Friday, December 31, 2010


Now some of you might expect a post on here to consist of a resolution to blog more (which I know I should) yet that is not what I'm posting in fact.

What I want to reflect on instead is the process of the creation of this painting below. It may not even be complete as yet as the paint is still wet! This is one of t hose pictures that I've been living with for some time. the roots of it may got back a very long time but the more recent prompt came in November at Youthwork the Conference.

I've tried to capture what prayer feels like. For me I have times of deep connection with God when I get a sense of the Holy Spirit very tangibly moving between my open hands as a living, warm power. I also get a sense of purple, if that makes sense. I've tried to capture these things in this picture but it's still not quite enough. trying to capture something so other-worldly in a static form is always going to be wrought with difficulties.

I'm still not sure that this really conveys how prayer feels but painting it has made me reflect on my experience and wonder how prayer feels for others. It's one of those things people don't often feel comfortable talking about but I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience to mine (or one totally disimilar!).

What colour is your prayer?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

How about looking at Advent in a whole new way... as a conspiracy!

Nice theory shown in this video:

Advent Conspiracy from Morning Star Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Twist my words

Just played around with Channel Four's Twist my word page - could be a source of fun with a group of teens - or youthworkers!! Not quite enough verbs for my liking but rather proud of this bit of surreality! (not sure it works so look here!)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Colour of Hope

It's been a while since I've been on here as I've been in Peru for three weeks then at Greenbelt.

I had a wonderful time at both and am still processing a lot of what happened before I hurtle into the preparations for Rock teh Cathedral Again 2010 which is 3 weeks today.

One thing that sticks in my mind was the celebration at the end of our time with the Christian communities in Lima when there was a song I'd never heard before. It began with the children from one school sinign it and then ALL the schools joined in and then we were all dragged up to dance to it (English people dancing to South American beats is not a pretty sight but it was wonderful!). The song (reproduced below) nearly brought me to tears at the start and by the end I was so very filled with joy. It rather summarised my whosle experience of Peru; expecting all the time to be brought to tears by the sheer overwhelming poverty of places and then stunned by the richness of hope in people there. One of the priests preached in a church with no roof on the text when Jesus told the Rich Young Man to give everything he had away to the poor. He contrasted the richness of community which he sees in the pueblos jovenes (what we might call shanty towns but they call young towns) and the poverty of love which is present in some of the more affluent houses. To preach on charity to people with barely ANYTHING was astounding but as Juan Carlos said, "which of you is so poor that you can't give your neighbour a cup of tea?"

There is a richness of grace in Peru which I could not of imagined before I went there. two million people in Lima have no running water and the pueblos jovenes go on as far as the eye can see in some places. In one area, where we visited a church and its work with children, there is a water treatmentworks which at night time sends a foul stench across the whole community but the water goes to water nearby crops or is pumped back into the sea while the people there have to pay $2 for a barrel of water. And yet in the midst of that the church had a flushing toilet (an advance of some of our centuries old Church of England buildings!!)

There may be more reflections to come but for now here is the song (it is available on itunes!)

Color Esperanza

Se que hay en tus ojos con solo mirar
que estas cansado de andar y de andar
y caminar, girando siempre en un lugar

Se que las ventanas se pueden abrir
cambiar el aire depende de ti
te ayudará, vale la pena una vez mas

Saber que se puede, querer que se pueda
Quitarse los miedos, sacarlos afuera
pintarse la cara color esperanza
tentar al futuro con el corazón

Es mejor perderse que nunca embarcar
mejor tentarse a dejar de intentar
aunque ya ves que no es tan facil empezar
Se que lo imposible se puede lograr
que la tristeza algun día se irá
y asi será, la vida cambia y cambiará

Sentirás que el alma vuela
por cantar una vez mas

Saber que se puede querer que se pueda
quitarse los miedos, sacarlos afuera
pintarse la cara color esperanza
tentar al futuro con el corazón

Saber que se puede querer que se pueda
quitarse los miedos, sacarlos afuera
pintarse la cara color esperanza
tentar al futuro con el corazón

Vale más poder brillar
que solo buscar ver el sol

Pintarse la cara color esperanza
tentar al futuro con el corazón

Saber que se puede...
Querer que se pueda...
Pintarse la cara color esperanza
tentar al futuro con el co

thanks for this translation

The colour of hope

I know what’s in your eyes with just looking at you
(I know) you’re tired of walking and walking
and walking, always in circles in the same place

I know that windows can be opened
to change the atmosphere depends on you
it’ll help you, it’s worth it once more

