading set for this Sunday(6th April), that of the raising of Lazarus in John Chapter 11, is a story of extra-ordinary power and drama, moving through grief, horror, and humour, to a finale which is utterly unexpected and to many, now and then, incredible. It is a story we need to spend time with in prayerful contemplation, try thinking yourself into the scene: who do you most identify with, what are the thoughts and feelings you experience as the events unfold. But also note two things: this story is a prelude to the events of Easter, but it is not the same; Lazarus is brought back to life not resurrected, unlike Jesus he will die again. And equally importantly, at Easter Jesus does not just stand at the entrance to the tomb and call humanity out, He descends Himself into its depths to fetch us.


 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 9:07 pm.


 
Friday, 28 March 2014:

The quiver of a whisker




I thought it was about time for the vicar's cat to make his appearance on this blog. Caught in his favourite position: almost asleep curled up on the most comfortable chair in the house, he might not move all day. Unless, of course, he smells something that might be to his advantage; and he has an uncanny ability to hear, apparently through closed doors, a food sachet being opened. The transformation from beanbag to hunter is instantaneous, ears pricked, whiskers quivering, every sense is focused. In calling us to be attentive to God, Psalm 123 uses the analogy of a servant focused on her mistress - not an image that really fits with modern life. But my cat provides me with a vivid illustration of the need to keep my spiritual whiskers quivering.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 8:44 pm.


 
Wednesday, 19 March 2014:

Clearing the Ground


Here we are two weeks into Lent and I am discovering that it is much harder to give up "Candy Crush" than alcohol: I'm not sure how much, if at all, that should worry me! It's not a bad thing to use the opportunity that Lent offers to keep a check on those things which can easily become compulsive, so long as we realise that the point is not an exercise in self-control. The English word Lent derives from the same root as "lengthen" and carries the original connotation of Spring, the time when the days lengthen and growth begins again. That's helpful, it reminds us that spiritually too this is meant to be a time of growth. But just as in a garden so in our souls, new growth is so much harder if it has to fight its way through a tangle of weeds and brambles. Lent's abstinence is not about giving things up for its own sake, it is about clearing the ground so that the new growth has room to breathe.




 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 4:34 pm.


 
Wednesday, 26 February 2014:

Northern Light



If you were to drive up the A1 almost to Scotland and turn right, you would come (assuming that you have timed your arrival to fit with the tide) to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Last May a group of us from The Epiphany did precisely that, and spent a magical few days in the company of saints Aidan and Cuthbert. And of course Chad, who with others like him in the seventh century, shone the light of Christ from the North-East into the darkness of middle England. As we drove back home I found myself wondering what it was like for Chad, walking south through the forest and moorland, knowing the people he was going to, the Mercians, only by reputation, as particularly pagan and hostile. But his faith in Christ, and his love for people was such that he won them over, and became of course first bishop of Lichfield and patron saint of this Diocese. (I think there is a case for him to be patron saint of England, but that is for another blog!.) As we remember Chad this coming Sunday, March 2nd, may we take inspiration from his simple faith and courage, to be lights for Christ in our own day.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 10:19 am.


 
Sunday, 24 November 2013:

Vicar's thought for the week


One of the things about living on my own which I dont enjoy is the discovery of how many jobs require three hands: my favourite is the spring loaded shower rail which requires you to fix two ends simultaneously whilst adjusting the central tension. Todays Epistle reading from Colossians (Colossians 1.11-20) tells us that in Christ all things hold together. We rightly read that as a statement of His authority, but we need to remember that the place where all things hold together must also be a place of tremendous tension. Indeed it is cross shaped.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 5:02 pm.


 
Sunday, 17 November 2013:

Thought for the week


Vicar's thought for the week: Gods in His heaven, alls right with the world. Probably a good few of us would recognise the quote, but I wonder if anyone knows who wrote it, without, unlike me, resorting to Wikipedia. If you do look it up, you will find something interesting things in the article, but nothing so far as I could see that points out that the statement is obviously false. Alls anything but alright with the world, as the most fleeting look at the News makes clear. But as our Gospel (Luke 21.5-19) and Epistle (2 Thessalonians 3.6-13) readings today make clear, starry-eyed romanticism is not part of the Christian faith. it is in the midst of the world as it is that we are to look for the coming of God.
 
Posted by Pat Hawkins at 5:44 pm.