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Two reflections for the season of All Saints & All Souls

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 31/10/2020 - 13:23

All Saints Day 2020

“Acceding to the request of our Brother Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, by our apostolic authority we declare that the venerable Servant of God John Henry, Cardinal, Newman, priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed and that his feast shall be celebrated every year of the ninth of October, in the places and according to the norms established by Church law.”

With these words in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI, raised the late Cardinal John Henry Newman to the status of ‘blessed’ - not quite a saint, but almost. To be a full saint takes two accredited miracles. These miracles have to be associated with prayers and calls to the blessed one on behalf of someone in need or distress. in 2010 the prayers of John Henry Newman were credited with the miraculous healing of Fr.Jack Sullivan, a deacon in the States who was suffering from a debilitating and incurable spinal condition and in 2018 a second healing of a pregnant woman was confirmed. This led to his canonisation by Pope Francis on 13th October 2019. Now no longer ‘blessed’ but Saint John Henry Newman.

Quite what you or I might make of all this could be the basis for an excellent discussion. This reflection, however, simply the question; ‘Why saints?’

The history of the Christian Church is full of remarkable men and women who have done much to promote the ways of Jesus and to care for those whom Jesus particularly told us to look after. Many died violent deaths in the cause of their faith, some just grew holy and others would probably wonder how they have become saints at all.

At the most basic level the saints are good examples of a Christian life lived well. A life in which others were put before self and a life which was perhaps lived counter-culturally to the way of life prevalent at the time the saint lived. One only has to think of St.Francis stripping off his rich clothes and giving them and everything he owned to the poor and needy. After a reprobate youth Francis changed and embraced poverty for the sake of others. Initially ridiculed Francis bore the insults and shame to overcome his mockers and to live a life that embraced the poor, the sick, and the outcast. At his death his lifestyle had changed the attitude of many that knew him and he was quickly canonised (proclaimed a saint) by his great admirer Pope Gregory IX.

If I asked you to close your eyes and to think about the saints or who you believe to be a saint, who would come to mind? Probably a few well known names would appear; for me it would have to be Benedict and Thomas, Oscar Romero and Maximilian Kolbe and a few un-canonised saints that I have known throughout my life such as prayerful Betty from the church I attended as a young man. In the Anglican Church we have no mechanism for declaring anyone a saint, although we do have lists of holy men and women and remember them on specific days, like ‘official’ saints: people like Elizabeth Fry, Samuel Seabury and Canon Lawrie of Old St.Paul’s. Ordinary people who did extra-ordinary things and whose actions and lives need to be remembered and celebrated as an encouragement to others today. But what about those, like Betty who do not appear on any list?

You, like me as I said above, will I am sure, have known people that you believe to be a ‘saint of God’. People who for some reason have inspired you by the way they lived their lives. They may even be a template or touchstone for you in the way that you try to live your life. These are ‘personal saints’. One of my personal saints, alongside, is the late Canon Norman Wickham. Norman was for me a great friend, mentor and inspiration. I hope one day to be half the priest he was. Norman was great fun to know and he was wise without being pious or anything less than human. He was a good and faithful priest whose judgement was sound and whose heart was big. I loved him and respected him very much and miss him greatly. I have others too, important people who have touched my life and to whom I remain indebted today. These people for me are just as much saints as those with the official title. None of my personal saints would ever have considered themselves ‘saint-like’ but as St.Luke records those who are blessed are not those we would first expect:

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
   for you will be filled.'
Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.”           Luke 6:20a-21

John Henry Newman would have been one of those people too. He would not have expected to become blessed or on the way to being a saint. He fought too much with the papacy of his day; he was as dissatisfied with the Church of Rome as he was the Church of England. Dogma never sat easily with him and he always wished to question what he was taught or told to believe. In his day John Henry Newman was criticised, reviled and laughed at. He caused quite a furore when he first proposed the idea that theology evolves and develops as culture and time move on. The concept that theology was not static and that we could continually discover and learn more about God was radical, if not almost heretical in the 19th century. What I have always admired in him is that he stuck to his guns and eventually his ideas led to the Second Vatican Council in 1963. The way that the worldwide church has developed over the last 60 years owes much to his thinking. I quote from the biographer John Cornwell:

“The beatification of Cardinal Newman was first formally proposed more than 50 years ago by Mgr Henry Francis Davis of the Diocese of Birmingham, one of Britain's greatest living theologians at that time. Newman's sanctity, an elusive quality after all, may well have been subject to question, if not doubt, down the years, and he has not been a prolific miracle-maker. Yet his vast and continuing contribution to the intellectual and spiritual life of the Church, culminating in the view that he was the architect of the Second Vatican Council, has never been in doubt. As many theologically competent members of the congregation were saying as we spilled out into the bitterly cold afternoon last Sunday: "The wonder is that he wasn't long ago declared a Doctor of the Church."

