Monday, 5 December 2016

Two Festive Events!!!

There are two events coming very soon to get you all into the seasonal spirit. Details are below - please share this information widely with your family and friends!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Christmas Tree Festival - 3/12/16

The Christmas Tree Festival and mini Christmas market is this Saturday! We're really looking to seeing many of you from 11am-3pm!

The trees are are being decorated by local community organisations - come and celebrate the life of our community rounded off with a mini Christmas market with all sorts of goodies available and fun and craft actives for all ages!

This will be the perfect way to get you into the seasonal spirit!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

John Rutter's Requiem - 20th November 2016

We are delighted to be welcoming 'home' as it were the Chiltern Hundreds Bach Choir accompanied by the Chorleywood Chamber Orchestra. Together they will lead us in worship in a special Sung Eucharist at 6.00pm on 20th November.

Everyone is welcome to join us to what will be, as ever, beautiful music used in its correct setting.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday - 13th November 2016

Our Remembrance Sunday Services are as follows this year:

St Peter's Mill End
8.00am Said Service of Holy Communion
10.15am We Will remember Them - A Service of Remembrance

St Thomas' West Hyde
10.15am We Will remember Them - A Service of Remembrance

St John's Heronsgate
10.15am We Will remember Them - A Service of Remembrance

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Our Worship

Following our worship consultation which we have been running since the APCM in April please be aware of 2 things:

1. Parish Services (when we worship as a Parish family) are moving from 4th Sundays to 5th Sundays. The first occasion that this will happen on will be Sunday 30th October when we will gather at 10.30am at St Thomas' West Hyde. ON that day as part of our worship, we will give thanks to God for 30 years faithful service by Anne Peat as a Reader, but also of Readers in our parish but also the ministry of all God's people. Please do join us on what will be All Saints Sunday for our worship.
2. In November the times of our services are changing. These changes are as a direct result of the feedback, forms and conversations we have had with many of you. Therefore please be aware that on Sundays our pattern of worship will be as follows:
8.00am service at St Peter's
9.30am service at St Thomas'
10.00am service at St John's
10.30am service at St Peter's
Where there is a 5th Sunday in the month *from November onwards*, the worship will be at the same time as the service at that local church.
Please take note of these new times. Please pray for our each other as we try this new pattern (which will include both Eucharistic and Non Eucharistic worship) for a period of 6 months initially; and please pray for your Readers and Clergy and soon to be licensed Lay Leader of Worship as we seek to provide acts of worship at the same time each week that meet our need to meet with each other and with God.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Mission Is Dead! Long Live The Mission! New Groups and Chances To Learn

You probably have heard the expression ‘The King is dead! Long live the King!’ It was apparently first used in France following the death of King Charles VI and the accession to the throne of his son Charles VII in 1422. The old order is over. Let the new order begin.

The mission is dead! Long live the mission! could be a variant we could use. Our GROW mission week is concluded some 18 months after the idea was first banded around and prayed about. But whilst those involved in so many ways in the lead up to and during the week itself might be pleased that things are now concluded in reality our work as churches and as individual Christians is only just beginning as we seek to follow the God who is already ahead of us in mission.

The mission is dead! Long live the mission. Following our GROW week’s events there are several opportunities to become aware of: some which happened for the first time during the week and 2 are two new opportunities to discover more about the Christian faith.

Pints of View - we got to the gents of the parish together over a curry during GROW, now we're going to meet for a drink. We look forward to seeing you.

Ladies meal - ladies you gathered for a delicious meal at Dolce Caffè during GROW - it's happening again but book soon!

Alpha - some of you will have heard of or maybe been to Alpha before. This is the course rebooted for the 21st Century with new videos and renewed teaching.

START - 6 short sessions discussing the meaning  of life and faith

The week is over but the work begins. We really look forward to seeing you at some of these and other events - details of which will become available soon!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Harvest 2016

If you are wanting to give 'physically' as it were this Harvest (Sunday 2nd at St Thomas' and Sunday 9th at St Peter's), *please* can you have a look at the lists below.

These sorts of donations will make a huge difference to the lives of refugees - not just in Calais - but in Turkey, Greece and elsewhere.

