Articles

Pentecost sermon by Caroline Longley (Lay Reader)

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 13:11

Reflection for Sunday 31st May 2020
The Readings for this Sunday are John 20 19-23 and Acts 2 1-21

Gracious God, open our hearts and minds to receive your love and to hear your words to us today. Amen.

Recently I have been enjoying spotting young fledglings in my parent’s garden. Sparrows, Starling and Blackbird have so far made an appearance. Each look well fed and sometimes they are fatter than the harassed parents. The starling was still sporting the yellow gape “the feed me here marking”. They are also identifiable by that look of uncertainty at the world they inhabit. Whilst the adults come and go from the bird feeder with confidence, the youngsters land clumsily on the ground and then look up at it quizzically. Or they perch – slightly wobbly - in the nearby crab apple tree and wait for the food to come to them.

Making my first supermarket trip after quite a few weeks in self-isolation I felt somewhat similar to one of these fledglings. Slightly wobbly, and uncertain at this different world that I now had to face. Quizzically trying to work out the protocol for socially distanced queuing.

This seems in stark contrast to Peter’s confident emergence in our reading from Acts. As he moves from the fear of the upper room, and that time of waiting into a confident, Spirit filled speech to the waiting crowd.

The commonality though, is in the movement, the changing of circumstances and this something that we can perhaps identify with. After a long period of waiting, of sticking, as it were, to the safety of our nests, some of us now see the first signs of being able to cautiously poke our heads out. Although please remember those who must continue to shield themselves.

And quite rightly, we will need to move with caution. Quite rightly it will be a while before we can meet together again, and when we do, aspects of the way that we do church together will have to be different. And that will be a wrench. I suspect we may all be peering about quizzically for a while and trying to make sense of this new and different world. As our Primus +Mark has said, we closed the doors of the church out of love, out of a desire to keep everyone safe. And that must continue to be our overriding concern.

We often identify God with the safety of the unchangeable, with traditions that we know and love, with the stability of our buildings, the music and hymns that connect us with previous generations of worshippers. We think of the God who was and is and is to come, whose good character is certain. God who is perfect and who therefore does not have need or reason to change.

And yet at Pentecost we see a different facet of God. We see God in motion, God in the symbols of fire and wind. God who runs like a flame over a field of dry grass, or who dances like a candle flame. God who, like the wind, sets our whole world in motion. God whose touch moves the disciples from hiding away to proclaiming the good news. The God of change.

The earliest descriptions we have of Christian baptism specify that the water used should be running water – a stream or river. The living water as a symbol for God – again we have running movement, ripple and change and travel.

So we celebrate today, the birthday of the church and more personally, perhaps, the memory, or knowledge of our own baptism. The moment when we changed into one of God’s own, gradually or suddenly, however and whenever we consider that to have happened. And in the external changes that we continue to face, we can know that we

have a God who, is not only ‘back there’ in the familiar ways of doing church but who actually, is OK with change, is sometimes the agent of change, and who will fly and run and dance along with us as we go.

No change in Church lockdown. Latest news from the College of Bishops

Submitted by Dean on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 15:34

NO CHANGE TO COLLEGE OF BISHOPS’ GUIDANCE AT PHASE 1 OF EASING LOCKDOWN

Following the announcement by the First Minister that Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s route map will take effect tomorrow [Friday 29 May], the College of Bishops has confirmed that the minor easing of lockdown restrictions permitted under Phase 1 does not result in any change to existing guidance previously issued by the College of Bishops for the Scottish Episcopal Church. Church buildings therefore remain closed for the time being and the guidance issued on 23 and 26 March 2020 remains in place.

The Advisory Group established to provide guidance for SEC churches has had its first meeting and is working to address the respective phases of the Government’s route map. Initially, therefore, it is concentrating on guidance for Phase 2 which will be issued as soon as it is available.

When, in due course, the reopening of churches becomes permissible, as the College of Bishops has previously indicated, no church will be required to reopen against its will. The vestry of each church will be responsible for assessing, in the light of guidance produced, whether it wishes to reopen and is in a position to put in place the measures which will be necessary for any such reopening. It will then need to approach the Bishop for consent to reopen. Guidance will indicate the appropriate process to follow but, in substance, the intention is that both the vestry and Bishop will need to be content before any reopening can occur.

General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church         Scottish Charity No SC015962

Sing Out!

Submitted by Dean on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 14:39

Sing Out!

There is a well known phrase associated with St.Augustine of Hippo a 5th century theologian which goes:

“He who sings, prays twice.”

or in the original Latin; Qui bene contat bis orat’ which actually translates as; ‘He who sings WELL prays twice’. Either of these phrases are good, although the correct translation is probably more accurate about singing wellTo be truthful, though, St.Augustine did not actually say either of them! He did write that:

“..singing belongs to one who loves..”

or more accurately:

“For he who sings praise, does not only praise but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings but also loves Him whom he is singing about, to or for.”

