Tag Archives: spirituality

Sermon

I’ve been learning how to be a local preacher since November and today (well, yesterday now) I delivered my first sermon since starting training. I hope to post a selection of the sermons on here as I progress through my training so I can see how I’m developing. I hope there will be improvement and any comments would be appreciated if you’re mad enough to read the whole thing. So here goes…
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Readings: Acts 10:44 – 48, 1 John 5:1 – 6, John 15:9 – 17

Do you ever have those days when you just end up really annoyed at someone? It doesn’t matter what they have or haven’t done but you’re still annoyed? I know I do. Not often but it still happens. It was after one of those days that I ended up on the phone to a friend of mine whinging about it. He’s great at calming me down in these situations by using a mixture of understanding and sarcasm. Do you know what he said about it? Ever sympathetic, he said:
“Don’t worry Jo. You aren’t asked to like everyone.
You’re asked to love them.”
It’s a good thing that you can’t see a scowl or withering look down the phone line – even if it’s in response to a semi-sarcastic comment!
Despite my immediate reaction, this seems an interesting way to start to look at the theme of love. Love is something fantastic, brilliant, wonderful and forms the target for all Christians, to love one another and to love God. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
But what does this mean for us?
My friend pointed out that there can be difficulties and times when this really isn’t easy to do. The story we heard from Acts suggests that the request to love one another can really push our comfort zones.
In the story, we hear of Peter preaching to a congregation of circumcised and uncircumcised people. The circumcised people, former members of the Jewish community, are surprised by the way the Holy Spirit is poured upon the Gentiles. At the time, early Christians were still trying to establish whether they thought that the Gospel was only for people of Jewish origin and this very clearly, very publicly, very unashamedly proves that it’s not. What else can we learn about life at the time? Peter, himself, had just had a vision which challenged his own opinion. He was a man who had never profaned himself and obeyed the laws of the Jewish community but had just been told that they no longer matter! In the Christian community, these laws just don’t apply! Peter was confused by this image and didn’t know what it meant, then he met Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman Centurion (albeit a respected one) and a Christian, but not only was he not Jewish, he was Italian – an invader and a gentile. This framed Peter’s vision and led to him welcoming Cornelius into the community and into his home. Gentiles, Samaritans, Italians and others like Cornelius were outsiders. The country had been invaded by the Romans but was still allowed comparative freedom. The Jewish authorities were still in charge of their communities and so the Gentiles and others were people who fell outside those laws. Including ‘outsiders’ in the new Christian community had the danger of further alienating the Jewish community many early Christians had grown up in.
To believe that ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ as John said in his letter, cost followers everything. Even if they weren’t actually killed for it, they were being asked to give up everything they knew, their communities, their life; to join a new, different, radical, dangerous movement. And they were asked to love, welcome and accept all the members, regardless of who they are or were before becoming Christians – just as Cornelius was welcomed by Peter. Sounds like rather a challenge, doesn’t it? However much an invading soldier was respected, he was still an invading soldier. If Cornelius could be welcomed, then it showed that anyone could. Regardless of anything that had defined a person before becoming a Christian, all were welcomed. None of the old rules apply and we’re invited into a new way of living. Peter is reported as saying:
“You yourself know that it is unlawful for a Jew to be associated with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
This is a fantastic aspiration, to say that nobody is profane or unclean. As Christians, most of us don’t hold to the laws of the old testament – we eat shell fish, we wear mixed fibres, we don’t have the same views of what is clean but we do still have ideas about what forms acceptable practice. The old rules no longer apply, but have we made new ones?
Does the Christian community welcome everyone into its fold regardless of background? I’m sad to say that I don’t think we do. If you ask people outside the church, and some inside, to describe it, I doubt many would use the adjectives ‘welcoming’ or ‘inclusive’. That falls to each of us in turn to live out and most of us have one group of people or another that we are uncomfortable around. Each of us is likely to have a blind spot. I welcome everyone! Except…
Blind spots are a problem, but not an insurmountable one. That’s why when I was taught to drive I was asked to acknowledge them and learn to work around them. Blind spots are the areas we can’t see in our mirrors when we’re in the drivers seat. If we can’t see what’s coming up behind us, we just don’t know. When we acknowledge our blind spots, we can address them. When we’re driving, we know that we won’t hit anything or get hit ourselves. When we think about ourselves, we need to think about what we are unwilling to admit or try to hide. What are we unable or unwilling to see? Our challenge is to consider who it is who pushes our comfort zones. Who makes you feel uncomfortable? Who is in your blind spot? Is it an individual or a group of people? It could be rich or poor, young or old, people defined by their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality? People from different social backgrounds or geographical locations? Only you know. well, only you and God. We may try to convince ourselves and those around us that these blind spots are nothing of significance but God knows in our hearts. In his first letter, John says:
“Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him (Jesus).’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar and in such a person truth does not exist.”
We need to learn to accept our blind spots and work around them. Hiding them and denying them is not acceptable. John says that to not live out this love is as bad as not believing in Jesus at all! Not an easy challenge but we’re already responding and sharing our love with those we welcome and include. The difficulty comes when we have to demonstrate our love to people outside this group. How do we learn to do this? John suggests that we should “love not in word or speech, but in truth and action”. He is teaching us a way of living out the commandment – intention and belief are good but not enough. It’s through the actions and truth that we live out the commandment best.
This is a reflection of God’s love for us. God’s love has been repeatedly demonstrated through actions – sending Jesus to live amongst us being the biggest and best of all. Jesus – the truth – calls us to love him and to love one another as he loves us. He set us the example and an example that seems impossible to live up to. His love for us is unconditional and beyond comprehension. We have been chosen by Jesus and welcomed into his love. This is a love that overcomes everything. We are loved. Each of us. Nothing can separate us from this love. *This* is the love we are united in and the love we are challenged to share with those around us. There is nothing that should stop us from loving each other, just as there is nothing that can stop Jesus loving us. He says, himself,
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
We are still asked to keep the commandments – to love Jesus and to love one another – but that is not supposed to be a chore. We heard it in our reading from 1 John earlier. It may not be easy to love everyone, we still have our blind spots, but that is not the same.
John says,
“Since God loves us so much, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Through Jesus’ love and by living out the commandments, God’s love is perfected in us. Jesus tells of the joy that this brings when he says,
“I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
As we remember these messages of hope, love and joy, let us think back to those people who challenge us. Let us spend a few moments reflecting that there is nobody outside the love of Christ. Think of the people who we love and welcome. Think of the people we shun and exclude. As we bring these people and ourselves to God we ask that we are strengthened as we try to share his love. Whatever the situation, whatever the location, whoever the person, let us live out this love as faithfully and as honestly as we can.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Amen

