Dormancy stands firm on the crossed paths of winter, listening to those that reflect their brokenness, and loss into the chaos of perfection. Dormancy gives light to the fresh Green leaves that grow without flower or aroma, a seasonal nudge of green that awakens the path towards spring. The thirsty roots of dormancy give hope to the depressed soil muted into a waterlogged submission of seasonal weather and government restrictions. Dormancy is bare and vulnerable, bearing witness to the seasons, littering the landscape with a dependable mulch of wonder and love.
Lent is about love, a season in which we dwell in the soft mulch of dormancy and clear space in our lives to be deeply honest with God.We acknowledge our mortality, our frailty, failure, and limitations. Love humbly speaks a raw unvarnished truth and hears us.It is this listening that stirs our inner dormancy, awakens the thoughts and prayers that silently sit in our hearts. Lent requires us to wake up, to prepare for the season that awakens dormancy. Jesus went into the wilderness after God spoke these words to him: You are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.
As the tress in the woods awaken to spring, settle into Lent with this firm foundation that you are God’s beloved child. Instead of fighting this season, embrace it, go for a walk, hug a tree and listen to the diverse language of love. Listen to the love that speaks unvarnished truths into our dormant heart. Jesus calls us friends and invites us to humbly share our lives as we are.
Sermon prepared for zoom – 31st January 2021.. Luke 2-25,35
Today the church celebrates the feast of the presentation of Christ; this day is also known as Candlemass day. It was the day of the year when all the candles that were used the coming year were brought into the church, and a blessing was said over them – it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.
I thought I would start by sharing with you this wonderful picture of snowdrops in the snow.
Snowdrops were often called Candlemas Lilies or Candlemas Bells in days gone by. The snowdrop’s flower looks delicate and fragile, yet it has the strength to stand the coldness of winter and push its way through the cold frosty ground to flower.
In the harshness of winter, these flowers bob in the wind, as if they were flickering candles. And close up, the white of the petal is entirely unblemished except for touches of green. Green being the colour of life.
The snowdrop is dependable; We know they flower from mid-January into February, even their name Candlemas lilies tell us this.
One of the things I find most challenging at the moment is the inability to plan. Things we once thought would always be dependable, change shape and form, often reappearing in a virtual way. Even preparing this sermon, there was a moment of wondering if we would be in the church building or on zoom. It’s frustrating; it is almost as if everything I am doing and planning is done in the darkness of the unknown. As if I am holding a small candle that will only light up a small area around it, just enough to take the next step forward, but most of the time, the next step is still unknown, waiting for the light to reach into the darkness.
I remember when I first visited trinity college for their open day to study there the following year. I was barraged with questions, most of which I couldn’t answer:
“Why do you want to study at trinity?”
“what course will you be studying.?
“ will you study full time?”
“ would you like a cup of coffee?”
That one I could answer, but most of them I couldn’t actually answer, most of the questions asked left me in tears, the words just could not or would not form. All I knew was as I was here for a reason, and that was more than enough to cope with. It was as if I had been gifted extreme short-sightedness. What I felt became more important to what I saw. So there I was full of thoughts, no words and lots of tears… not a great first impression.
I don’t know about you, but this feeling can create a feeling of vulnerability for me. It’s uncomfortable, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from living my life with Jesus, it’s that when life gets uncomfortable, that’s when I need to start paying attention, that’s when God speaks loudest.
Today we celebrate the presentation of Christ, this took place 40 days after Christmas, when Jesus, the Light of the world, was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem by his parents to fulfil the required ceremonies of the law.
We can see this story depicted in the window of St Peters Church. I would like to journey with you through todays gospel reading.
Try to Imagine Mary with Joseph at her side, working their way through the crowded temple, in Mary’s arms; she carries her new-born son. Mary was doing what every Jewish mother had been commanded to do by Jewish Law after her male child’s birth. Two overjoyed elders greet them, Anna and Simian, who immediately recognize that this six-week-old baby, is the salvation they have been waiting for.
