Articles

Earth Hour 2021

Submitted by Dean on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 14:50

Earth Hour Saturday 27th March 8.30-9.30pm

2021 presents an unmissable opportunity. In 2021, world leaders will come together during key global conferences and forums (most importantly in Glasgow in November at the COP26) to set the environmental agenda for the next decade and beyond. Crucial political decisions will be made on climate action, nature, and sustainable development –- decisions that will directly affect the fate of humanity and our planet for years to come.

This Saturday evening switch off your lights, light a candle, say the prayer below and with millions around the world give the Earth a chance to breathe; as we all save an hour’s worth of resources. Pray also for COP26 that its outcomes will benefit Creation.

Creator God, this earth is beautiful and fragile. Forgive our confusion and inaction as we confront the challenges of climate change. In the light of your truth, seen so clearly in the life and teachings of Jesus, help us to re-examine ourselves and our lifestyle choices and see clearly the implications of how we live, on all that sustains life on earth. May we follow your lead in caring for every aspect of this precious world, which you made and love. Inspire us now to work together, as your people, to change priorities in the way we live so that we build a fair and safe world for all your creation and for future generations. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

Thoughts for Passion Sunday Lent V 21st March 2021 by the Rev'd Canon Dean Fostekew

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 10:14

Lent V 2021 Passion Sunday Year B

“Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks ...” John 12:20

Today’s Gospel, contains something that is worth focusing on - that is the call to evangelism. The Disciples are asked by the Greeks to show them Jesus and they ask Philip for an introduction.The Greeks have been intrigued by what they had heard of Jesus and were also hungry for his good news. These Greeks had obviously heard of Jesus and his radical preaching and felt that it had something to say to them. They also acknowledged that they needed help accessing an audience with Jesus and that’s why they turned to Philip. Philip became the bridge between the Greeks and Jesus, between those seeking the ‘good news’ and the Good News himself. They need Philip to act as their evangelist and to bring Jesus to them.

This is something that remains true today. The ‘Good News’ of Christ is available to all God’s people but quite often a guide is needed to lead them to what they need to hear. Many also need an interpreter to help them understand what they hear as well. That’s where we followers of Jesus come in.

We are the people who are called to lead others to Christ - to the ‘good news’ and to explain to others what it means to us. We often do this quite naturally when we talk with others about our faith or our church-going. When we do so we are actually being evangelists for Christ - did you ever realise that? Evangelism sounds as though it is something difficult or complicated when in fact it is really very simple. It is as simple as talking about your faith in Jesus or inviting someone to join you at church. There is, however, a question we all need to ask ourselves; ‘How often have I invited someone to come along to church with me and to hear what the Gospel has to say to them?’

A few years ago while on holiday in Gran Canaria I attended the Sunday service in the Anglican Chaplaincy. At the service the priest preached a short homily in which he emphasised the value of reading the Scriptures on a regular basis, and most especially of reading the Gospels - the true good news of Christ. He told a story of how a young man, a confirmed atheist, came to faith after reading St.Mark’s Gospel account. He had given the young man a copy of the Gospel when he had sought him out for guidance and he had also invited him to come back at anytime, to talk again.

Have you ever read the Gospels all the way through? Have you seen how they fit together and how they differ? If you haven’t why not use these last few weeks of Lent to do so. Start with Mark then read Matthew then Luke and end with John. You will no doubt find new things within them, be comforted and encouraged by familiar words and I hope intrigued to read more and find out more about your faith.

For the more Scripture we read the more enthusiasm we can have for sharing the ‘Good News’. The more enthusiasm we have, the more excitement we develop the greater the desire to share that excitement with another is and when you share your insights with another, that’s when you are truly being an evangelist. Who knows it might just be your words that help someone else come to faith?

A refection for Lent IV Mothering Sunday 14th March 2021 by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Submitted by Dean on Fri, 12/03/2021 - 20:47

I wonder whether, like me, you ever get confused between “Mother’s Day” and “Mothering Sunday”? I often have to remind myself as to the difference between them and their respective significances. As you may recall “Mother’s Day” is a celebration honouring the mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.

On the other hand “Mothering Sunday” is a day honouring mothers and mother churches celebrated annually during Lent. On Mothering Sunday, ChrisCans have historically visited their mother church – the church in which they received the sacrament of baptism. It coincides with “Laetare Sunday”, (otherwise called “Refreshment Sunday”) being a day of respite from fasting halfway through the season of Lent. We are encouraged to rejoice that day. Symbolically the altar frontals and vestments are rose coloured rather than penitenial purple.

I doubt that many of us here will actually have been baptised at the Church of the Good Shepherd. I was baptised many years ago at the parish church where my grandmother was a member, where my parents were married and where my mother remains. I pass it every time I go home. There is something special about that family connection even if some family are no longer with us. Looking back, it clearly had an important part in my life. Can you recall where you were baptised? What connections are still there?

In choosing an image to illustrate Mothering Sunday I was reminded of a “Matryoshka doll”. You may recall these comprise a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. You may still have one. They are often seen as a symbol or traditional representation of the mother carrying a child with her. It can also be seen as a representation of a chain of mothers carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb. They illustrate the unity of body, soul, mind, heart and spirit.