To know it’s possible, to want it to happen
to get rid of our fears, to expel them
to paint our faces with the colour of hope
to tempt the future with our hearts

It’s better to get lost than never having boarded
better to fall in temptation than give up trying
even though you see it’s not that easy to start
I know that the impossible can be achieved
that sadness will go one day
and it’ll be like that, life will change and change

You’ll feel your soul flying
for singing one more time

To know it’s possible, to want it to happen
to get rid of our fears, to expel them
to paint our faces with the colour of hope
to tempt the future with our hearts

To know it’s possible, to want it to happen
to get rid of our fears, to expel them
to paint our faces with the colour of hope
to tempt the future with our hearts

It’s better being able to shine
than just trying to look at the sun

To paint our faces with the colour of hope
to tempt the future with our hearts

To know it’s possible
to want it to happen
to paint our faces with the colour of hope
to tempt the future with our hearts

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Sermon 1st August

As it's Lamas day (historically the day of the first harvest) it's very apt to have this reading about a man harvesting his crops and filling his barns and then makingplans to make bigger barns to putall the rest in.

Our lives can be a bitlike that too. We can fill our lives up with things like shoes, dvds, books, cars, houses a bigger house and what does it get us?

(demo with rocket balloon which gets filled and filled with things- it wasmeant to fill up and then fly aroudn the church but instead it burst - which ended up being far more dramatic!!)

I’ve got a friend who likes to have all the new gadgets. First it was the ipod shuffle and then he wanted more storage so he got the ipod nano then it was the ipod touch the ipod itself and now of course he wants an ipad – with as the advert says “more books than you can read in a lifetime”. There is a desire in each of us to accumulate more and more STUFF. Just like the foolishman in the gospel reading, we can focus on all the STUFF in our life on the storage of our music on our ipod, on our cars or houses, new plants for our garden, new shoes, new books ( a personal downfall!) or just more money. What is it about all this gathering of possessions that drives us so much?
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
This need for the status symbol, I think is about our need to feel that we are important. We want these things because somehow we don’t feel that we are important enough without them. I remember the terror of the teenage angst that no-one would like us if we didn’t wear the right trainers or listen to the right music but as adults are we much better?

This desire to accumulate is not of God yet not because the objects themselves are inherently wrong. A car may be a status symbol for some but for others it is a vital method of transport. For sportsmen the right shoes matter a great deal. The right plants give us food and medicine. The books give us knowledge and the music on our ipods inspiration. These things are not inherently wrong but if we have a burning NEED for them it is. Such a need is not of God. It is something which goes against God’s view of each of us. God doesn’t think we NEED these things to make us important. God think every single one of us is important already.

Some of the most beautiful things in the world are natural: a peacock feather, a rainbow, a child’s laughter (as Michael and I heard a lot yesterday watching our 3 year old niece play with our dog). You can’t possess such things. Yet of course all of these things that we do desire come from God’s creation – some with a bit more human intervention than others. If perhaps we view creation from God’s point of view we might see it differently. He gave us an earth abundant in strong resilient metals like God and silver yet we chase after it for its “value” when it’s real worth is something else. There is abundant food across the earth and yet some have so much choice and others so little.

I’m going to Peru this week as part of the diocesan group. (and I need to take photos of my church to show them - so while I'm up here nad you're all sitting there whereyou can't move *click* and the choir too! *click*)

In Peru we’ll see real deprivation. Of the 29 Million population 45 % live below the poverty line. Some of you may have seen the news on the BBC website (though I’m sure many will not as it’s not made the front page) that 400 people have died in the mountains in Peru so far this winter because of the severe cold at night – temperatures of -240C. We’ll be going to the pueblos jovenes the young towns areas where people from the country travel into the city and build whatever they can wherever they can: Where water is delivered every fortnight not every time you turn on the tap. Where, perhaps people are more able to value what they can do not what they possess. In some ways perhaps they are rich and we are poor; Rich in hope; Rich in faith despite it all.

This need we have for material things is not of Christ as Paul tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. Now I don’t think Jesus or Paul are saying we should possess nothing at all rather that we should be modest in what we do possess. Yet it is more than that. It is not a mere absence of possessions but a focus of the mind not on things earthly but on things heavenly. Jesus said: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” This is not a call to sell all you have (though Jesus did suggest that for some!) but to be focussed properly on God not on Money –render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to God that which belongs to God as Jesus said another time.
What does this change of focus look like?