I am always amazed that Simian and Anna recognised Jesus. Over their many years of hopeful waiting, hundreds of babies would have come to the Temple for these ceremonies.
So how did Simeon and Anna know that Mary’s baby was the promised Messiah?
Like us, Anna and Simeon lived in complex and worrying and yet hopeful times, with reasons to be fearful and faithful. Both were looking for salvation, trusting that even in the midst of being occupied by the Roman empire, God was still faithful to God’s promises. They were living in the kingdom of Caesar, seeing its impacts and the suffering around them, and yet they remained deeply faithful.
Simeon had heard messages from the Holy Spirit, and Anna was given to prophetic speech as well as fasting and ceaseless prayer. And they kept their eyes open, trusting that God would transform the world and bring about the justice that was so profoundly needed.
Our gospel for today told that Christ has come so that our inner thoughts will be revealed. With the birth of Christ, God began a new movement in the world. A movement of getting what’s in here out there. Of breaking down the wall between inside and outside. It is a movement where it is ok to show our vulnerability and share our tears, hopes and dreams with those that we find around us.
The words of Simeon and Anna’s witness revealed that Jesus has come to reveal what is hidden.
All that we try and keep separate even down to the very inner thoughts hidden deep within us. God comes to us in the midst of our brokenness in our faithfulness and vulnerability.
It is this faithfulness that brings us together, and it’s that faithfulness that led Simeon and Anna to be in the Temple at the very same time that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus arrive. Simeon is drawn there by the Holy Spirit’s prompting, so he’s there at just the right time. It is Simeon who recognizes the child first, and he is so excited he breaks into a prayer of thanksgiving,
His pray overturns all the values that have guided their lives and the people around them up to this point. Simeon holds in his arms the peace and grace of God’s Salvation. A fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.
Simeon tells us that salvation has come to all, to everyone. he says that Jesus is the one who will reveal our hidden thoughts because Jesus is the one who gives us the strength to share what’s in here with everyone else out there, that we are not alone that we no longer have to hide.
On this holy day, this day of Candlemas, perhaps reflect on the candles in your life. The times that they burn brightly and the times in which they have flickered. Ask God to give you the courage and faith to risk taking the next step and following Jesus on the way that leads to life. And when you next see a cluster of snowdrops, maybe spend a few moments to reflect on how they can be seen as a symbol of hope in the darkness of winter.
Hope in the wonderful love and faithfulness of the Lord while you trust that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Let us be glad and full of hope, like Simeon and Anna.
Sermon prepared for zoom – 31st January 2021.. Luke 2-25,35
The beautiful words of Pslam 23 have at times prettified me and given me hope on some of my darkest days.
I wrote this poem just to reflect on the pslam and how important it is to me.
As I wander through the green uncut grass
the stories of the garden unfold.
Imprinted into the soil, deep dark tunnels of despair,
My burdens glistened into the dewy footprints of life
I know that I am the gardener, listening to the creator.
With every seed thats sown, I learn more of him.
When I doubt, he lifts me up, reminds me that I can grow.
He leads me through valleys that I never knew existed,
waters my soul with life giving streams, which hydrate me.
Growing in a new place, Where its safe to sit and stay.
With him I am at peace to say no words,
as he knows my every thought,
even the secrets deeply hidden in my heart.
His blessings ignites my reasons, fills my toughest day with hope.
With His spirit I know I am safe.
Humbled by the constant calling of his Creation.
His arms outstretched, always ready to listen to me.
I feel his presence through the earth. vibrating whispers of a calming voice.
Leading me tough the turbulent waters.
To a place of stillness and inner peace.
They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. When that sound came, a crowd quickly gathered, startled because each one heard the disciples speaking in his own language.
Imagine the excitement of being one of the crowd that day, to be included in the conversations that surrounded you.
It’s easy to presume when we read this well-known passage ( Acts 2:6) that the language they all heard was spoken.
For some adults and children, the spoken / written language is not their own language.