Financial gifts will go to support the Bishop of St Albans Harvest Appeal which is supporting the work of Water Aid in Madagascar. More details can be found in the video below and at

Thank you in advance for your generosity

Saturday, 17 September 2016

GROW is here!!!

To mark the start of Mission Week, this Sunday 18th September there will be a Bring and Share Lunch in the Parish Hall from around 12.30pm.

Most of the Mission Away Team will be there for you to meet them and chat about the events this week.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, 12 September 2016

GROW Mission Week - 18-25 September

Our GROW mission week is almost upon us and we are so excited to be welcoming a range of visitors to the parish to help us as we run a range of activities and events throughout the week which we hope will appeal to many of you!

Please have look at the fliers attached (there are also events aimed at the other Uniformed Organisations too!) plus the 'Seeing Salvation' event details of which are in the post below.

We are delighted to be welcoming:

The Right Rev'd Michael Beasley - Bishop of Hertford
The Right Rev'd Philip Wright - Bishop of Belize
Rev'd Sam Korn - Assistant Curate of St Mary East Barnet
Rev'd Emily Davis - Assistant Curate of St Michael Bishop's Stortford
Rev'd Emma Young - Assistant Curate of St Augustine Limbury in Luton.
Rev'd Daniel McCarthy - Vicar of Shenley
Br. Martin Price from Glasshampton Monestary 
Helen Kémi - Educational Specialist from the Diocese of  Linköping
Per - Parish musician from the Diocese of  Linking
Sam Frampton - Ordinand at Westcott House Cambridge
Christie Broom - currently exploring her vocation; based in Watford.

Please pray for us all:
Living God, may we reflect your love as we prepare to grow
In wild hope, in passionate faith and in outrageous generosity.
Let this week be a time of refreshment, renewal and joy.
May we be drawn into friendship with Jesus
Resource and bless us we pray.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Seeking Salvation - 20 September - 8pm

'Cross Reference' © Sheila de Rosa but used with kind permission

For many artists, their work is an outlet for their own search for meaning. It is a way of expressing the natural questions that arise from simply being alive. In that sense all art is a spiritual search and asks both artist and viewer similar questions to those of Spirituality and Theology such as: Why am I here? Does my life have any purpose? Why is there suffering?
Through a brief look at how some great artists approached this search and a chance to look at Hertfordshire based artist Sheila de Rosa’s own work, we will have a chance to discuss some of these big questions together.

St Peter the Apostle, Mill End


This event is free and is part of our GROW week and all are welcome to join us.

Refreshments will be available and there will be an opportunity to purchase some of Sheila's work too.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Sunday 28th August 2016

Just a quick reminder we worship this Sunday together as a parish family.

This month we are at St John the Evangelist church in Heronsgate. The service begins at 10.30am.  Parking is available.

We will be offering prayer for healing as part of the worship tomorrow.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Jack-In-A-Box God

In a photo by Mark Brunner,
Thomas is shown shielding an unnamed man believed
to be a white supremacist
In June 1996 a branch of the Ku Klux Klan announced planned to hold a rally in Ann Arbour, Michigan. A counter protest was planned. Keisha Thomas was one of several people that attended and protested from an area that had been fenced and set aside for the protesters.The protest proceeded until one protester announced over a megaphone that there was "a Klansman in the crowd".  The unnamed man was a middle-aged white male wearing a T-shirt depicting the Confederate flag and an "SS tattoo". The man began to run but was knocked down, kicked, and beaten with placards. Thomas, who was at that time 18 years old, instead of joining in the beating, found herself moved with compassion motivated by her Christian faith, shielded the man from the crowd and shouted for the attackers to stop and that you "can't beat goodness into a person". She said later that she had acted as she had also because she know what it was like to be hurt. A few months later, she was thanked personally by the son of the unamed man she helped that day.

This story of Keisha Thomas, powerfully demonstrates what we try to teach our children - do to others as you would have them do to you, or something similar. Talk of being a 'Good Samaritan' is common parlance - we know what the expression means from doing an unexpected good deed to someone else through to manning an emergency phone line. But if we reduce this extremely well known parable of Jesus to a morality tale - we lose it's power to shake us awake into living the values of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is approached by a lawyer and asked a question to test him. Lawyers then as now are trained to know their subject - in this case the Scriptures - and to be able to get at the truth. The lawyer knew the answer to the question that he asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life - it's a classic example of religious legal exchange - a checking out of your opponent - and we know this by Jesus' two questions back: what does scripture say and how do you read or interpret it? And if a strict legal interpretation of Deuteronomy and Leviticus from which the lawyer quotes were what was required then today's Gospel reading would have stopped with Jesus' response - do this and you will live. But as is so often the case with Jesus' teaching, there is so much more.

