We and those around us

Some thoughts about living in community

‘The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.’
Edith Stein (1891–1942)

For any community to thrive, whether it’s a town, a school, a business or even a nation, its members need to be able to live together and form meaningful relationships. It also requires an economy of giving and receiving, in which people take on particular roles and show a willingness to contribute to the flourishing of all. This, in turn, will only happen, if relationships are defined by trust, loyalty, and mutual fulfilment.

Community

To establish relationships of this nature, we need a sense of self-awareness, and I would like to suggest that, maybe paradoxically, we will obtain the truest perspective of ourselves if we are rooted in a flourishing community. For most of us, our first community in which we discover who we are consists of our family, and in later life school, university, workplace and neighbourhood provide a framework in which we find our own particular place. Continue reading “We and those around us”

Peace be with you

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, 8th April 2018
Acts 4.32-35 & John 20.19-31

This past week, I visited a friend in Belfast for a few days. Apart from the stunning views at the Giant’s Causeway somewhat further north, we had a tour of the city. It has been twenty years since the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998, but still there are walls up in the city, and gates that close at night to make it impossible to go from one side of the fence to the other, even for emergency services.

peaceIt has been estimated during those thirty years of the Troubles that over 3,500 people were killed. That number made me realise that the scale of the recent violence in London is not very different, with already over fifty murders in the first three months of this year. Whereas in Northern Ireland, the conflict has been very much associated with Christianity, the violence in London seems to be of a different nature. This, I suspect, is not unrelated to the fact that Christianity in Ireland is still much more prominent than it is in our capital city nowadays.

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I have seen the Lord!

I have seen the Lord! A sermon for Easter Day
John 20.1-18

Mary empty tombWithout wanting to make any judgment, I think that some of you who are reading this may be old enough to remember one of the BBC’s most famous April Fool’s Day hoaxes, reporting the remarkable Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. It was after a mild winter – very unlike this year’s! ­– that the spaghetti crops had come out remarkable well, especially in Switzerland.

I wonder what your first reaction to a news item like this is. Do you immediately know it’s a fake story, or are you for a moment or more surprised, but captured by the news? I have to say that I’m usually quite gullible and my first reaction is to jump up and share the story with someone else: Have you heard about this!? And often that’s the moment when someone else needs to tell me I’ve been fooled. Continue reading “I have seen the Lord!”

The Nails

The Nails: A reflection for Good Friday

NailsHere we’re seeing an image of three nails. They are probably not that dissimilar in size to the ones that were used to crucify Jesus. The thought of that in itself is rather gruesome, and maybe some of us can bring to mind artwork or images depicting these nails and the wounds they caused.

Here, I would like us to briefly reflect on two thoughts, which are basically different sides of the same coin. For this I would like you to imagine holding one of these nails and feeling its weight. As we feel it’s weight and maybe it’s sharp point, the first thing I suggest to reflect on is the wounds we have sustained ourselves over time. Most of us will have at least one physical scar somewhere and a story to go with it.
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I will never leave you

I will never leave you
Jesus’ promise

The third and last of three reflections for Passiontide, based around the stories of Peter, Judas and Jesus, based on reflections for Good Friday, delivered at St George’s Preshute in 2017.

jesusHearing the Passion Gospel read this morning, it is hard to deny here that Jesus is aware of his own future, his death, whether it is imminent or not. Is that then the way to look at the Passion story: God’s plan unfolding, as a script being performed, whilst people like Mary, Peter and Judas play the part they have been allocated? Are they, and we, merely doing what has to be done for God’s plan to be fulfilled? In a way one could say that both Mary and Judas prepared Jesus for his burial: Mary by anointing him, and Judas by handing him over to those who would crucify him.

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Friend, do what you are here to do

Friend, do what you are here to do
The tragedy of Judas

The second of three reflections for Passiontide, based around the stories of Peter, Judas and Jesus. They are based on reflections for Good Friday, delivered at St George’s Preshute in 2017.

judasJesus said to Judas: Friend, do what you are here to do. There has been a lot of controversy over the role of Judas in Jesus’ passion. The fact that Jesus addresses Judas here as friend has either been understood to be ironic or as a sign that Jesus still cares about him. Maybe even more so, it has been debated if it was Judas’ God-given destiny to betray Jesus, or an act of free will? And in either case, was there still the possibility for redemption, either before or after Judas’ death? Or is he the prototype of evil, someone for whom there is no hope?

Continue reading “Friend, do what you are here to do”

What makes us carry on?

What makes us carry on?
The story of Peter

This is the first of three reflections for Passiontide, based around the stories of Peter, Judas and Jesus. They are based on reflections for Good Friday, delivered at St George’s Preshute in 2017.

peter

Peter’s story is one of falling and standing up, falling again and standing up again. It was Peter who was one of the first to recognise who Jesus was when he said to Him: ‘You are the Messiah’. But it is only moments later that Jesus rebukes him for not understanding his teaching, and says: Get behind me Satan!

‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you’ (Matthew 26.33). I imagine that Peter genuinely believed those words when he spoke them. Not so much because he felt superior to his fellow-disciples and others, but because at the moment he spoke them, Peter was convinced that nothing could separate him from God; nothing could make him desert or deny that what was most important in his life: his friendship with God through Jesus. Continue reading “What makes us carry on?”