For Tractor Girl

1. I’ve been to Greenbelt and Spring Harvest. I’ve also just promised to seriously consider going to Easter People next year (*gulp*).

2. I went to SH on both occasions because Mum was going (I was quite little). I think she went because it was quite close to home, people from church were going (including all the families) and she’d heard good things.

I first went to Greenbelt because I wanted to see what it was like and a group of us from uni were going. I’ve subsequently been because I’ve involved with an organisation there. I would still go even if I wasn’t as it’s about the only event in the year at which I can catch up with my friends.

3. I don’t remember what happened at Spring Harvest and all my experiences of Greenbelt have been different. I really, really hated the first one and it’s one of the hardest weekend events I’ve been to. I took a year off, decided that I really wanted to go, so did the third year (second visit). That year I definitely had a very strong ‘spiritual experience’ and it was the most fantastic event. Everything that I hated the first year was reversed on the second visit. The third time I went I was working properly (as opposed to the voluntary work I’d done before) and that makes the experience very different for me. It was still a spiritual experience but in a very different way. I’m looking forward to going again this year and I’ll be working again – quite how much is yet to be decided but I’ll definitely be there in my official capacity. 😉

I hope that answers some of your questions.

Boys, boys, boys.

I’m having a crisis with the men in my life. There are too many of them. My mentor and trainer for local preaching are both male, as are my boss and one other colleague, my spiritual director, my support person and many more of the important people in my life. Normally I wouldn’t mind but I’ve just noticed the sheer volume of men in my life recently. Hey, I worked in the motor trade and did a male dominated course at uni but even so there were more women there than there are now. It’s amazing how things change.

Just to clarify, they’re all really lovely blokes and I wouldn’t change them for the world (well, definitely not those I’ve met ;)).

Changing the subject entirely, I can’t believe how cold it is! Inside my flat! I know that almost this time last year I was chronicling the joys of my flat, well the heating still isn’t fixed. Also I’m guessing that it’s not going to be as I’m hoping to move out. I’ve been offered another space but it needs a lot of work doing to it and I’m not even going to give notice until it’s been done. Until then I have to survive with two portable heaters which means it’s going to be a struggle to keep me warm and dry washing until the end of winter or I move house – whichever is sooner. Oh the joy. All I need to complete the set is the mould which made such a vivid appearance last year to show it’s ugly head. If you can think of any inventive ways of staying warm, please let me know. The cheapest I’ve managed to find so far is going to the cinema. As I have a cinema card, it is no extra cost to go and it is a darn sight warmer than my flat. Brrrrr *shiver*

Anyway, I’m going in search of warm things… Night

Travelling again

Tar Barrels

So, do you fancy a go? Even just to watch? I’m off to the annual Tar Barrels again soon. I’m quite looking forward to it. It’s always a good atmosphere. In the meantime I’m going to Leeds and Southampton. And the week after I get back I’m going to Israel. It’s so hard having a jet setting life.