For those of us that are wired slightly differently ( neurodiverse ) our first language is not always written / spoken. Some of us are picture thinkers. A picture thinker is someone who thinks primarily in pictures instead of the sound of words . Those with dyslexia, auditory processing, attentions issues like ADD/ADHD are people who might be picture thinkers
For those of us that think in pictures we live in a world that rarely speaks our language. Daily we can feel isolated, excluded and ashamed of our inability to communicate with others. We find ourselves exhausted as we struggle to read, write and function in a world that often perceives us as weird or even stupid.
Being neurodiverse means that we think and learn in a different way to other people. We often have particular strengths such as thinking outside the box, seeing the bigger picture and creative thinking.
When my dyslexic mind walks through what happened on that day of Pentecost.
I wonder how many of those stood in the crowd that day heard pictures being spoken from Peter’s words.
Peter explained to the crowd that everything had been written in the Scriptures about Jesus long before he had ever been born. He told the people that God sent Jesus to save them.
Some of the crowd that day might have seen the story of the messiah. They might have an image that represented their own sorrow and visualised their own forgiveness.
For the first time in their lives they may have felt truly understood. A way that would have seemed impossible only hours before.
The Spirit comes as an companion, a teacher, a Guide, to be with us – to remind us who we are and to whom we belong. To strengthen us for the task of living as God’s people in the world. It is the spirit that transforms us and weaves the gospel into our own language. That gives us a place of peace to go out into in a world that we cannot understand. It is only because we are understood and loved by God that we can be encouraged to let go of our fears and anxieties and walk into a world that scares us.
It’s the miracle of language. God showed himself willing to step into our individual space and verbalize a message in a language that we could understand. God showing his love to us. And maybe the greatest miracle, and the best explanation, of God happens when we take that love, given freely to us, and share it without reservation with each other.
The common definition of poverty is: the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
It seems that by lacking in desirable ingredients we are deficient in the qualities that make us socially acceptable.
Poverty is nearly always viewed as a negative, by admitting our own poverty we are admitting that we are failures.
So because of being on a low income the dictionary along with Government statistics would label many as poor.
But for some living in poverty is not a label they would give themselves .
As a child my father lost his job, many would have seen us as poor.
This was never obvious to me until I needed a new winter’s coat for school. The one I chose was beyond my parents means. I remember the teenage me in floods of tears as I was told I could not have a new school coat as it was not available to purchase with the school uniform vouchers supplied to my mum.
Poverty, in and of itself, is only a bad thing if it keeps someone from obtaining things that they truly need. For example, not having a winter coat.
Poverty forces us to prioritise what is necessary, desirable or luxurious. It forces the luxuries and desires to be appreciated for the luxury they truly are. In a very real way, it eliminates non-essential distractions and shows you to value the simple things in life.
You value the potato harvest from the allotment, the abundance of the apple harvest. All these gifts are seen as the gift they truly are.
It eliminates the non essential in our life, forcing us to live by what we need as a minimum rather than to live to what we want.
Of course this is not the way for many living in poverty and to some life has become so dark their is no joy in the harvest. Debt and poverty become a dark desperate way of living and seeing often with no hope of away out.
We are all called to live simply and in freedom with respect to the riches we have—whether they are in the form of material possessions, talents, time, or love.
Giving our time, sharing God’s love frees us from our own poverty. You become aware of the lack of value money can hold.
We become less captivated by the shinny things that delight the eye as we know in our hearts they are beyond our reach.
In poverty there is helplessness and dependence of our own lives in which we learn lean on Christ.
We reach to only what’s within our reach, we stretch out deep prayers that echo our deep sighs of hunger.
Each time we reach out to God theirs a reshaping a invisible prioritising of the true values of a hungry heart. We look to hidden parts of our lives, to those ordinary, ignored, forgotten and hidden parts of our lives. This is where we find God patiently for us to kneel, walk and journey with the richness of knowing “God is with us”.
We believe in one family.
The ancient family of Ginko.
Rooted in a earthly wisdom.
Of all that is fossilised and unseen.
We believe in a unique spirited planted growth.
Flowing from the streams of Eden.
A collaboration of perceived colouration.
Two lobed, never Green.
We are deciduous.
Our nakedness seasonal .