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Back in the days of unrest in Egypt in 2011, you may recall photos emerging of a group of Christians gathered hand in hand arm in arm around a group of Muslims as they prayed. This wasn't a one off as we also saw photos of Muslims repaying the gesture of recognition and kindness. This has spread. In Nigeria, Boko Haram the Islamic terrorist group is an equal opportunities destroyer - levelling Mosque and Church alike, so in just over the border in northern Cameroon on Friday's Christians protect local Mosques and on Sunday's Muslims reciprocate in the same way recognising each other's freedom to worship but also their shared humanity.

The lawyer's question isn't a bad one. The word neighbour used by the Lawyer is plesios - the one who is near. A next door neighbour. But we have a natural inclination to love those with whom we have a connection to by blood or friendship. And we would love it is Scripture could pat us on the head and tell us that. When the lawyer quotes from Leviticus (Love your neighbour as yourself...) the word there is re'a - my compatriot. Not whoever is near to me, but one with whom I have something to do - someone I am connected to. Phew! So imagine the shock in the crowd when Jesus opens the definitions of neighbourliness in Greek and Hebrew to include those far away from me and my family - religiously, ethnically and socially. A Jewish man is set upon by thieves and his kinsmen give him a wide berth whilst his ethnic enemy reaches out in compassion.
Rev'd Andy Griffiths

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man... He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.' A couple of weeks ago, my friend Andy Griffiths who is a Vicar in Essex, was on his way home from a meeting when he stopped off at a shop.  The person behind the desk (British Asian, mid-20s, has never lived outside Essex) told him he had just been racially abused.  A man had told him "We voted leave, now you have to leave" and "I'll come back every day until you leave this country or I glass you".  When he tried to point out he was British and that isn't what the word "leave" meant on posters, the assailant just kept saying "We voted leave, now you have to leave, we voted leave now you have to leave".   Clearly the assailant was the worse for wear, but that doesn't change the fact that a crime was committed. Andy stayed until the victim was feeling calmer, and had called the police.

The Samaritan, outside the Jewish law and not welcome socially or ethnically, is described as showing pity and mercy - two attributes of the God of Israel. The Samaritan acts as the Compassionate God in human form and therefore Jesus is identifying himself with this Samaritan - and suddenly not only is this a morality tale about being nice to people, but again Jesus blows open our tightly bound who's in and who's out view of our safe little worlds but also of the remit and extent of God's love - because God is clearly acting in a loving way not to the Samaritan (oh isn't that lovely) but through the Samaritan (sharp intake of breath.)

God has a habit of operating outside our expectations and leaping out of the box we put him in. This jack in a box God in Jesus: came as a vulnerable baby; taught a wild inclusive love; dared to die the death of a bandit; and is risen. All unexpected. Here the jack in a box God in Jesus, challenges us not just to see God in others, which is harder than ever it seems in post Brexit Britain, but to receive God in and from others - from those not like us, those whom we oppose, those whose lifestyles challenge our nice tightly bound morals or politics. So don't just reach out the hand of friendship to a next door neighbour - as good as that may be - but we need to go out of our way, across the road, and seek God out in places and amongst people outside your comfort zone - perhaps particularly amongst the refugees locally, amongst those who have the UK their home from Europe and further afield for work in recent years and amongst the gay community locally - not just because they need our love right now and by God they do - but because there we will find Jesus, the Samaritan, showing mercy and pity to us.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

St Peter And The Art Of Prediction

At Diocesan Synod yesterday, Bishop Alan began his presidential address speaking about a book called ‘Superforcasting: The Art and Science of prediction.’ In it, the authors look at the way that experts attempt to predict the future, such as what is going to happen to the financial markets in the coming year. It’s telling, however, that one of the authors has concluded that in a wide range of subjects “there was very little difference between the accuracy of so-called ‘experts’ and guesses made by the man in the street.”