When I went to church this morning, it was good to know the gossip network had been in operation – and at it’s usual level of accuracy. 😉 I was asked how my travellign went, so I replied “well, thanks”. To which the next question was how I’d enjoyed Israel. I had to explain that I haven’t been yet and the poor woman was confused as to where I had been. I think a better question is where haven’t I been over the last three weeks, and I’m familiar with the services that MANY different train operators have to offer (or not). My absence was noted too. “We haven’t seen you for while” was quite common. It’s nice to belong but I can only go to church once in the next FIVE Sundays. Maybe they’ll change they’re mind about local preacher training. (Seriously, my attendance will improve after I’ve got September, October and November out of the way – silly student workers!)

I promised more excitement….

So how about this? It seems more exciting to me. Do you think I should go, because I’ve said I’d like to. I think it sounds fascinating!

Also, the other news is that Church Council have agreed to recommend that I’m given a note to preach or something along those lines. Whatever the correct terminology, they’re recommending to the local preachers meeting that I’m given the opportunity to start training. Only one more meeting before i know whether it’ll be happening.

It’s the little things

I notice that thing has been happening with my blog again – nothing. I really should make an effort to write on it more often. The problem is there is nothing bloggable going on at the moment.

The HIV resource pack I mentioned is now available in hard copy, and as promised I will link to it when it’s online. It’s really cool to see it all in a printed format. 😀 That is one of the little things.

Another little thing is somewhat sillier. My wallet broked. It ended up with a hole in it that pound coins could fit through. As I don’t have many of the things I’d quite like to hang onto them. 😉 Having resigned myself to this unexpected expenditure, I wandered round the mall to try and find something that would do. I looked in all the usual haunts and thought I’d check out Monsoon – a bit more expensive than usual but lovely. Anyway, after weighing up the pros and cons of each option I took a deep breath and went back to Monsoon. Thinking that £8 was perfectly acceptable (if not a little over the £5 I spent last time) I chose the colour I wanted and took it to the till. The woman scanned it into the machine and said “That’ll be £2.40 please – no that can’t be right. Hang on a minute…”. Anyway, sometime later (after the majority of the shop staff had been involved) she confirmed that it was indeed £2.40!!!! I really was most delighted. I’m guessing black was definitely the colour to go for. I’ve been told the green ones are still the higher price.
To celebrate this I bought a sparkly blue flower to go on it, so I know it’s mine. All in all, it was still around the same price as the cheaper purses I saw. :D:D:D As mentioned above, it’s the little things that make me happy.

Another little thing is that I *might* be following in Smudgie’s footsteps. I hinted at this a few posts back but I’d guess the time has come to explain a little more.
I’m in the process of enquiring about starting local preachers training. I’ve been trying to think up excuses not to for ages but they all seem to have run out now. 😉 Anyway, I went to meet with the Superintendent and he’s a lovely guy who seems quite supportive, as do the church. I’ve already agreed to become involved in some of the all age worship services. The new minister seems supportive too. There are still two more stages to go, if I understand the process correctly, it has to go through church council then the local preachers meeting. I’ll know by the end of November – at which point I’ll be miles away. He he he. I’m away for w*rk while they’ll be deciding for me. I think I’m away during church council too, so it’s a good thing I’m not on it. 😀

I think that’ll do for now. Next time I blog, hopefully I’ll have something interesting to say. That might be pushing it though…

After Greenbelt

Oops. I archived this the first time.

Greenbelt was brilliant. I definitely went to more things last year but this year was just a lovely opportunity to meet with people. I saw Dave almost everywhere I went and got a copy of his cartoon booklet from the Church Times Stall which was very near the SCM stall. We had our new publicity on display which was sooooo cool. It’s a whole series of really sweet cartoon characters and it’s the first time they’ve been on display. People definitely seemed to like them although we did get a lot of questions about what a whovian is, as one of the pictures is of a whovian. It entertained me when Sophs’ dalek was onsite. A whovian is a Dr Who fanatic, just as a trekkie is a Star Trek fanatic. It was good to see Sophs again.