Basically, what St.Augustine is saying is that singing is an act of love. Not only do we sing to God out of love, we sing to each other as a love gift too, regardless of how our voice actually sounds!

Think of the times when you may have sung to someone you love and care about; lullabies to a baby, nursery rhymes to an infant, the lyrics of ‘your song’ to your partner or as I did as my aunt was dying the words of her favourite hymn. No matter how good or bad our voices may be we have been given them to sing out with. I suspect that we humans have been making singing noises since we first evolved the ability to speak.

Just look at how a small child learns to talk, they not only repeat words they sing them and by singing them they memorise them, while playing with them at the same time. We adults sometimes forget to have fun with our voices and singing can be a good reminder to us to enjoy our vocal abilities – whatever sound we make is God given and as such acceptable to God.

In this time of lockdown, singing to yourself or for another or even with another on a video call or the telephone can be a great comfort and good fun. As you sing your favourite hymns sing them with love; love for God and for each other and as we do so we will pray twice, whether or not St.Augustine said it originally.

Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension (Easter VII) by the Rev'd David Warnes

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 13:06

For many years I have been a casual collector of famous last words – the final utterances of the great, the good and the not so good. By the 19th century it had rather come to be expected that great men and women would use their final breath either to express some profound truth or at least say something memorable. One of my favourites, because of its combination of wit and theological soundness, was uttered by Charlie Chaplin. When the priest who was attending his deathbed said “May the Lord have mercy on your soul” Charlie retorted. “Why shouldn’t he? It belongs to him.” And belonging is one of the themes of this Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus says of his disciples:

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine”

This Gospel doesn’t have Jesus’ last words, but it is part of his final prayer for his disciples. It appears in St John’s Gospel shortly before the account of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, so it might seem an odd choice for the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost because it takes us back to the day before the Crucifixion. It’s an appropriate choice because one of the other themes of this “Prayer of Farewell” is change – change for Jesus because his earthly life is about to end, change for the disciples because their understanding of Jesus will be transformed by his death and, after a brief, tragic “in between time”, by his Resurrection. For the same disciples, the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost was a time of waiting for change, another “in between time”.

The “Prayer of Farewell” can speak to us in a very difficult “in between time”, the weeks and months between the normality that ended with the beginning of the lockdown and the new normality that we cannot yet fully discern, and in the shaping of which we are called to play our part. In between times can be very difficult. The poet Matthew Arnold, a man who mourned the loss of faith – his own and other people’s - found himself

“Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born”

Jesus understood the difficulty of “in between times” and his prayer acknowledges that he will not be present to the disciples in the way that he has been. He says

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world.”

The thrust of the prayer is that the disciples are being called to live in the way that Jesus has lived his earthly life – accepting change, and believing that change can be transformative, even the bitter and painful change of his death. Jesus’ acceptance of change made possible astonishing, empowering changes in his followers – the changes which we shall celebrate at Pentecost. They came to understand that their

calling was to be the continuing presence of Christ in the world, affirming the reality and the value of that world, while at the same time pointing to a greater reality. That became possible for them because they understood and began to live out the experience of belonging, of belonging to God and belonging one to another. And they lived it openly and open-endedly, seeking to share the possibility of abundant life which they had discovered.

It was that sense of belonging that made them receptive to the Holy Spirit and open to change. Our calling is the same as theirs; to live in the world, to engage with it and to care for its people. That involves challenging the world’s assumptions when those assumptions are obstacles to human flourishing. The practical witness that we and other Eco-Congregations try to make is an example of that kind of challenge. I think we are also called upon to challenge politicians when they treat people as a means to some social or economic goal, and when they employ the rhetoric of “We’re all in this together” while pursuing policies which penalise some in order that others may prosper.

“We’re all in this together” isn’t a bad summary of the Christian gospel, but the “this” that we are all in is nothing negative. The Christian doctrine of human togetherness rests on the understanding that we all belong to God. If we live out that truth, that sense of belonging, then the possibility of being “changed from glory into glory” can be realized.

Amen.

 

A prayer from Christian Aid for the people of Bangladesh & India

Submitted by Dean on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 16:25

'O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.' (Isaiah 54:11)

God of refuge, 

protect our sisters and brothers in Bangladesh and India, 

tossed far from their homes by Cyclone Amphan. 

Some afraid to evacuate for fear of a pandemic disease,

surrounded by catastrophe and debris. 

Comfort them as they journey and where they stay. 

Your love knows no distance, O God be near your children in peril.

Set them on their way to safety, let them find your help. 

Awaken in our hearts a love that reaches out –

a love that shelters neighbours from the storm,

a love that lays the foundations for recovery,

a love that perseveres. 

We pray for their protection to you, 

our God who never gives up. 

In Jesus name, 

Amen

To donate to Christian Aid go to www.christianaid.org.uk