Saturday, 21 June 2014

HEADS UP!!!

Many if not most of you will know this already, BUT...

22nd June - 6pm - Sung Eucharist with Chiltern Hundreds Bach choir and Chorleywood Chamber Orchestra - Mozart Mass in C Major and Motets ( Ave Verum and Sancta Maria).

29th June -

11.15am St Albans Abbey for Jairo's Ordination.

6.00pm - Welcome Sung Eucharist in the evening, with bring and share supper in the Parish Hall.

Both Sundays at St Peter's.  There is no worship in the morning on both of those Sundays.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dreaming...

Do you remember your dreams? I don’t usually. In fact, dreams pass me by so much as I might even say that I don’t dream. Very occasionally that’s not the case and my dreams are big and vivid.

In a recent dream I had, a band who’s music I like very much were performing live, and I was able to attend. That in itself is pretty miraculous these days! What was unusual though was that I found myself playing drums that night with this band! This was a huge shock as I haven’t seriously played the drums for a while. The concert was going terribly though… None of us where in time, the guitars were not in tune, we stopped and started. It was shameful…  What was stranger still in the dream was that the guitarist of the band, who is really lovely in real life, was getting very cross with me indeed - ‘Come on Simon you know these songs? Why aren’t you playing?!’ Even though I protested that part of the issue was that we had not rehearsed, he was having none of it, and I woke up with him shouting at me!

Whitsun, what we celebrate today as Pentecost Sunday, is a good time to dream some dreams.  After all, at the heart of the first Pentecost sermon, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel to promise that God’s spirit enables all of us to dream -- young and old, male and female, slave and free -- all of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have been commissioned to be official Christian dreamers.
God calls the church to dream. All too often the church doesn’t dream. It feels like we are asleep - avoiding issues, not engaging with real life, dozy and slow to move when woken.  As baptised people, as Pentecost people, a Spirit filled people, dreaming seems to get a bad press.

First, I wonder if somewhere down the road we decided that dreaming is for children; that dreaming isn’t, in other words, something that responsible adults should do. But, as we already noticed, Peter quotes Joel to say that everyone will see visions, prophesy, and dream. Interestingly, while his list starts with the young, it goes on to include old men as well! Moreover, one of the keys to innovation in according to those who influence the most successful companies, is to be willing to think like a child and relearn how to question assumptions. Who says our congregations can’t grow? Why do we assume that our friends and neighbours won’t come to our church? Where did we get the idea we have nothing to offer our community? And before you start to wonder whether Jairo or Helen are the answer to our dreams, just stop right there and rose yourselves.

Both Jairo and Helen’s learning curves are going to be steep certainly in their first year amongst us, but also beyond.  Jairo’s title will be ‘Assistant Curate.’ He (and this is true for Helen in her new role as Reader too) is with us and amongst us to learn with us and from us and to assist us all in the ministry of the church - and that is something we are all called to. He isn’t just another pair of ordained hands - significant chunks of his time will be non parish-based training, and my availability will action stuff go down.  These and too many other things “everyone knows” need to be called into question by some active dreaming that invites the Spirit to help us see possibilities we hadn’t seen before and asking what part we can all play, with Jairo and Helen, in realising those dreams.

Second, perhaps some are worried that dreaming can be divisive. What if, after all, your dream and mine are different? How do we decide which dream is “better”? Here we can turn to Paul in our reading from , who reminds us that there is always diversity and difference in the body, the Church -- and that is something to be celebrated! There are, as Paul writes to his beloved and difficult congregation in Corinth, a variety of gifts and likely a variety of dreams. But there is one Spirit. A plethora of dreams invites a new world of possibilities, but they are mediated by, as Paul says, a commitment to the common good. Each member of the body -- and each member’s dream -- has a role to play. It may be challenging to get there, but the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost was never intended to make things easy; rather, those tongues of flame were sent to set hearts on fire. And if there is some jostling along the way as we discern between gifts and dreams of the Spirit, we will be okay if we remember that we are all members of one Body.


Finally, I wonder if we’re just worried that if we dream we might be disappointed. I mean, if we just stick with the status quo, we won’t be surprised by how things work out. Dreaming, for some, feels like getting your hopes up. And if things aren’t going to end well, why add insult to injury by getting ourselves even more hurt in the process. Remember, Jesus refused to leave his disciples mired in fear. Indeed, as John tells us this morning, Jesus sought them out, finding them even though they’d shut themselves behind locked doors. Jesus has more in mind for us than fear. He wants to breathe upon us the same Holy Spirit he gave his first disciples and set us loose to forgive sin, share the good news, work for the welfare of our community, provide strength to the weak and courage to the fearful, and in all these ways to share with those around us the dream and vision of Christian community - and those dreams are God’s. Might we fail? Yes. But rather than let that possibility paralyze us, perhaps we can remember that God seems to have way to snatch surprising victory from the jaws of defeat.