Well that’s what we re-discovered this past week. Most of us went to bed on Thursday night believing the opinion polls’ view that there was a small margin in favour of the United Kingdom remaining in the EU. International money markets agreed and the exchange rates and share indexes reflected this consensus. Some of us stayed up to watch the results come in and as they did we discovered that we had decided to divorce our immediate European neighbours after a forty year marriage and we now want to have a different set of relationships with other countries.

But this fracturing of relationships on the global stage, only mirrors the reshaping of relationships that we see at an individual or cultural level where increasingly we as people distrust large institutions of power that tell us what to think or do - instead we constantly seek our own political ideologies and cultural identities (no longer are you a mod or a rocker but you might be a post punk or prog rocker or any other myriad of identities today and tomorrow be something totally different). Similarly traditional models of relationship such as marriage no longer enduring and are ultimately disposable because all that matters is my happiness. We are ever increasingly the ‘me’ generation or put another way - the L’Orel generation - because all that matters is my happiness - because I’m worth it.

Caesarea Philippi was a Roman town south of the Golan Heights. It was previously known as Banias but it was renamed by Herod Philip II to honour Caesar - and himself too - and their ongoing relationship of power and it was the administrative centre of Herod’s rule. It was also one of the places where the goat god Pan was worshipped who was said to have been born in a nearby cave, known as the gates of Hell.

Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is? Until last September few people in her native Macedonia had heard of Katica Janeva. As chief prosecutor in a small border town, her work mainly consisted of pursuing petty thieves and people-smugglers. But now she has been thrust centre stage in this turbulent former Yugoslav republic. Her new job is to probe claims of wrongdoing and corruption raised by a huge wiretapping scandal that has engulfed the government. Her identity has changed from being a basically unknown to being a widely known fighter for truth and justice.

Katica Janeva
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus describes himself as the Son of Man - an identity with implications. He’s identifying himself as a ‘son of Adam’ the man in the street; he’s also contrasting the lowliness of humanity and the glory of God; but he’s also identifying with a future figure who’s coming will signal the end history and the coming of God’s judgement and justice. Do people in these early days of his ministry and in a place laced with political, kingly and spiritual power, know yet who Jesus really is - what his identity is, and what he’s come to bring about?

Jesus said: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. Pope Francis, the successor to St Peter whom we commemorate today, his ministry continues to cause controversy. In a visit to Armenia recently, he described the killing of 1.5 million Armenian Christians as genocide. This on the one hand is an olive branch to the Armenian Apostolic church from the head of the Armenian Catholic church as the Apostolic church canonised those who died at the end of the Ottoman empire as martyrs, but it’s also on the other hand a clear call for historic justice and ultimately reconciliation.

The Pope meets the Armenian Patriarch.
I have often wondered why Jesus renames Simon as Peter. Petros, the stone or rock. Peter doesn't seem particularly stable or reliable a person on which to build something as lasting as the church. Peter the fisherman; Peter the one who misunderstands; Peter the one with his foot so often in his mouth; Peter the denier of Christ. And then I realised Simon only becomes Peter when he lives in the life changing reality of the coming kingdom of Jesus the Son of Man. Simon is Peter not because Jesus tells him he is, but Simon is Peter because of who Jesus is and what He continues to lead him into and reveal to him about the love of God. Simon's new identity as Peter isn't something he earns, but something in grace that Jesus confers on him again and again and again. And no other power - political, cultural, or spiritual - can take that away from him.

What is Jesus asking of us as we keep the Feast of St peter today? In these days of a shifting political landscape in terms of our relationships with our European neighbours and each other depending on which way you voted; after, what I believe to have been a poor four months of debate from both sides leading up to Thursday’s referendum based on a small minded and visionless politics, we must now move forward together for the common good.

St Peter will have heard Jesus teach on the greatest commandment - to love God with all that you are and to love your neighbour. Like St Peter’s successor, Pope Francis, how do we now listen to and show love to those with whom we have disagreed in these days, but also, how do we ensure - as followers of the same Jesus that Peter knew - that the voices of those who were not heard in the referendum or the voices of those who are constantly silenced in our communities or our world are heard? As we prepare ourselves as communities to welcome Syrian refugees from the UNHCR camps and elsewhere in the coming months: How do we not only transform the name - refugee, migrant, scrounger, vermin an so on - that they are given by the media and our communities - but transform their lives to become people again?

