Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sermon 28th January Choral Evensong

The readings for this evening:
1 Chronicles 29.6-19

Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king's work. They gave for the service of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. Whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, into the care of Jehiel the Gershonite. Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly.
Then David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; David said: "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our ancestors, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to my son Solomon that with single mind he may keep your commandments, your decrees, and your statutes, performing all of them, and that he may build the temple for which I have made provision."

Acts 7.44-50

"Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'

and here is my sermon - well as usual what was written down beforehand...

And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'

I want to talk tonight about Footprints

Previously when we heard about footprints – story about a man walking along a beach with God

Nowadays a closer walk with God involves us looking at a different kind of footprint

Carbon footprints have been the topic of debate sometime and in the Guardian this week was a simple model for calculating the size of your carbon footprint – of how much of a dent you’re leaving in the “beach” of creation. By working out how much carbon you’re using in Gas, electricity, transport, and consumption you can discover how your life is having an impact on God’s creation. But why should we be thinking about this in church?

Let me read you the five marks of mission of the Anglican Communion. The Five things that the church as a whole seeks to do:

The Five Marks of Mission of the Worldwide Anglican Communion
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

That fifth mark of mission can often be overlooked but as we heard in our readings this evening, all of creation is God’s and whatever we have in this world comes from God.

Why must Christians care for the environment?

It is one of the five marks of mission – yes but why is it?

A simple answer would be because the earth deserves to be cared for. A beautiful rainforest has its own value in aesthetic and potential medical resources.
If we have eyes to see it, it is so clear that all creation is an expression of God. How often is it through the natural world that we find connection with God:

the sensation of rising above the clouds on top of a mountain,
light breaking at dawn,
staring out across a vast ocean.

Yet this is taking an anthropocentric view of creation – placing creation as the servant of humanity and there to serve us; to give us a beautiful view and food and resources. Thomas Aquinas and other theologians from history would argue that creation is there FOR mankind. Yet the theologian Richard Bauckham has explored the nature of the Christian view of humanity’s relationship with creation and suggests that in fact the concept of creation being in existence to SERVE humanity finds its roots much more in Greek philosophy than it does in biblical texts. In fact the biblical model places us not outside but within it: yes we are in creation but not at it’s centre. We must instead adopt a theocentric view of creation. humans are creatures of God alongside other creatures.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote:

“Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though the earth did not have its own requisites and a prior, God-given purpose,… instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up in provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannised than governed by him.” Centesimus Annus 1991

So there is a danger in an anthropocentric view of creation; if we place humanity as the centre and pinnacle of creation we are in danger of placing what we see as our needs above the needs of creation. The readings we heard tonight encourage a more theocentric view whereby we are stewards and caretakers of something which is the creation of God

Of course the important element for humanity in God’s creation is that in creating us God gave us the free-will to CHOOSE how we behave. The free-will to give back as we heard in the reading:
the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings we CHOOSE how we deal with the environment .

In all the choices that we make, we choose whether or not to honour God. By caring for the environment we do so in the same way that in showing love to our neighbours we show love for God. Tearfund have taken this one step further

“For Christians there are two key reasons for being passionately committed to sustainable consumption. First, it is a matter of honouring God by putting him first in our lives, and not destroying his creation. Secondly, when the affluence and consumption of some has its immediate counterpart in the lack and suffering of others, then sustainable consumption becomes a deeply moral and spiritual issue. Concern about lifestyle will be inseparable from authentic love for our neighbour.” Tearfund, “Taking less, having more”

The right use of God’s creation, is a matter of honouring God, as those giving free-will offerings did in the old testament did but in our modern world, there is also the matter of honouring others:

We have this new imperative in light of our new awareness of climate change; the misuse of environmental resources has been most prevalent in the developed world and the impact has been felt most clearly in the undeveloped world. The pollution and overuse of resources by some impacts most clearly on their neighbours.

Is it really so bad? Isn’t this some wishy-washy liberal thinking?

Tearfund has set a series of testing questions:

Who is the greater thief, the one who burgles another’s house, or the one whose demand for fruit and flowers out of season takes up land and water that might otherwise be used by the poor?

Who shows least regard for human life, the one who in anger threatens his fellow, or the one whose commuting contributes to global warming and the drowning of coastal settlements?

Sometimes we may focus on sin against those that we can see. There’s an overemphasis on sin as that which reflects sexual immorality or violence against other people yet immorality and violence against creation is just as sinful in the way it impacts on others and on how it impacts on our relationship with God.

Often creation reveals the results of human sin – our maltreatment of creation is visible in devastation of geography and of the lives of people.