We stand without shame in the presence of God.
We are born out of nature herself.
Out of the changing seasons.
Our love of the sun, and fresh air are reflected in the silver apricot .
Evoking a powerful sense of liberation, joy and freedom.
An innocence of openness to the world.
Eve reached high into our canopy.
Arms stretched, she took a sliver apricot.
She tasted the wisdom.
We too taste the wisdom of Eves first bite.
Lived through the seed of freedom.
Flowering a hope of choices yet to be made.
We are a robust memory keeper.
Rooted in scripture and prayer.
Retelling the stories held within our family.
We have survived some of the darkest moments made by man.
Those that have tried to pollute us, have failed.
We will regrow.
For us to freely grow.
He came down from heaven
By the power and love of the Holy Spirit .
We see and believe in Jesus .
Setting our minds free to think truthfully.
So we can live a life of a true graceful peace.
WE BELIEVE in one master weaver.
Who shapes and intertwines
The stories of the Gospels held
Within our chocolate vine.
We are woven into creation.
Rooted in the ground .
We are the princess of the mountains .
Walking towards the promised land.
We have held Moses in his basket.
Journeyed down the Nile.
Long tendrils lead us to your vision.
Signposting us the way.
Reaching for the light.
Through him all things were made.
We have held bread and fishes.
Shared the jug of Red wine.
Please listen to our story.
As we weave through your time.
These are stories of salvation.
Of prophets, people and kings.
And all of the one God that knows everything.
Dancing through the seasons.
Weaving flowers, leaves and vines.
We might not always see .
Just how these weavings intertwine.
Supported by the Trellis of Pentateuch.
Hang Chocolate leaves of Grace and Goodness.
We believe as we climb through the Gospels.
Are woven into the psalms.
You weave us to your completion.
It’s your shape, your stories .
That we intertwine.
When I discover beautiful views, walk behind a waterfall, when I sit in the stillness of the garden the vastness and hugeness that comes from God is beyond words. It’s the moment when you just stop and feel that wow factor.
I’ve tried to blog about that wow moment, take the wow beyond three simple letters, give that silence space some meaning so that others can understand, but nothing comes close to sharing how I feel inside.
Exploring my vocation is very much in that vastness moment. It’s that wow with no words. Stopping in that wow to write what I feel I just find tears and no words.
This has been frustrating as during this discerning process of exploring my vocation I need to talk to others about what I am feeling in these wow moments.
Praying about it is great, it’s easy and natural to do. After all these are Gods plans not mine. God also knows what going on in my wordless silent wow moments. But for the past year these wows have manly stayed just between me and God.
Last month the frustrations of not being able to find the words all got too much. I wanted to run away from the whole process. Go and hide somewhere where the words Priest, Deacon, ordination, vocation and discernment do not exist. But obviously you can’t run from God, this too has also been very frustrating.
Where ever I go this hugeness comes with me. It’s like a nagging little earworm that whispers and keeps whispering. When I am completely quite its whispers are sometimes the only thing I hear.
It’s no longer avoidable, I need to think about the bigger picture. I am required to answer question 6 on the BAP registration form (Bishops advisory panel form )
Which ministry are you a candidate? 1. Deacon ( distinctive) 2. Priest
All I need to do is tick one box . Deep down and for a long time I have known which box to tick. Ticking and acknowledging this is harder than I thought.
It seems wrong to give the answer to something so big by simply putting biro tick in a box. It’s so huge, one little tick in a box and then onto question 7 !!
I felt the question was not mine to answer. It felt presumptuous giving so much certainty to such a question. It’s a not promised path, It’s another step on the journey of exploring my vocation. Another step along an unknowing path trusting God.
I am sure many have filled out this huge form and boldly ticked the box. Feeling confident in their calling. But for me these two little boxes have been consuming my thoughts.
It feels such a huge relief to have faced this, to no longer feel quite so scared of what I am feeling. The last few months I have been nudged, loved, prayed for and gently coaxed to find the words that are etched in my heart.
Acts 6 The Message (MSG)
6 1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”