Spend a moment in quiet and in your mind ponder: what does it mean for me to say that Jesus is the Messiah. How would I describe Jesus to someone who never heard of him before. How would I demonstrate that I am no longer Simon, or Paul, or Maureen or Julie, but Peter through whom God’s kingdom is coming to a child…or adult…or friend…or a Syrian refugee.

Peter saw in Jesus what’s possible even in the face of political might and the very real fear for some.  Rather than give into the threat of disease, Jesus healed. Rather than surrender the powers that control people’s lives, Jesus showed compassion. Rather than let people starve because there’s not enough to go around, Jesus fed people who were hungry. Jesus refused to be satisfied or limited by the status quo and invites us to do the same, because if Jesus’ life and death show us how much God loves us, Jesus’ resurrection shows us that that love is more powerful than hate and fear and even death.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

UN World Refugee Day

As many of you know we are collecting goods as listed below in the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20th June 2016.

Please take any goods listed below to St Thomas', St John's or St Peter's up to and including 19th June.
These will then be taken to those in need in the camps in Dunkirk and Calais.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Herts Welcomes Syrian Refugees

We recently hosted a meeting to discuss what we can do individually and as parish to support and welcome refugees who come from camps in Syria under VPRS scheme.

There is a new tab on this website which we will try to keep up to date with current information and news which will also feature on our parish Facebook page.

In the meantime here is video made by Save The Children about children in Syria which we showed at the meeting.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Thy Kingdom Come - A Week Of Prayer - 8-15 May 2016

In the days leading up to Pentecost, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have asked every parish to pray that every person would meet the Risen Jesus for themselves and for renewed confidence for the church in sharing their faith. In a letter they wrote:

“At the heart of our prayers will be words that Jesus himself taught us – ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’ It is impossible to overstate the life-transforming power of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that is reassuring enough to be on the lips of the dying and yet dangerous enough to be banned in cinemas. It is famous enough to be spoken each day by billions in hundreds of languages and yet intimate enough to draw us ever closer into friendship with Jesus Christ. It is simple enough to be memorised by small children and yet profound enough to sustain a whole lifetime of prayer. When we pray it with sincerity and with joy, there is no imagining the new ways in which God can use us to his glory.”

Why not join us to pray specifically on these days:

9 May - 7.30am at St Peter’s
4.00pm at St Thomas’ House
10 May - 9.15am at St Thomas
  2.0pm at St Thomas’
11 May - 8.45am at St Peter’s
12 May - 11.00 am at St John’s
14 May - 9.30am at St Peter’s

or at the Eucharist that week:

9 May - 7.30pm at St John’s
11 May - 9.30am at St Peter’s
12 May - 7.30pm at St Thomas’.

Why not use the week as an opportunity to pray specifically for 5 friends to know our Lord Jesus. It is one of the most powerful thing we can do. Prayerfully choose 5 friends - write their names down on a piece of paper, or a small card, or have 5 small stone that represent them with you in your pocket & pray that they too may come share the joy of the Resurrection. You might like to use the following prayers:

Loving Lord,
Please work in me so I can share your love, life and message with…
Reveal your love to them, that they might know, follow and witness to you,
For Your Glory.  Amen.

Loving Father,
Send your Holy Spirit so I can share your love, life and message with…
Reveal Jesus to them, that they might know, follow and love him,
For Your Glory.  Amen.

You build your church through the power of your Spirit.
By the same Spirit enable me to witness to… your love, beauty and grace.
That they may come to the fellowship of the faithful
For Your Glory.  Amen.

I pray that you will lead… to you. 
Thank you that you love them and I pray that you would break into their life and show them your love, grace and peace.
For Your Glory.  Amen.