Remember where this story begins. A man asks Jesus to MAKE his brother share his inheritance with him. Is Jesus saying that the man should be focussed more on the matters heavenly – on their shared bereavement; on the bond of family; on their faith in God rather than on the financial resources of a deceased parent.

As Paul’s letter shows this is not just all about material possessions but also about the status associated with them and all that that might imply. It is not about being rich or poor, slave or free Jew or Greek anymore. NONE of these things are what we should be focussed on. Rather our focus should be on Christ. I don’t know how many of you have access to the internet but the Diocese of Oxford has put up a marvellous pair of videos encouraging people to see God in their lives in all kinds of places not just in church. To FOCUS themselves on Christ through what might be thought to be non-holy activities. The film shows a choir singing, a woman gardening, a grandmother making Jam with her grandchildren, a man leading life drawing class on behalf of a church. Notice all of these things involve some form of creativity; Of joining God in the delight of creation. I hope some of you might get a chance to go to their diocesan website and have a look.

Yet it’s not only about focussing on God in our lives but because of that focus, changing the way we interact with others. As St Paul writes.
“you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
That new self is available to each of us. And when it becomes hard to live up to that standard; When we find ourselves getting angry or malicious, that is not the end of that new self, no. Paul says that new self “is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”
So we can turn away from focussing on possessions, we can turn to God our creator and meet with him in all kinds of mini acts of creation, we can act towards each other in a way that is Christ-like and yet if we fail to do so that is not the end because there is always the chance of renewal; Of repentance and a new beginning.

In a possession focussed world, there is no such renewal. Oh there are new things – always new things we can chase after and desire but the possession of those things will never give us satisfaction. Such completion only comes in turning to our God and focussing our lives on following Christ in spirit and in truth

Readings for the Day:

Luke 12:13-21
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Colossians 3:1-11
3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.
8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Prayer Spaces in Schools

There's a new web page to help you resource prayer spaces in schools. Check it out here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Creative Prayer

I really like this Heaven in the Ordinary video from the Diocese of Oxford. It offers ways that all sorts of people can connect with God in churchy and non-churchy ways! I especially enjoyed the reflections from young choristers on what happens when they're singing as it resonated with my experience at their age.

see part two here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sermon on Mary and Martha

So it was one of those marvellous moments this morning when the lvoely lady stood up to read and, although the book of Genesis was open on the lectern, she produced her own translation (NRSV rather than KJV so gets my vote normally) and readColossians not Genesis. Mini panic ensued but then I realised I didn't have that much on Genesis after all so just planned to cut it, stepped up to the pulpit and preached something like that below. I got some lovelycomments afterwards. One woman was pleased to hear a woman talking about Mary andMartha and not a man saying "Good little Mary being all meek and sitting listening at the feet of a man":

Genesis 18:1-15
18The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” 7Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Luke 10:38-42
38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

There seems to be an assumption that people are either one or the other. We are either the prayerful sitting at the feet of Jesus kind or the making the tea kind. The older I get the more I realise just how wrong that assumption is. Clearly the women who followed Jesus from their descriptions in the Bible were prayerful AND active. How could you partition their act of going to anoint Jesus’ body on Easter Sunday as either work or prayer. Rather it is that after which we should all strive Prayerful work.

I always used to think Martha's story was a CRITCISM of those who seek to show their faith by works but in the mellowing of the years and especially in my last role I began to understand that this is in fact no condemnation of those who put their faith to work but of those who work rather than seek faith. Martha is not someone who has rejected Jesus and chosen work instead. No if you remember the passage it begins:

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home”

It is Martha who makes the first move the invite Jesus in. Jesus' words to Martha are not that she should NOT work but that she should be aware that only one thing is necessary; faith in God. He does not say that Martha is WRONG to serve but that she is DISTRACTED by her works from what really matters. She is busying herself to “get it all just right” rather than spending time with him.

In fact a clergy colleague suggestedto me that it is Mary who isgetting it wrong in someways by breaking the female stereotype of service and instead just sitting and listening like a male disciple!

Our Old Testament story backs up what Martha’s intentions most probably were. Martha knew the importance of HOSPITALITY of inviting people into your home; of feeding people. Of inviting God into your home. However Jesus’ message to her is that she rushes to feed him without seeking to be fed herself.

Abraham and Sarah entertain these strangers and feed them but they themselves receive great news in the process. Their hope is fed. Even if it brings Sarah to giggles rather than prayers (too often my downfall!)

Both these stories show us that gathering around a table with people and with God is not just about what is on the table physically but about what God is offering us in the form of spiritual food.