In his 2021 Lenten book “Thy will be done”, Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College, Cambridge makes reference to the concept of “motherly father”. It is not one which I have really come across before. Not only does it challenge how we think of God but it offers us a fresh insight into our understanding too. One of the images he refers to is the well-known fifteenth century icon by Andrei Rublev based upon the hospitality of Abraham. He comments that “for many who meditate on it they will be struck by the feminine nature of the forms and the androgyny”. What do you think?

He then goes on to comment that “part of the power of that icon is that it communicates something integrating and healthy and complete about our understanding of God’s nature and relationship with us. However there are many people for whom that health and fullness is no longer conveyed by the word “father” alone. Whatever we say, however, when we use the word “father” here we are implying “mother” and referring to the loving kindness of God. What do you think?

The story of Moses in the basket made of bullrushes symbolises so much of motherhood, tenderness, compassion, love and much more. As does the prayer which I wish to conclude with:-

Loving God,
We give you thanks for all who care for us, Who have encouraged us and helped us grow, Who have forgiven us,
And cared for us when we are unwell,
Who have supported us when times were hard, Who have challenged us
Who have told us about you.
Thank you, Amen.

Reflection for Lent III 7th March 2021 by the Rev'd Canon Dean Fostekew

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 16:00

Lent III 2021 Year B

Exodus 20:1-17 1Corinthians 1:18-25 John 2:13-22

“Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield Avenue, Murrayfield. Incumbency. Church seated for 225. Patrons, The Vestry with the Bishop as adviser. Parsonage house rated at £175. Endowments producing £100 per annum. Architect – Sir Robert Lorimer. Church dedicated 1899; consecrated 1905....Members 420; communicants 306; Sunday school 36. Useage Scottish Office 1929. Lights. Vestments. Reservation, Hymnal for Scotland...Magazine local.”

So states the description of this church in the SEC Year Book (Red Book) of 1975/6, although this description does not explicitly say so, like other Episcopal churches the seats were ‘free’. You didn’t have to rent your pew in order to attend church. In other words you did not have to pay to worship.

I remember as a teenager, visiting one of the southern cathedrals, with my great aunt and uncle and being very annoyed at being expected to pay to get into pray. The turnstiles were erected in the porch and the officious stewards or sides persons growled at you if you dared to challenge the entrance fee. It was the same in the Cathedral, in which I was ordained. I often visited it during my curacy in the diocese. In order to ‘pop in’ to pray or worship you had to present yourself in ‘dog-collar’ at the back door and if approved you were let in – again it used to annoy me.

My most recent annoyance occurred in a London church where on entering to pray one was shepherded into a small side chapel, it felt as though one was directed to the broom cupboard, so that one’s praying might not upset the paying guests, I gave up trying to go to evensong there.

Thankfully and thank God, in our Cathedral or this church you do not have to pay to pray or just to get in. Yes! We might be missing a trick, in raising much needed funds but we could never be accused of keeping anyone out because they didn’t have the cash to come in. Donations, especially gift aided are always welcome but that is the gift of a generous giver and not the ‘set fee’ to cross the threshold. There is a big difference.

My grumpiness with certain English Cathedrals helps me to understand Christ’s anger at discovering his worship place full of traders making a fortune out of honest pilgrims and worshippers. It was big business in the Temple. To pray to God, or to ask for forgiveness of sins involved offering a blood sacrifice – from doves to cattle depending on the sin, and sacrifice was not free, you had to pay for it and it wasn’t cheap. You needed to have the right money or currency, hence the presence of the money changers, who would help you on that score, for a commission fee!

The Temple would have been busy and noisy with competing sellers trying to get the faithful to shop at their stall rather than that of their neighbours – worship certainly took second place. So no wonder Jesus got cross. In fact he got more than cross, he got really, really angry. Can you imagine seeing the gentle man you knew get so worked up that he whipped the traders out of the temple, warning them that lust for money would bring the whole place down. The placid man explodes and if you know someone like him you’ll know that when they blow, they really explode with anger. I wish I had had the courage to kick down those cathedral turnstiles rather than just politely challenging the ticket sellers as to why I had to pay to pray?

Righteous anger can change things as it did that day in the Temple but it lead to increasing hostility towards Jesus by those in power, who demanded to know by whose authority, Jesus, thought he was able to behave as he did. They could see profits dropping and feared that others might behave in the same way, unless they did something about it. Let the people worship for free – what a mad idea!

Today, we don’t charge you to worship – we may teach you the facts of stewardship and tithing to encourage you to share of the blessings God has given you but we won’t ever charge or bill you. Giving to the church should be something one wants and chooses to do, as a prayerful response to God’s grace poured freely upon us – not as an attempt to buy that grace. You can’t buy it anyway because God just keeps pouring it out upon us but we are given it in order that we can share it with others.