Let’s take the opportunity to pray to God, with the whole Church of England that, ‘…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…’ in people’s lives, in God’s church and in our nation.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Mothering Sunday - 6 March 2016

Worship is as follows:
9.00am St John's Heronsgate
10.30am St Thomas' West Hyde
10.45am St Peter's Mill End

All Welcome!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Girl, The T Shirt And Brooklyn Beckham: A Transfiguration Sermon

There was a girl who walked herself home from school each day.  One day her mother noticed that she hadn’t got home at the usual time. Five minutes went by - perhaps she got talking with a friend. Ten minutes passed - she’ll be back in a mo. Fifteen, twenty minutes passed still no sign. Perhaps she had an after-school club, that I’ve forgotten about, but the list clearly said there was no club that day.  Twenty five, thirty, thirty five minutes passed and still no sign. Just before mum had reached fever pitch and rung the school and then the police the door opened and in strolled her daughter.

Overcome with relief and joy, as any parent would, mum ran to her daughter and swept her into the biggest cuddle imaginable. But relief turned to anger as it so often does: where on earth have you been I have been worried sick demanded her mother sternly. Well I was walking home from school said her daughter and as I rounded the corner into our road I saw a woman carrying lots of bags and a very beautiful very large vase. I could see that she couldn't manage. Do you go and help her home her mother eagerly asked. No, said her daughter.  As I got near to her she dropped the vase onto the pavement and it broke into hundreds of pretty pieces. Her mother’s face changed - so you were late because you stayed to help her pick them up? No said the girl.  Then what said her mother.  The girl replied - I was late because I helped her cry.

Sometimes when the load we carry in life is too great to bear, and we drop something and we see how broken we are, sometimes we need someone to weep with us.

This morning the lectionary compilers give us the option to stop our reading at vs 36 and be stunned into silence with the disciples at the experience they had had with Jesus on the mountain, but my friends we need to hear again and and again of the God who loves us, not from a distance, but comes to us in our tear-stained pleading for healing and hope.

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 

Do you remember those washing powder ads where they tried to show one brand was better than the other leading brand because it washed whiter on just a 30 degree wash? This feels like - try new Glory - washes you whiter than white! You can see why, with talk of changed faces and glowing clothes, why some scholars think that parts of this story are actually a resurrection appearance of Jesus tagged on to another tale. But is that a problem? On the mountaintop Jesus talks with Moses (symbolising the Law of God) and Elijah (the prophets) about his departure in Jerusalem. From this point in our liturgical calendar we can look down into the valley onto Jerusalem and on towards Jesus’ inevitable death and Passion. We know where the story of Jesus is headed. Are we willing to walk there with Him?

34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

I had the misfortune of typing ‘father and son’ into Google as I prepared this.  In the search results, alongside stories of tragic deaths of fathers and sons over Christmas and New Year, came up a tale about Brooklyn Beckham (an aspiring model) sporting a new outfit in a photo on social media, to which his father David Beckham responded ‘Hey, that’s my jumper!’

Look at my Son the voice of God is heard saying, look at my son says the possessed son’s father to Jesus.  Both stories in this morning’s Gospel are inextricably linked.  Often we come to church or to a place of quiet prayer, to remove ourselves from the pressing needs of our society for an hour’s quiet space in the presence of God.  But it is clear from what we hear of Jesus this morning that whilst His true identity is revealed to a select few in the context of prayer and worship, it only makes sense in the context of a compassionate response to the needs of people.  For us, what we receive here from God in Word and Sacrament only make sense if we take them out from here into our everyday living in response to the needs of God’s people.

As we stand on the cusp of Lent we know where the story of the life of Jesus is going. Even from here the cross looms large. Are we willing to follow Jesus, I mean really follow Him, because not all of this is going to be glorious and wonderful. Sometimes the load we carry is too great to bear and things and lives shatter and break, but…

God loves the world so much that He sent His Son so that everyone who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life for God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him. 

On the mount of transfiguration we get a look back to the scandal of Christmas - that the glory of God comes amongst us in human form - and that glory is revealed to us again; but on the way to Calvary He comes down from the mountainside, amongst us in our brokenness, and demonstrates what that glory really means in acts of love and compassion in response to human need.