In a world where we strive to succeed and where long hours are seen as the goal and often an indication of a job done well, I think many of us need to hear those words that Jesus spoke to Martha. As with so many of Jesus' most powerful speeches, he begins by calling Martha by name (twice in fact). Can we each hear that message so personally? "You are distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing." Indeed more than that, can we show that message to others? Far too often I find myself entering that most bizarre of stag contests - who has over-worked the most? "You think YOU've had a long week? I had a meeting every evening this week AND I'm working on Saturday AND Sunday and I haven't had a WHOLE day off in two WEEKS!" "I haven't had a day without some work in THREE weeks!"and the four Yorkshireman-esque discussion continues... Why do we do it? Do we really believe that we are BETTER for burning ourselves out in whatever work we do?

When I first started in youth work I was told of the great numbers of youth workers who burn out in the first two years and until a few years ago year I hadn't seen anyone burn out but I regret that In my third year of youth work I saw a wonderful, caring and inspired youth worker work herself into the ground (no it wasn’t me!). When there is so much GOOD work that can be done, I know that it is amazingly difficult to rest, to stop and do something totally pointless like... read a novel, watch a film, have a lie-in or just veg out... but that is exactly what we all need at times; some time for ourselves. Jesus knew this and often took time out for prayer as well as for meals with friends.

My dear friend, when she was taking that time out, urged me that I should take note before I push myself to far and I have certainly heard that message from her and from this reading.

What work do you have to do that is so important today or this week? Is it because the work is important or because YOU want to FEEL important?

In the grand scheme of things much of what we do is not vital and earth-shattering, no matter how it might feel to us. IN her busyness Martha gets snippety at her sister who isn’t so busy (how many of us do the same?) Jesus wanted Martha to know that she was a precious child of God no matter how busy or un busy she was, no matter what anyone else was doing or not doing and that the only thing she needed to do was to turn towards God. Not to worry about all the things that needed doing to feed everyone but to come to the table and be fed by God.
Is it only us busy ones that need to change though?

When Jesus speaks to Martha about her rushing around, he’s commenting on her distraction from her relationship with God. You don’t have to be busy to be missing that connection with God. It could be that you need to engage with God in a new way.

It is possible for those contemplative prayerful types to take up a practical task and it is possible for those who roll up their sleeves to take some time out to pray. It doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other!

I've been on retreat to various different places and I must admit I struggled a little staying in one community of sisters who were Marys – actually some of them were literally Marys – but my point is that these nuns prayed and kept quiet time most of the day. The community was relatively small and the young active nuns even fewer in number and so it wasn’t so surprising that there were people supporting them doing the cooking and the cleaning. Another nunnery I stayed at however was the opposite. On my first evening there a gloriously pink faced sister brought in the dinner which she had so obviously slaved over in a hot kitchen, another dug in the garden for the vegetables that went into it and yet another washed it all up afterwards. These sisters were no less holy. Less quiet but not less Christian!

Whether you’re more a Mary or more a Martha, remember this week to focus on God through quiet or through practical service. However you do it remember to take time to come to God’s table. To take time to be spiritual. I know for many people this may seem like a great challenge as the ever-rolling to do list looms forward. If it begins to feel like that this week and you feel yourself spiralling like a Martha into distractions. Listen for Jesus calling you by name and reassuring you.

.... There is need of only one thing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I discovered today that my poor blogging hasmeant that Deep Thoughtno longercomes up top on Google if you look for me. You still get me but hte Sarah Brush search doesn't take you here. I think it's clear I have been slacking excessively. I'm about to be in Peru for three weeks so it's not likely to improve in the short term either but there should be a sermon coming up here tomorrow after I have resisted the temptation to opt (as it's Mary and Martha tomorrow) to preach the following:

"I've been rather busy this week, much like Martha, I'm sure we all have. Let's be more like Mary and spend 5 minutes in silence!"

It might just work though

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Preaching Premonition

I had a curious feeling this morning that I was due to be preaching on Sunday - not in my diary and not on the rota. I happened to be phoning the church office to talk to our rector and asked the secretary to check and she verified that I wasn't due to preach until 1st August. Strange.

So I get on with various tasks and then get a call asking me to step in for someone and preach. That explains it then!

So now I have 500 words of Sunday's sermon (former blog reflections can be so useful). I get to preach on Mary and Martha which is rather cool. After my recent retreat experiences I may have a few things to say on that topic which is cool. I do have a whole new reflection on being an extravert and being on retreat which I may finally type up but it'll have to wait until I've done the sermon and the creative prayers for Sunday afternoons Family Fun Day and the final planning for a parish youth/children leaders training day and tweaked a few of the slides from this morning's assembly. Hmmm... Mary or Martha which am I today - it's so hard to tell...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Lovely video

I saw this on youtube and thought it was fabulous.

