Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – 16th September 2018

Jesus asks: “Who am I?” And I’m asking, So what?

In 2018, who is Jesus for you? Maybe you’re thinking this is a bit of a nonsense question. But, humour me. Who is Jesus for you and what difference does that knowledge, relationship, experience make in your life today and beyond? For some of us, it is not blatantly obvious who Jesus is, or our concept can change, just like Peter’s did. Of course, we say, Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, an equal person in the Trinity, the one whom we pledge our faith through, in the Nicene creed every Sunday, but who and what else is he to us?

Scholars might argue, that Mark’s gospel answers the question of who Jesus is, by taking us back to the very heart of the gospel, to that critical moment when the truth of what God was doing in and through Jesus, comes into its sharpest focus. It clarifies once and for all, the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”

Or does it?

My second question: So, What? is more evocative. What does this question actually ask of you, in your everyday life? Do you think perhaps, that its already all been worked out for you? Do you simply believe what you’ve been told? If we could personalise the question, as though someone was asking these questions of us, then what would the answer be? Who are you? And how is your life informed by who you believe Jesus is right now in your life?

One of the most satisfying areas of ministry for me is bereavement ministry; funerals. During the funeral service there is that reminder and reflection on the deceased life; the eulogy. This is usually offered by a family member, or someone so close as to be considered family. This reflection on a person’s life, often brings clarity, insight and knowledge to those listening. What’s really wonderful about this reflection time for me, is to hear about the loved one, from another’s perspective and experience. It is often a gift, to hear stories about someone whom we have known intimately, from another’s life focus. Even when we have known a person our whole life, we still don’t actually know them, the way another does; each relationship is unique to the people within that relationship. This is the gift and beauty of our relationship with God; its unique to us. Our story and God’s story are inextricable linked and connected, whether we see it or not.

So, I’ll pose my questions again; who is Jesus to you? and so what?

How does your knowledge or concept of who Jesus is for you in 2018 inform or enliven you? How has your story and Jesus’ story, intersected and so what? How has your life been influenced or guided by this relationship? How have you taken up your cross and followed the one, you would call Saviour, Lord? Or, how have you, like Peter, perhaps failed to understand? Is your heart set on human things rather than the divine? And what difference does it make? Big questions I know. But perhaps you might like to ponder these and others as you move from Sunday worship into the rest of the week.

So, Who is Jesus for you? and, what difference does he make?

Have a great week
Shalom (God’s deep abiding peace)
Donna

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 26th August 2018

Should priests be paid to pray?

When is the start of my work week? Is it on Monday morning like you, or is it on Thursday morning? Are priests supposed to have days off? If we look at the nature of vocation, days off are not even worth a mention. Vocation or calling is a compulsion by God to be for God, so are there days off?

Some weeks I feel like I have limitless flexibility with astoundingly little to do. I can write a sermon at the dog park for example, while the dogs exercise themselves, or come home for lunch, do the housework, or even have a nap to compensate for a 4 am start. But then there are other days that feel like I’ve been thrown into a marathon I never had the chance to train for. Emails get missed, hospital visits get rushed, or ditched, and we eat one or two too many throw together, or leftover dinners at home. In one go, I can see how I could easily become either a workaholic or dead lazy.

To be a parish priest is to live in a world of bizarre rhythms and punctuations. I don’t actually ever clock on or off, because its not a job its a vocation and I love it. This is complicated by the fact that essentially, I work for a volunteer organisation. This means I need to be available when volunteers are, which is usually after hours or on the weekend. On the other hand, I also work in an institution that looks like a business, with regular office hours, staff meetings and logistical and canonical requirements.

So in order for me to fulfill my vocation, I am paid a stipend, as opposed to a salary. Many folk don’t understand the difference. Quite simply, a stipend is a payment for not task deal. It is paid so one can be instead of do. A salary is task orientated, one is paid to do!

The nature of our work defies measurement, we are free, to live into a slower, healthier,
more prayerful rhythm of life in “defiance of the norms of our frenetically paced society.” This means, that when I am asked to pray for someone, I can and do.

So should priests be paid to pray? No, because priests aren’t paid to do anything. Priests are paid so that taking care of life’s basic needs doesn’t detract from their vocation.

So, if we’re not paid to do any of the things we schedule, write, or facilitate, then all that we do do constitutes a gift. In other words, the church isn’t actually paying us to be there on Sunday. The church is paying us so that we can sleep in our beds the night before. We’re not paid to preach, or pray, or administer the sacraments. To think that we are, cheapens those beautiful moments by stirring in a transactional flavour. We’re given this allowance, so that we can pray for free.