There, is however, something deeper in this tale of Christ’s anger in the Temple. There is more to it than Jesus just turfing the money changers and their cronies out of the Temple. Jesus is cleansing the Temple to make it pure and in the process he is cleansing himself as well. Cleansing himself to meet his God, his Father in his coming passion and death. This cleansing echoes the deep cleansing we can make when we confess our sins and those things that keep us from God and when we seek purification from them in the blessings that God freely gives us. Jesus cast out the evil influences in the Temple both the physical building and the temple of his own body. We too need to cleanse our temples, our bodies – those holy places sanctified by Baptism and God’s ‘charis’ (grace) - and Lent is a good time to do it.

Few people seek the sacrament of confession or better called reconciliation, than they did in the past. For Anglicans it has always been optional because of the regular use of the general confession incorporated into our acts of worship be it the Eucharist or Evensong. In confession, be it general or personal, we have an opportunity to really cleanse ourselves of the things that clutter us up and burden our hearts and souls. We do it in the knowledge that when we receive the absolution our sins are truly ‘put away’, forgiven, gone. Through absolution we are ‘resurrected’ into new life, able to have another go, to try to do better, to try not to sin again. We are cleansed by absolution because the act of confession drives out sin.

The image of Jesus driving out the bad influences in the Temple is a good icon to keep before yourself this Lent. Ponder on what he did and why he did it. Pray that you can identify those things you need to purge from your being and chuck them out, leaving more space to be filled with God’s grace. Grace that you can then share with others because once you remove blockages you can’t but overflow with it. As you give this grace away you are being truly ‘Eucharistic’ truly full of thanksgiving for all that you have and all that have to share.

Freely give as you have been freely given, you don’t need to pay for grace it comes with love and no charge.

A reflection for Lent II Sunday 29th February 2021 by the Rev'd David Warnes

Submitted by Dean on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 16:26

Lent II 2021

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

 

The version of the Daily Office that the Scottish Episcopal Church offers during Lent is called “Returning to God” and this is a helpful reminder of the meaning of Lent. Our experience of returning to God will, of course, be shaped by the mental and spiritual picture of God that we have. Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings might not seem to offer the same image of God but that is because those challenging words of Jesus at the head of this reflection have often been taken out of context.

They immediately follow a passage in which Jesus has asked the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter has replied: “You are the Messiah”, using a word loaded with all kinds of hopes and expectations. Jesus then challenged those hopes and expectations by saying that he “must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

This was not what Peter was expecting to hear. His image of the Messiah was all about the restoration of an independent kingdom and the purification of Temple worship, a Messiah who would be welcomed by elders, chief priests and scribes, not condemned by them. That is why Peter rebuked Jesus and, in rebuking him, reprised one of the temptations that Jesus had experienced during his forty days in the wilderness – the temptation to take the shortcuts offered by political power. It is this reprising that caused Jesus to say “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Our images of God are sometimes based on human things rather than on the divine reality. If we took Jesus’ words about taking up the cross and losing one’s life literally and took them out of context, that might make us think of God as a demanding disciplinarian, a cosmic version of the PE teacher who in the 1960s repeatedly told me “You’re not trying hard enough”.

When Jesus challenged his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross, he wasn’t imposing a discipline on them. Rather he was teaching them about his own way of living. He knew that most of those who had encountered him, including his closest disciples, thought of him as a person of power – a powerful teacher, one who spoke with authority, a powerful healer able to cure physical and mental ailments. That was why Peter and others believed that he would use this power to achieve the political liberation and the religious revival for which they longed. In this Gospel passage Jesus is saying “I’m not about power, I’m about love.”

To have power is to be in control of one’s life and circumstances. To live lovingly is to give up that kind of control, to be vulnerable, to be open to bearing the burdens of other people. To live like that is to surrender power and to live by faith.

Our Old Testament reading encourages us to think about the nature of faith. God’s covenant with Abraham included the promise that he and Sarah will be the ancestors of many nations. The promise was improbable for Abraham was very old, and Sarah was apparently beyond child-bearing age. Yet, as Paul writes, Abraham had faith in God’s promise despite those realities and grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is a very helpful definition of faith – an open-ended and loving trust in God’s promises. That is exactly what Jesus is calling us to do when he invites us to take up the cross and follow him. It is an invitation to follow him by living open-endedly and lovingly, by learning to be a person for others. That is not easy, but faith, as Abraham understood, involves trusting that God will provide the resources we need to do that and the most important of those resources is love.

One of the teachers whose memories I cherish was the redoubtable woman who did her best to make a pianist of me, without much success. Her mantra was “You need to practise more”. Lent is an opportunity to practise, to find time to reflect on God’s infinite love for us and for everyone, to find ways of being receptive to the love of God. Lent in lockdown has sent me back to the writings of Julian of Norwich, the 14th century mystic who chose to be walled up in a cell attached to a church in that city in order to live a life devoted prayer – a drastic form of voluntary lockdown. That was a time of pandemic disease – between a third and half of the population of Europe died of bubonic plague during Julian’s lifetime - and most of her contemporaries believed that this catastrophe was a punishment sent by an angry and judgemental God. Julian rejected that idea completely. She believed that there is no wrath in God. These words of hers may help us properly to understand a Gospel passage that might seem harsh and demanding:

“...do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same."

Amen