Consider the sparrows...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sermon for 6th June

1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)
Luke 7:11-17

We enter ordinary time today, the time of the church a time when we’re not bound by the church calendar to be thinking of particular highlight events like Christmas or Easter or as more recently Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. It’s that time of the year for the church families when there are no family birthdays! That means two things – firstly that we can spend time as a church family being family doing our regular things. Secondly it means that we are presented with the rich harvest of the Bible; with the stories of the church past that speak to church present an d tell us of how we should be shaping church future.

And as we enter the church family time, what better time to be welcoming a new member of our family? Baptism is not only about that one special day but that welcome into the regular every week every day -ness of the family. I heard from my brother on Friday that Michael and I are also welcoming a new member of our family as my sister in law gave birth to their second daughter Constance. Welcoming a new member of the family is such a delight whether it’s a new baby like Constance or like ____________________ or whether it’s a new member of our church family in the form of a new visitor to our church or someone newly baptised or confirmed. These are times of great joy for the family.

Unfortunately families also face times of sadness, as so many families in Cumbria faced this week. The experience of grief is common to many of us and in some ways the stories we’ve heard from the Bible this morning may seem rather unhelpful to those who have lost loved ones in Cumbria or elsewhere. These stories would bring the experience of those families into sharp relief. Picture it if you can, a small town called Nain and everybody has come out to support this poor woman who has lost her young son. Middle Eastern mourning is so very verbal, there would have been wailing and moaning. All this emphasising that with this son’s death, the family line ends and she faces destitution. Then Jesus enters and seeing the grief he touches the bier on which the coffin is being carried and then those words, “Jesus gave him to his mother.” And the community rejoiced saying “God has come to help his people” How many families in Cumbria now wish Jesus could do the same for them? How many might once more ask that eternal question: How can there be a God when there is such suffering?

I think what the gospel reading today shows us is that though the world may be one in which there is suffering and sometimes great tragedy, that does not mean that God is a vindictive God. No, when God in the form of Jesus is faced with such a tragedy he is moved to compassion and does all he can to help. The Old Testament story shows us that being moved to compassion by such things is not just the role of Jesus but of all those who believe in God. Elijah too is moved to compassion by the widow he meets. These two stories show that God’s compassion is available both to individuals or families and to whole communities. God’s compassion is there for us if we like the widow of Zarepath, retreat into our home in sorrow or if we are mourning as a whole community, like that at Nain or those in Whitehaven, Lamplugh, Egremont, Frizington, Wilton, Gosforth, Seascale and Boot.

How can there be a God when there is such suffering?

I think for those of us that do believe the better question is:

Where is God when there is such suffering?

These two stories we heard today tell us of two widows met at the point of need and provided for by the servants of the Lord. Two acts of service not self glorification as prophets: Yet also two different settings one very public one very private. So too the church now serves many of those today who are bereaved, both publicly and in private, helping them through the initial grieving and shock. I was so pleased that the vicar of Whitehaven was one of the first local voices to be heard responding to the tragedy and is still at the forefront of much of the coverage. The church is there for people not just with the planning of the funeral but also for the more long term in being family for those who have lost members of their family or those without family. I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 a few weeks ago about loneliness and hearing many people talk about their isolation from their immediate neighbours, the loss of family through divisions or grief or the great distances that globalization now places between some families and which lead to isolation for many people in our global world. I heard people talk about their loneliness and I thought how blessed we are in the church that we have a community around us. The widow of Zarepath had no-one but her son. The widow of Nain, likewise faced a life of isolation without her son. Unlike today neither of these women could have gone and got a job or received state benefit. A widow was dependent on the charity of family or, like the widow of Zarepath, faced starvation and death. This is why so much of the bible talks about the importance to care for widows and orphans because without such charity and help as showed by Elijah and Jesus they faced destitution.

For example, Deuteronomy tells the people of Israel not to be too careful in their harvest but if they miss sections, to leave it for the widows and fatherless (much as Ruth and Naomi gleaned from the fields of Boaz)

The two stories we heard therefore call us to help widows but also those whom society overlooks just as the society in the bible overlooked widows.
The Letter to the Romans shows that Christian service encompasses being there for people at their point of need – just as Elijah and Jesus were

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Romans 12.15

These two stories remind us that our faith calls us to serve those society shuns and who is “society” but us? Who do we shun? Drug addicts, ex-offenders, the uneducated, the Asbos, the young people “hanging around”. How the list could go on! The greater question is;

how is the church sharing bread with these people as Elijah did with the widow at Zarepath?