Now I know that we sometimes feel what we can do is not enough and that it’s up to governments and big business to make the change. Yet this macrocosmic view of creation is not God’s view. God has a much more microcosmic view. “Peace in the world begins with peace in our hearts” The only way to change the world is to begin by changing yourself. This is all part of the creation of the world to come; being a Christian means participating in building the Kingdom of God.

Without action at the national and international level, and action by business, individual effort will continue to be overwhelmed by the activities of governments and big corporations. But the opposite is also true. It is only when ordinary men and women change their lifestyles that consumption will be reduced to sustainable levels. This implies a radical change of heart, a submitting of one’s lifestyle to the ‘ecological footprint’ test, and then acting accordingly as consumption choices, great and small, are made on a day-by-day basis. (source)

The key to all our treatment of God’s creation is to be found in our consumerism and materialism how we may deal with that. Having no possessions isn’t the answer or having everything but in our we view what we have. The relationship with God is all in all. With God, bread and water are enough, but without him, even kingdoms and empires will not satisfy. A Christian gains contentment not by addition, but by subtraction, reducing his or her desires to the level that God, in his wisdom, has granted. The key is an inner change of attitude which may be characterised by the phrase ‘as if not’. The man or woman with many possessions will then think and act as if they did not have them. The man or woman without possessions will consider the lack as if it did not exist. (source)

When fairly traded products became more widely available I know many people who committed to making the change in one item in their trolley (tea, coffee, sugar pasta, bananas ) and I know people who have taken it step by step to buying MANY things fairly traded: Changing one thing at a time. What is there that you can do?

Decide not to buy imported, out-of-season products.
Decide to share (everything from newspapers, to tools, to cars and houses) rather than buy.
Cutting water consumption
Reducing waste by recycling
Using more efficient transport in more efficient ways
Consider energy use in the home by insulation or energy efficient appliances, bulbs and batteries
A decision not to buy at all, recognising that there is a danger of assuming a right to consume indefinitely in a finite world, so long as the goods are ‘green’.

Most of all I think each one of us here can consider our impact on the environment in a new way. Yes we can explore changes we can make to show greater care for the earth but not because some trendy modern eco-warrior says we should but rather as part of our Christian response to a loving creator. It’s a change in outlook that would make the most difference.

In the reading from Acts we heard God say

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?'”
We can give nothing to God in material value. All we can give Him is our CHOICE to honour him and our neighbours and we do that by honouring His creation and by changing how we view it.

I ask again:

Who is the greater thief, the one who burgles another’s house, or the one whose demand for fruit and flowers out of season takes up land and water that might otherwise be used by the poor?

Who shows least regard for human life, the one who in anger threatens his fellow, or the one whose commuting contributes to global warming and the drowning of coastal settlements?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Back from Belfast

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush.
OK so we're back from Belfast. It was all really great fun if a little hectic meeting as many of Michael's friends as we could squeeze into four days! There's a set of pics on FlickR including this one of one of those places which has just GOT to confuse little children who are learning about shapes!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Young people and spirituality

For the sake of those in the confirmation group who may have forgotten that I asked you this... and for any other young people who feel like answering.

Can you email or post a comment here in response to these two questions:

1. What experiences have you had in your life that you felt were spiritual? (in any contexts i.e not just 'Church')

2. If those Spiritual experiences felt like an encounter with God, did your experience differ in anyway to what you have been taught about God through Church or youth group?

Busy busy busy

Sorry everyone, buut I've been super busy this week as Michael and I are off to Belfast tomorrow to see his old haunts and catch up with his friends so I've been doing EVERYTHING these last few days. Of course it also means that you'll not get much over the next few days too. However there's a rumour that the church we're going to is on Radio Ulster on Sunday so you could always listen out for us!!

Monday, January 15, 2007


Ok the last lid has gone onto the last jar of marmalade. I've put the whole process on Flickr together with some of the biscuits the young people of pulse were decorating on Saturday.

Here's a few as a taster...

Marmalade 1
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush.

Marmalade 7
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush.

Marmalade 8
Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush.

Buying in the sales for next Christmas

A few people had mentioned the nativity story and in case you're one of those poepl who is SO organised that you sort Christmas next year just after one has happened and were wondering about it for next year you can have a look at a few clips here to decide whether you want to go out and buy the DVD. There also appear to be various resources on the site which might help using it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We had the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in church at the Eucharist today and it made me revisit some thoughts I had a while back but never blogged.

I was thinking how good it was that the focus for community in the Christian church is the common meal and that the meal Jesus asked us to particularly remember him at was one involving the simple things in life - bread and wine (mixed with water).