Last thing - notice that God promises to give His Spirit to all - not just to a certain sort of Christian - and the outcome is that God’s spirit enables all of us to dream -- young and old, male and female, slave and free All of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have been commissioned to be official Christian dreamers.  We need to listen to those dreams, and then work together in making them God’s reality.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Up, Up and Away!

It's been all too quiet here for some time. So here's Sunday's sermon...

~~~

We are all familiar with depictions of people coming and going. Many will recall in the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz,” how Glinda, the good witch, descends upon Dorothy and the Munchkins in a bubble, and after delivering a message and explaining the mystery of the ruby slippers, departs in the same way. And no one who has watched even one “Star Trek” episode can have missed Captain Kirk or his crew being beamed up by a transporter beam.
So, that is just like the Ascension, right?

Wrong. The Ascension of Jesus is not a device to get him back into heaven from whence he came. The Ascension is an account of how Jesus, having finished his work on earth, blazes a trail over which we one day shall travel, a trail to eternal life that continues our relationship with the risen Jesus and God, our creator and redeemer.

While other religions have their divine ascension narratives, with other worthy ones ascending with them, Jesus departs alone, leaving his disciples behind, staring into empty space, as a cloud takes him out of their sight.
And why does that matter?

Because our work is not done on earth. We learn more about that work from Jesus’ prayer for his disciples – and us – in the gospel reading for today: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.”

This farewell prayer is said, not just for the small band of family and followers, but also for each of us. The good news here is that Jesus prays openly for us, for our protection and our unity so that we might be one, as Jesus and the Father are one.

Jesus also tells us, shortly before his Ascension, what eternal life means for us: “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The Ascension makes Jesus accessible to all people, not just his disciples in a particular historic moment. He prays for all people, and all may call upon him. There is no limit to accessing him, no request too small.

Recently a woman called her church office in distress because her husband had just received a bad diagnosis. She did not know what to do. As she talked with her minister, her voice became calmer and she began to voice her fear about what might happen. Then she said, “Will the church pray for us?”
“Of course,” the minister replied, “and I am praying for you both right now.”
“I know,” she said. “I can feel it.”
The risen and ascended Lord entered into her time of need with a calming presence through her plea for help and her pastor’s prayer. That is how a relationship with Jesus is supposed to work: immediately accessible, even when we cannot say the words because of our grief or distress.

People are constantly learning how the living Lord works on their behalf. Jesus’ Ascension paves the way for this work, and we are the beneficiaries of it.

In the Easter season, we are continually drawn to stories about Jesus’ pastoral care for us. He walks to Emmaus with the troubled disciples who had hoped he would redeem Israel, and then helps them see his risen life and the power it holds for them as they begin to share the Good News with others. He cooks breakfast for his friends on the shore of the lake, and they know through this simple act of hospitality how deeply he cares for them, and we know how deeply he cares for all of us.

When was the last time you asked God for something? When was the last time you knelt in a church or in your living room and asked Jesus for a specific need? When was the last time you prayed for yourself or a friend to be healed?

For whom will you pray today? For whom will you offer prayer this week? These prayers are dialogues with Jesus, and he wants us to speak to him. He wants to give us good things, the things we deeply desire and need to lead lives of hope. That is what he does for the disciples in today’s gospel reading, and that is what he will do for you.

Conversion and transformation are the steps the risen one takes with us. Few people have the dramatic experience recorded by the apostle Paul on the Damascus road, but many have moments when life and their place in it begin to come together. That is the conversion experience, when the pieces of the puzzle of life begin to fit together. The conversion leads to transformation, a new life centered in the risen, ascended Lord. It is no longer all about you or me.

Jesus does not come and go on a transporter beam. His presence abides in the church and in a personal and unique relationship with each of us. That is what we celebrate in the Great Fifty Days of Easter.

Today, whether you are joyful about something or sad and grieving over what might have been, remember you are connected to the risen Christ, through the community of faith and directly with him. Pray for specific things you need. Ask for the things he wants to give you, and always remember it is his risen and ascended life that makes him accessible. He wants to walk with you. Will you take his hand?