How are we bringing hope back to them as Jesus did at Nain?

How are we bringing people in distress to a place of praise with a cry “God has come to help his people”?

These stories today remind us clearly of two important things about Our God.

Our God is a God of the individual
Our God is a God of the community.

The question for you today is – How are you showing that in your individual actions and how is our community reflecting God’s presence?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Get down with the kids

OK some people sometimes think that to relate to young people you have to be young or at least be into all the things they're into and their music etc. I say that anyone can work with young people if they are interested in engaging with young people, if they're prepared to listen to young people and BE THEMSELVES. Let me show you Exhibit A:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thought for the fortnight

If you pop over the Worcester Diocesan website, you'll see a little link to the current thought for the week (which in true Anglican tradition is up for two weeks!) this time by me! Just one of the many things that's kept me away from the blog lately!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This is the prayer stations that one of the groups of young people designed at our weekend away at the Chellington Centre a few years ago. All I gave them was the passage from the Bible and they did the rest, using the cuddly toys of all the group to create the crowd and Jesus and fixing up the string and choosing the music. This really captures something of the mystery of Ascensiontide

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sermon 2nd May

This is the sermon I preached this morning in Kidderminster (with some added ad-libs on rock badgers in reference to the Leviticus passage - couldn't resist)

I don’t know if you’ve been watching the debates with the three leaders over the last three weeks. Sometimes it has been very easy to see the difference between the three - if only from their 3 different coloured ties! At other times it’s harder to see the difference. I was listening on the radio each time and there were moments when I wasn’t sure if it was Brown, Cameron or Clegg who was speaking, as it seemed there was little difference between what they were saying in their answers to questions from the public.

Peter in the reading we had from Acts this morning is facing that same accusation. Those Jews who had followed Jesus from the start saw that Peter associated with gentiles and they were worried that they could see no difference between Peter and those he was with. These Jews were worried that Peter was losing his distinctiveness. Peter’s visions of that great cloth of all the unclean animals (as listed in Leviticus 11) which Jews were not allowed to eat is not about diet but about God emphasising that his followers are not distinguished by their outward rituals but by something more fundamental.

Unlike our political parties, Christians don’t distinguish themselves by the colour of their rosette, their tie, or even the balloons they hand out to children, as I saw in Worcester yesterday. In our gospel, Jesus makes it clear that the difference for Christians is much deeper than such outward appearance. It is more substantial some might say and although it may be simple it can also be the most complicated. Jesus describes it in this way:
“34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This love is not all about fluffy feelings and hugs. It’s not all about family. Jesus says his followers should love each other JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU and he says this just after he has got down on his knees and washed their dirty feet, just after he has humbled himself to their service. Now, as we hear by Peter’s first reaction to Jesus’ telling him he must wash his feet, this would have been shocking enough from a Rabbi but of course this statement also comes just before he submits himself to ridicule, torture and execution for the sake of humanity-when Jesus was asked how much he loved humanity and in reply he opened his arms and said this much.

The self sacrificing love that Jesus shows is that which can distinguish those that follow him from the rest. THAT is the kind of love for each other that Jesus is talking about. That is what makes Christians distinctive.

I hope very few of you have seen the way in which the BNP has sought to use Jesus in their campaigning. A colleague from Dudley showed me the fliers he had received from them which suggest that the BNP is the only party for which a Christian could vote and I quote “without betraying the Lord Jesus Christ”. They have also suggested that Jesus would vote BNP. To suggest that the sometime refugee in Egypt who cured Samaritans and Jews alike, who associated with the outcasts who instead of leading an uprising against the occupying Roman Empire, preached a Gospel of Love to suggest that Jesus would vote for a party which is fundamentally racist is truly shocking to me.

Now a sermon is clearly not the place to canvas or seek to influence you to use your vote for a particular party or candidate and I don’t want to do that. I do however want today to ask you all to reflect on those words of Jesus when you exercise your vote this week.

So often we may go to the ballot box seeking what might be good for ME – who will cut my taxes? Who will increase my benefits? Jesus’ words call us to love not just ourselves but one another. In our voting this week, as well as in our living, how can we as Christians express our concern not just for ourselves but for our whole community? Our whole nation?

I don’t suggest an answer only those questions.