Friends, Jesus’ glory is revealed in mountaintop experiences of prayer and worship but it only transforms lives in the context of the here and now.  Having met Jesus in Word and Sacrament this morning, and having our hearts transfigured by His grace - are we willing to demonstrate His glory to others in their need? As we head towards Lent are we willing to embrace the cross to which we are headed with Christ; to acknowledge our need of His saving love for ourselves; and to accept that we can hear of His love for us but if we want hope and peace in our lives then then we need to meet Him there.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Grace For All At Cana

We have lost some of the greats in recent days - the artist David Bowie, the actor Alan Rickman are two.  I was never really a fan of Bowie’s music, and personally I think a 15 minute slot on the 10 o’ clock news was probably a bit extreme. Then I looked back and I noticed that he had eleased some of the most memorable popular music in the last 40 years.  I admire the way he has managed to reinvent himself musically and stylistically to appeal to a new generation. 

Alan Rickman similarly has never been one of my favourite film stars.  Yet whether it was Sense and Sensibility, Truly, Madly Deeply, Dogma or the Die Hard or Harry Potter franchises I recognise that stage and screen alike has lost someone very important.

The other great thing that we have lost, for now I believe, is the Church’s right to speak to a culture that needs the Gospel more than ever.  Jesus ministered to those on the margins of society in His day - lepers, women, the sick, Samaritans, tax collectors etc and He called His followers to do the same.  We have been reminded this week that as members of the Anglican Communion we have failed to be good news to the LBGT community, and we remain publicly unrepentant for the way we have corporately treated them.  Whilst it was highly unlikely that Anglican Primates were going to agree on issues of human sexuality, to see the Episcopal Church in the US effectively ostracised for three years to keep the Communion together seems like a heavy price to pay. An odd definition of Communion if there was ever one.

We all want Jesus to take our side and to act on our behalf not theirs. Even His mother tried to play that game according to what we hear in this morning’s Gospel - ‘…And Jesus responds to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’…’ The historical actions of slave traders and abolitionists, supporters of women’s rights and those wedded to traditional understandings of patriarchal headship alike can all be justified by the words of Scripture. Yet history shows us that what is considered culturally acceptable changes with time as does the Church's interpretation of Scripture.

The wedding at Cana is an odd story in a way - Jesus meets a human need with miraculous divine provision. But the need in this case is just that the hosts at a party have run out of wine. Compared with the needs of the desperately sick or seriously disabled, more wine for a party seems more like a luxury than a need. 

The mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ Christina McQuillan rented out her flat on New Year’s Eve via the website Air BnB. She was called by a neighbour back to her property after a party involving hundreds was clearly in full swing.  “It was horrific – me and my partner got to the property and there were hundreds of people on the streets… We entered the property and we told [the host] to shut it down immediately. This girl just laughed and said ‘no, I’m holding a party’.”

Running out of wine was a social faux pas: to entertain relatives and neighbours at a wedding was a major social obligation. To run out of wine would be a serious social disgrace and spoil the party. But this is evidently not a really poor family. Couldn't they have just sent out to buy more wine? In the end, by providing more wine we have to admit that Jesus isn't so much meeting a need as being rather extravagant. As Jesus' contribution to the party, if you like, he provides far more wine than they could possibly have drunk, even though such wedding celebrations traditionally went on for a whole week. And much better wine than they would normally have expected to be drinking. Luxury and extravagance are the words we have to use.

Jesus said, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ When the steward tasted the water that had become wine… the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’

Soren Kierkegaard, the great 19th-century Danish philosopher, said: 'Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.’  Wine though wasn’t just a social lubricant at an event such as this.  It was a sign of the harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness and hospitality.  In performing this miracle Jesus provides for over a thousand bottles of the finest of wines.  And that, according to John, is what grace is like: an overflowing of joy, blessing, and the presence of God.

If Jesus’ call to us, as to his first disciples, remains the same, to model what he did and said in his earthly ministry bringing the grace and joy and blessing of the presence of God to the outsider, I wonder whether what the church does and says so often turns the wine of the kingdom into water? It certainly feels like that might be the case following the Primate’s meeting if you are a member of the gay community, but it will also feel like that every time we shush a child or glare at it’s parent who is trying their best to feel welcomed by Jesus and helping them grow in faith and yet we push them away from our Jesus.

We are the conduits of the extravagant grace of God to the whole of our community, not just those we like or who are like us, but to all that society and the church push to the margin.  Not demonstrating God’s grace to others in our words and deeds is more than a social faux pas. It silences the Gospel. We lose our right to speak.  Archbishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop in the TEC said this week: “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ…’ To paraphrase St Paul: There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, gay or straight adult or child, for all are one in Christ.’