I only managed to go to the sessions I was involved in running, and I didn’t make it to the wibmeet. I really wanted to meet Fishsoup and Dave K, I think, the only wibloggers who I hadn’t met before and didn’t meet during the weekend. I particularly wanted to meet Fishsoup as she had been my WISEe. I also haven’t met the non-wibsite bloggers who were on the Greenbelt thread. I saw lots of Tractor Girl (sometimes accompanied by Third Party), Jack working hard, Alice and Benjamin, Sarah, Excited Rainbow Girl (who was definitely excited and Rainbowed), Carrie Bradshaw and Tall Girl and Mr Tall Girl. I also think I met Jacqui but in an entirely different hat on so got confused. It doesn’t take a lot.

I think that my sessions went well but it’s always hard to judge when you’re leading them. We packed the speakers section of the Christian Aid tent on Saturday which was brilliant. I really think that the workshop which looked at the Jewish Oral law tradition is facinating and it was really good to see all sorts of people engaging with it.

I still haven’t removed by wrist band yet. I just got used to it being there. I must remember to do it otherwise I’ll forget for ages. 😉

Oh, and a message for Smudgie – I’m going to meet with the Superintendent two weeks today but I’ve never met him before so there is a lot to discuss and probably a long way to go before anything happens. Don’t you just love cryptic comments on blogs. BTW, Smudgie, did the post cards from Mum arrive?

Smudgie’s got me thinking

Vocations seem a very strange thing.

Things keep nagging away from time to time and remembering a session with my old spiritual director made me think about them a lot. My SD suggested all sorts of things to think about and consider to determine what might be going on. This is in relation to the little things as well as the big. I’m never sure whether to be more worried when things seem to be sorting out or when I’ve got my head in the sand. I suppose it’s reassuring and peaceful when things fall into place but it can still be scary.

Another strange thing about vocations is the way the word ‘vocation’ is often associated with such a small ministry or role.

Anyway, having had brain ache thinking about all that, back to the normal life…

I had a friend come to stay for the weekend which was nice. It was my old church’s anniversary so we went to celebrate. On Friday night we saw Starlight Express. We’d both seen it before in London and agreed, I think, that the new version is nowhere near as good. For me, it was distinctly lacking in track. I did like what they’d done with the stage though. For the races, they project a 3D film for everyone to see but the projector seemed to have a thread on the lens. Also they had two smaller screens which also seem to be suffering from technical problems. It led me to ask ‘what is it with technology?’ It’s not always needed and sometimes it detracts from the Stirling work done by all involved. The other minor gripe was the costumes. They were no match on the old ones though. I always remembered them being so clever – but I suppose that is a) the problem with nostalgia and b) the problem with having textile links. Other than that it was a really good night.

When I got to church on Saturday I met someone I knew from my home town (home). When I’m a good few hundred miles from the place I grew up, it’s not what I normally expect. It was really nice to see this person but it was still a shock, and moreso to realise the person knows several of my other friends.
When the various bits of my life meet it’s always strange. People from home know far less about me than they think and it’s not unsurprising. I’ve not lived there for three years. In the three years since I left I’ve done what frequently happens on leaving home – I’ve blossomed into my own person. A friend of mine blogged something not dissimilar to this recently, having returned to her family house after graduation.
The changes gone through since leaving home mean that people who think they know me so well are suddenly strangers, and people I’ve known for only a short time know me very well. It is just a strange situation really.

Anyhow, I’m going to go now. I tidied my flat yesterday (well, all except my bedroom) and I’m going to enjoy it. I have a week with almost nothing planned. It’s the only week like this for the foreseeable future so I’m going to lie back and let it happen. 😀

Spiritual Direction

I finally went to see someone about spiritual direction last night. I’ve been looking for a new spiritual director since I moved and it’s taken a little while to get sorted. I found it a very useful session and told the person in question what I felt was important without raising the subjects directly. It always helps.

What was a little embarrassing was that I think I wrote him a snotty email of complaint last summer for something that was out of his control. Oh well, I live and learn.

I also went to the cinema last night – saw Hellboy. I wanted to see Stage Beauty but missed it by 5 minutes. Hellboy isn’t too bad – it served the purpose. Having missed the film I wanted to see, I wanted to see something relatively mindless and I find a good superhero drama frequently hits the mark.

I’m still thinking about several of the things raised at Greenbelt and they still aren’t making too much sense yet.

Oh yes, in my madness I’ve joined the dating agency thread on the Ship.