Now it may well be that our votes in this constituency, represented as we currently are by an independent candidate have no direct impact on who is in government yet we can still as Christians support our MP whoever it may be and whatever the government might be through prayer.

According to Jesus’ model, those in leadership are not those who are elevated, exalted, singled out and honoured but those with a willingness and a duty to serve. We can pray that all those who are standing are doing so with such service in mind.

Whoever may be in government after this Thursday, there are tough decisions ahead and as Christians we can pray for wisdom and that they sense that duty of leadership with a sense of servanthood.

Now I know you may think that politicians can’t change. We’ve certainly heard some very damning evidence of their lack of selflessness in the expenses scandal. You may think that prayer can’t do it. Yet I want you to think about another aspect of the two readings we had this morning: Of the journey of Peter that we see in those two readings.

In the gospel we see that zealous and eager young man that dared to try and walk on water. The all or nothing Peter that refuses foot washing from Jesus and then demands nothing less than a whole bath. In Acts we see a much more mature Peter. We hear that he explains something step by step. That he feels strong enough in God’s faith to move away from the ritual diet of the Jewish tradition because his God shows him that there is nothing unclean. Peter starts out as an impetuous young man who is very focussed on himself a young man who would race naked from the boat to greet Jesus. Who would refuse Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Yet the Peter we hear about in Acts has grown into himself. Grown into the ROCK on which Jesus founded his church. He trusts the Holy Spirit to speak through him, he trusts the vision from heaven and he trusts that God has been revealed to the gentiles. He has been CHANGED by his faith. He goes against what he is comfortable with and against his personal desires and acts on love for those around him. He speaks gently and patiently with his fellow Jews, he associates with non-Jews which would have been anathema to him before and sees that though he always thought the Jews were a chosen people that God has given the gentiles the repentance that leads to life. The gentiles - that’s us. Through Peter’s loving service the church grew beyond the Jewish community, beyond the Holy land and throughout the Roman Empire and came here and now spreads across the world so that 2.6 Billion Christians across the world now have the chance to do the same.

This is the kind of change that living according to Jesus’ rule of love can bring. This kind of change IS possible. I hardly dare imagine what our parliament might look like if 650 members of the House of Commons acted according to that love whatever their personal faith?

Just think what could happen if we too showed that love? If each one of us here thought about those around us more than ourselves. Then the world would really know that we are his disciples.

Now no-one will know this week how you vote (unless you chose to tell people) but how will people know that you are one of Jesus disciples this week? How will you show love for one another this week?

How will your Christian faith be reflected in how you work, how you drive how you vote, and how you treat others ?

The readings:

John 13:31-35

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Acts 11:1-18
11Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are you sitting comfortably

I wouldn't want anyone to fall over at the shock of there actually being a post on here.

We're just over half way through a week of school assemblies based around some FABULOUS resources from and I am really pleased with how they've gone so far. We'vegot a good balance of relevance(including Florence andthe Machine which has gone down even better than I expected!) and religion. We have Bible passages and yet also words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela. I also get to weild and mallet and smash a couple of chocolate Easter eggs as students look on in horror!

This is all part of me really enjoying work at the moment. What with recording a reflective prayer walk at the Uni recording studio and composing a new resource for young adults groups with the training and development department, I'm loving the creativity!

Hopefully the new burst of creativity might also result in more blogging- you never know!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Women in Youth Ministry

I received this in an email from an American colleague. If you are a woman in youth ministry do please have a look at their survey

Amy Jacober and I are doing research in preparation for a paper on women in youth ministry, which we hope to present at the January 2011 IASYM conference. We, along with Kara Powell, have analyzed the results of the US version of our survey which was launched last November. We now hope, with your help, to see how women youth workers in other settings both understand and experience youth ministry. Our projected January 2011 paper will be a comparison and analysis of the US survey (947 respondents) with those who respond to this invitation.

The survey covers a wide range of topics. As you will see, we have focused some questions on issues relating to youth ministry and feminist ideologies and how these have intersected in your experience as a youth worker.

We know your time is valuable. We ask you to invest some of that precious time here. It will take about 10 minutes if you just answer the “click on the appropriate choice” questions. If you want to say more, however (and we hope you will) there is ample opportunity in the survey to narrate to your heart’s content.

We hope you’ll find the questions themselves interesting. Some questions may make you mad. If the later is the case, we want to hear about it.

Just click on the link or cut and paste into your browser.

If you want to see the research paper that will come out of this survey, you can indicate as such at the survey’s end.