I’ve learned an important thing, it is not ‘when’ I pray, but that I ‘do’ pray, not when I spend time with my family but how I’m present with them. This distinction is a great gift for a person who feels compelled to constantly earn her pay.

Prayers for a blessed week
Shalom Donna

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 19th August 2018

A reflection from 1 Kings

This week in the Old Testament, we hear of the enthronement of King Solomon, son of David. He is but a boy when placed on the throne, but is discerning and already wise. So wise in fact, that he asks God for wisdom to govern fairly and justly, rather than for long life and riches. God is suitably impressed and declares that if Solomon lives a righteous life, like David his father, he would get all he has asked for, and so much more. But, was David righteous? I remember how David took Bathsheba in an adulterous manner and then had her husband killed, so he could keep her. Not righteous in my reckoning. But God says David is righteous. Many of us believe that righteousness is the opposite of sin. If David sinned, how is he righteous? And what of the churches teaching on sin and righteousness?

The church teaches that every human is sinful. Because of this, we need to confess our sin and receive absolution and forgiveness from God. But is that all we do? If you were to ask 1000 people what sin is, you would get a thousand different answers. Most of us, even though we are often taught the same thing, have a vastly different idea about sin. Now most people, might say; that sins are wrongs, confessed, absolved and forgiven. Sin has a scriptural base. Sin is bad. What they might not tell you, is how sin affects them personally. What they believe their personal sin is. Things like, ‘I shouldn’t have said, or done, or thought differently. I must be better. I must be more. I am hopeless. I don’t deserve this. I am unworthy, I am sinful’.

Now this kind of thinking is dangerous, but very human. One because it is hidden, insidious and destructive and two, because its not true. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do, say, or think, how you live, your lifestyle, your gender, age, sexuality, piety, or righteousness. Ultimately, sin is separation from God. When you think you’re not good enough and even God can’t love you, or forgive you, or want you, you are separated from God’s abiding and indwelling love of you, for yourself. This is sin.

God has created you in all your beauty and complexity, to live and have your being in relationship with God. Everything you do, including confession, is to foster this relationship with God and its good. Everything you do which negates yourself, also negates God. This is sin. In short, sin is our human condition of separation from our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

The absolute genius of Christ’s life and sacrifice, is that Jesus was never separated from God and therefore never sinned. He remained in relationship with God, his whole life, until he took our sin, our very human life of separation, into himself declaring, God why have you forsaken me? Jesus who lived a sin free; zero separation life from God, took our completely separated life from God and died in our place. This was the only way to forever connect us to the love and forgiveness of God for ever. It could be said, that Jesus is the answer to original sin.

During confession this week, I want you think about how you have sinned, separated yourself from God’s forgiveness and love. Then imagine God’s joy in you, when you return to God’s embrace. You are loved, cherished and adored by your God in relationship with you.

Have an awesome week, working on correcting your own relationship with God. Shalom (God’s deep abiding, indwelling peace) be with you.

Donna (Locum Vicar)

The Feast of St Peter and St Paul, Apostles and Martyrs – 24th June 2018

His teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority

Gospel

People experienced a difference in the way Jesus taught. He did not speak down to them. He did not lay burdens on them. He practiced what he preached.

It is easy to imagine the people thinking, ‘Yes, this man knows our situation. He speaks as one of us.’ Jesus knew what it was like to be poor and merciful, knew the struggle to be a peacemaker and to be pure in heart and to keep on trusting God when times were tough.

His teaching was different also in that it encouraged people to believe in themselves. That is a feature of good authority

Third Sunday after Pentecost – 10th June 2018

Repent and believe the Good News

It is interesting that Jesus links repentance with believing the Good News. We may question whether Christianity has been consistent in linking the two, and whether we have done so in our own thought and practice.

If the two are not linked there are dangers of two extremes. On the one hand, there can be stress on fear, fire, and brimstone, and seeing religion as some sort of grim struggle
to get to God. On the other hand, there is the danger of making it all too cosy and easy if we only focus on the Good News.

Jesus urges us to a balanced approach. Repent: turn away from pride, selfishness, closed minds that have everything boxed up, attitudes that close us off from people. And the purpose of this repentance? That we might believe and proclaim the Good News of God’s love, God’s presence, and God’s forgiveness.

None of us can say we have no need of repentance. None of us can say that our present belief in God’s presence with us is sufficient.

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC

Second Sunday after Pentecost – 3rd June 2018

Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God.       Second Reading

In today’s first reading we have the call of Samuel, with the well-known ‘Here I am Lord.’ Response. The Gospel gives us the call of Andrew and Peter with their response. There is a mentality, common among Christians, that is fearful of getting too close to God. The fear is that God might ask something extraordinarily difficult of them, as if God were some kind of hard taskmaster.