Holy Communion commemorates Jesus' supper with his friends and it is a meal that welcomes all.

Jesus shared meals with people on many occasions (I know there are people who've studied this in much greater depth) but it is the simple meal that we commemorate and recreate. It is a meal we can all participate in.

It's not Jesus' first meal; where he turned water into wine. Jesus did not call people to recreate that miracle each time they gathered which makes life a lot easier. Nor did Jesus ask us to remember him by taking five loaves and two fish and sharing them between five thousand people sat in groups of 50 and 100; I'm not sure which bit would be more of a challenge let alone how we'd approach the issue of welcoming vegetarians or people with fish allergies to the common meal.

No, instead of all these, Jesus chose instead the simple answer (and yet deep in meaning) as was so often the case. It was after sharing bread and wine that Jesus told us to "do this in remembrance of me" and many of us can and do across the world everyday.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Deeper thought elsewhere

There's an interesting discussion on predestination etc over at Dave Walker's blog. Yes he DOES do stuff other than cartoons!

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Ok so this is not a pointless argument as everyone is playing nicely. If you want a stupid argument maybe you should look at that Slice of Laodicea lady... oh but she appears to have disappeared in a great mystery and debarcle!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother

Ok so this is really NOT our usual cup of tea but we LOVE DIRK BENEDICT. He's such a dude. I mean I used to have a massive crush on him when he was in the A Team but he's even more cool now! He went on because his teenage sons persuaded him to do it!

So far I think the other highlight is Donny being incapable of finding/opening doors! Style over substance seems to have proved to much for him!

It looks like our evenings are set for the next few nights at least! Felt kinda sorry for poor Ken Russell though. THE Ken Russell who made cutting edge cinema like Tommy and no-one seems to know who he is!


Having mentioned a site from which I got some really cool cheap business cards for myself and colleagues, I now discover that quite a few people have had problems with them.

Vistaprint has sent me good quality items and I haven't noticed any problems of charges on my accounts but then I have paid for items rather than just got them free as some of the people complaining have said.

I've recommended this company and I still think what I've got from the has been fine but I have like others received far too many emails from them almost constantly so please do be careful.

Amaze-ing find

Ok so I am SO used to there not being anything about Matrix out there that I hadn't really looked to hard.

Amaze has the following details on their site about the Matrix youth conference 2007 which is just the best conference out there in my view!

the matrix 2007
Conference for full time Youth workers - Christians working in any context.

freedom to flourish

200 years since the abolision of the transatlantic slave trade how do we express freedom in Christ today?

Take time out to think about how today's youth worker can help to continue to make an impact on the lives of young people.

the matrix 2007 will examine through four averarching themes the role of the youth worker

.... as theologian

.... as leader

.... as missionary

.... as prophet

This will enable you to develop as a youth worker, drawing on the theological and socialogical perspectives. There will be space for personal reflection, dialogue with other practitioners, relaxation, laughter and focussing on God.

plus links to

Key note speakers
Day Pass Prices

So far I'm intrigued most and think may rock on up to:
  • Pray with clay
  • Keeping in touch with your spirituality
  • Integrating youth ministry and the church
  • creative use of the bible with young people
  • Gender and singleness in youth ministry (as a newly smug-married I feel a fraud but it might be interesting anyway)
oh and I might try the Myers-Briggs thing but it depends on what they're doing with it as I've already had the "introduction to" kinda thing.

So anyone fancy being a study buddy at any of these?

The Oxford diocese is already forming reasonably but we have open arms to anyone prepared to sit around with us and do the deep discussion thing as well as be vaguely silly. Sadly enough I now have a wifi card for my laptop so could join the throng of onsite bloggers but I will try to resist!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Matrix 07

Can't believe it's only two months to Matrix 07. Still not much idea what will happen but getting a better picture of who might be there. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what any of the sessions might be about unless anyone has some inside info?

If you're going to be there let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to have a drink (coffee or otherwise) with you when we're there.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Look?

Well the office is getting a bit of a make-over today. Yes I AM tidying. Really. There's a black sack of rubbish and two huge bags of paper for recycling to prove it! If you're lucky I'll put pics up when I'm done but tidy people be warned this will be a Sarah version of tidy. My surname maybe Brush but that is my married name!!

While I'm not here to entertain you I suggest you pop over to Facebook which is a really cool site recommended to me by a Taize friend. It's similar to Myspace and Bebo but it's just, well, cuddlier I suppose. It seems a lot easier to use (less emphasis on backgrounds and more on people) and I've set up a group for our Oxford Diocese Taize group as well as for All Saints' church. There is a woefully sparsely populated group for youth workers so I think some of you need to get on there!