Thank you! We expect the results of the survey to be of help to women in youth ministry (volunteer or paid) as well as those who do youth ministry education.


Amy Jacober, Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas.

Leonard Kageler (Nyack College, Nyack, New York)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sermon on Disaster and Cana

My sermon from last Sunday with Haiti much in the news but the following readings for the day:

Isaiah 62:1-5
62For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. 3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

John 2:1-11
2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “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.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), 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.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

I must admit that approaching preaching this morning after all the news of the disaster in Haiti I was very slow to get going with what I might say to you this morning. It does happen. Then I turned again to the passages we were to have from the Bible and those opening words of Isaiah really spoke to me:
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give”
How could I be searching for words when silence about so terrible a disaster is just not possible?
When “natural disasters” which seem so Unnatural happen people have very different reactions to them in terms of their faith.
Some see it as yet more evidence that there is no God or, worse still, if God does exist, to quote Bruce Almighty:
God is a mean kid with a magnifying glass. And I’m the ant
Others who claim to be Christians see it as a sign that God is making a judgement on people. In this instance the google search reveals that the latest loony idea is that the nation of Haiti made a pact with the devil 200 years ago and this is the result. Now clearly these people have not read Luke chapter 13 where Jesussaysvery clearly that people who suffer such accidents are not receiving judgement. Talkingabout thosekilled in the tower of Shiloah. He says:
"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
This categorical I tell you NO is a rare phrase and clearly significant. Our God is not a God of vengeance.
Fortunately, still others respond to such a disaster in love, in generosity, in charity, in action and in prayer.
From where we are, there is very little we can physically do. We may respond financially and many have I’m sure. The sorrow is that the abundance of aid which there is cannot reach the vast numbers of people affected as the nation is in such great turmoil with the government buildings and infrastructure so utterly devastated.
Yet what we can do is pray. Pray for those who are trapped or injured, those who have lost loved ones, jobs and homes, those who have gone to help them. Now I’m no great theologian. I remember when I was training long debates about what happens when you pray William Temple said
'When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't pray, they don't.'
Martin Luther King (who America commemorates this week said:
'To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.'
I was reminded of a programme a few years ago called “The Search” there was a point where they were looking for an entire circle and there were part circles drawn all over this ruined abbey and only from ONE point could you see the complete circle. I think sometimes prayer is the process of getting into the right place to see things the way God wants you to see them. And from that point of prayer we can see where God truly is in Haiti. Though the cathedral and churches are destroyed the Anglican Bishop Duracin is among those who have set up a tent village on a football field,bringing a glimmer of hope in a dark place. God is there with them.
The Gospel we had to day we heard of a time when Jesus was present for people in a very ordinary part of life – a wedding- and he offers a surprising gift in the form of wine. And he was there with his mother. This story gives us a lovely insight into that relationship of mother and son. She points out that the wine has run out and even though his words seem to suggest he’s not going to do anything she tells the servants to “do as he tells you”. What a mother! Now some see this first miracle as somewhat frivolous. Perhaps that is its greatest feature. These people did not NEED wine like they needed food and shelter. Yet this gift made life better not just possible. Here we seeGod’s generosity: The creator working with his creation for the benefit of his creatures. At Cana the people saw an amazing abundance when everyone believed there was total scarcity. And it wasn’t just good enough wine. It was amazing. Better wine than they had had before- now that’s a great surprise. And God is a God of surprises. A God of the unexpected. I wonder when in your life water has been turned into wine for you. When what you needed was given but with such generosity that it was so much more? Now according to allkinds ofsociologists and psychologists, we have a certain hierarchy of needs- the things we need are at different levels. There are the basics like water, food and shelter, then the added things like security and safety and then the rather more luxury needs like family and friends. I think this whole idea rather misses the mark. Jesus’s ridiculous abundance of generosity is so very different. I’m sure that wedding couple would have been better served with something sensible like a house and yet the richness of the wine meant so much more. Those people in Haiti clearly need the basics and yet they also need hope. Victor frankl who was imprisoned in Auschwitz claimed that a man could live several days without food but not without hope.
As Christians we are the hope holders in our world. It is something not always valued by others over the more tangible things in life. Jesus is often called the water of life but he also offers us the wine of life .Not just that which we need but more and abundant gifts. Of course there are times when this abundance seems very far off indeed. There might be times when we need to be there when the wine runs out for others in their lives. And with very little we can be there as Jesus was with only water and yet offer them something so much greater than they expected.
  • When has water been turned into wine in your life?
  • How might we be present for others when the wine runs out?