The words from the second reading should give us hope and new heart, and put that fear to rest. God is not to be thought of as an absent, stern deity wanting to put burdens on us. Our God is a God of presence, the Spirit of love in our midst. The call this God makes to most of us is not a call to do extraordinary feats. It is a call to believe and to witness that God is present in our Families and in our world through our loving and in our living. It is a call to believe that since the spirit of God truly is with us. Then there is sacredness about us, and we should act accordingly.

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC

Trinity Sunday – 27th May 2018

There are three distinct ways we can understand ‘God’ and appreciate the activity of God in our world.

We understand and appreciate God as Creator, the source of all that exists, the Almighty. We use the symbol of ‘Father’ to express God’s concern, care and compassion, and to evoke trust and reverence from us. We could just as well use ‘Mother’ for God is neither ‘He’ or ‘She’, and the word we use of God can never be used to define what God is. God is ultimately beyond our words and our images.

God reveals God’s self to us. We believe in a God who is loving and who has created us in love and so has formed an eternal bond with us. We are created in God’s image.

Jesus is the Revealer. He reveals God to us in his human life, in what he believed and the way he loved. Through Jesus who is risen Lord for us we know we can ‘walk without fear in God’s presence’. Jesus is the ‘Son’ and we are ‘brothers and sisters’, ‘children’ of God.

God is universal Spirit, recognised as bringing beauty from chaos, peace from turmoil, hope from despair, and union from fragmentation. Through the Spirit we know the power of love and forgiveness and eh sure presence of God deep in our own hearts. We are, as St Paul says, ‘temples of God’s Holy Spirit’. (cf Second reading for Second Sunday of the year) God is Love. We who bless ourselves in the name of this God are truly blessed.

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC

Day of Pentecost – 20th May 2018

The Pentecost Sequence, found in the Missal before the Gospel, is a beautiful prayer. Try praying it with the firm convictions that the Spirit of God is in you, that you are, as St Paul says of all Christians, ‘a Temple of God’s Holy Spirit.’ (1 Cot. 3:16) As the Sequence says, we are praying to and with:

of all consolers best,
thou, the soul’s delightful guest.

Ponder these words, and be with the truth that God’s Spirit is a power at work in you. Make the prayer gentle and personal with this ‘guest’ of yours.

Heal my wounds, my strength renew,
On my dryness pour they dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Acknowledge the need for conversion of mind and heart, and pray wholeheartedly,

Bend my stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm, the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

In all this, pray with the Spirit within you.

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC

Seventh Sunday of Easter – 13th May 2018

Happy Mother’s Day
to
all our mothers
and
those who have a mothering role

The Ascension highlights some of the challenges facing us in our understanding of Scripture. Are we to understand the ‘ascension’ literally? Did Jesus stand there on a hill and then start going up, up and away into the clouds? The difficulty some people have is that if you allow the ascension to be understood in a symbolic way, where do you draw the line with other stories in the New Testaments, e.g. did Jesus actually walk on water during his lifetime? What miracles can we accept as actual events, which are to be understood in a symbolic way? There is a huge gap in our Church between the learning of scripture scholars and that of most people at church on Sundays. People who try to bridge the gap often find themselves under attack from others whose faith is being disturbed.

There is an enormous challenge facing us here if we are to bridge that gap, and the challenge is requiring most of us to be open to new ways of understanding and appreciating Scripture. These new ways are not to be dismissed as suspicious, trendy, liberal or dangerous. We are deadline here with truth, with new learning and understanding and scholarship in the name of the Church. Resisting the challenge facing us with ignorance and a refusal to be open to new insight and learning is doing our Church a lot of damage.

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC

Sixth Sunday of Easter – 6th May 2018

This is my commandment:

Love one another as I have loved you. Gospel

The community we call ‘Church’ exists to carry on and to give witness to the mind and heart of Jesus in our world. We who are the ‘community of believers’ are to be people who will love as Jesus loved. This would include also the need to be as compassionate as he was, to think as broadly as he thought, to act as generously as he acted. This is the heart of the matter. All the ceremony, all the ritual all he organization, all the laws, all that exists as Church’s has this one aim: that we be people who will love as Jesus loved. There is only one commandment he gives us.

The Church needs constantly to return to his truth in order to review itself, to prioritise its works and to renew itself.

On the parish level we could ask the question: Does what we do and celebrate
make obvious that we ae people who love others the way Jesus loved?

Reflections for Sundays
God Is With Us
Michael Morwood MSC