It seems ironic with hindsight that the very conservative pope Benedict XVI was the one to  beatify this very radical, almost anti-papal priest and less surprising that it was Francis who canonised him.  God certainly has a good sense of humour in the way he gets things done and by whom.

When any human being is declared blessed or made a saint their relics are dug up and put on show – raised to the altar, is the phrase. Relics so the Catholic Church believes, help to spread the presence of the saint. When Newman’s grave was opened there was nothing left, save a scrap of cloth, a wisp of grey hair and the soil in which he was buried:

“At a glorious Mass for the Feast of All Saints … at the Birmingham Oratory all eyes were drawn, again and again, to the glass and gilded-wood casket, the size of a very small doll's house. This ornate box, containing remnants of the earthly existence of John Henry Newman, was set on a velvet-covered stand, or catafalque, to the Gospel side of the sanctuary. As relics they were meagre indeed, hardly "first class" as they say in the reliquary business: a mere wisp of grey hair, a tiny jar of soil from Newman's grave; a titbit of bloodstained linen (a shaving nick perhaps, treasured by a local convent), and a wooden crucifix you could place in the palm of your hand.”

John Cornwell again.

It seems likely that Newman, fearing that someone might try to make him a saint requested that his remains were covered in a mulch to aid decomposition and that they were to remain ‘until the last trump’ with the remains of his long-term companion Fr.Ambrose St.John, who died 30 years before him. Newman wanted to be buried obscurely in the graveyard attached to the Oratory Church on Hagley Road Birmingham and not for his bones to be raised to the altar in a golden reliquary. Well, he almost got his wish and what scraps are on show are probably as much his as they are Fr.Ambrose. So perhaps they are not yet separated.

Whatever John Henry Newman’s beatification says about his life and ministry is, I think, unimportant to the example his life sets for others. He was radical; he was prepared to do that which he believed to be right. His complicated personal life encourages me too. None of us are perfect but his love and commitment to the faith as he discerned it and to his friend and companion is admirable. Newman was a flawed man and he makes a flawed saint, thank God.

Thank God because we need the imperfect to encourage us in our imperfection and we need saints and holy people to inspire us to get on and live the ways of Christ best we can.

The saints are there to guide us and to encourage us in the muddle we call our lives, many of them muddled through, not quite knowing what they were doing but they were assured of the fact that they were trying to live the life that Jesus called then (and us) to live.

All Souls Day 2020

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.

What are we doing as we commemorate and remember our loved ones departed?

In some expressions of the Christian Church the belief is held that by praying for by name at the altar, those who have died get days or years knocked off their time in Purgatory. Purgatory is deemed to be a place of trial that the soul went to after being judged by God, time was spent their working off one’s sins before being fully cleansed one could enter heaven or if one’s sins were so great to be confined to hell fire. Some Christians remain happy with this concept but it is not one that I subscribe to and I suspect that there are many of you who would not do so either. The God, I have come to believe in is not a God of rejection but one of loving acceptance, who always offers us the chance to repent and enter fully in to his presence without having to jump through hoops or to endure hell fire.

The most helpful comment I have ever heard about what might happen to us on our death was from Canon Jane Millard when she was working as chaplain to those living with HIV and AIDS. She said that in the many journeys to their death, that she had accompanied those dying, she had come to believe that we die at the point that we reach our ultimate human perfection and that when we do so we are too perfect to remain in this world and thus enter in to the presence of God.

The second most helpful comment for me comes from the late Cardinal Basil Hume, who once wrote that he believed that at the point of death we get to whisper into God’s ear all the things we want to tell him, with the opportunity to say sorry for the things we got wrong, knowing that as we do so we are fully accepted and welcomed into his loving embrace. We are given the choice to do this or not. If we choose not to, then by our own choice we spend eternity out with the presence of God. God does not reject us we do it ourselves.

For me it is this act of whispering that takes us to the point of perfection and leads us into our death. These comments have helped me move away from any idea of Purgatory and to hope that in death we come fully into God’s being in ways that we cannot comprehend in this life. The first reading this morning seems to me to back this idea up for it tells us that the dead are:

  • In the hands of God, safe and secure from torment
  • They and we have hope of immortality in God’s being
  • God finds us worthy of his love and that in death we will abide in that love forever.

As helpful as these comments are they do not remove the pain of loss and separation that we feel when our loved ones die. That pain is often raw for a long time and I actually think that one never really gets over it but learns to live with the pain better as time passes. The one thing we never do is to forget those we have loved and lost – they remain alive in our memories, hearts and consciousness. In the SEC revised funeral rite there is a phrase in one of the prayers of farewell that asks that the departed will:

“...live on in the hearts and minds, courage and consciences of their family and friends...”

What this means is that every time we think of them be it with tears or with laughter, or when we do something they taught us, we keep their memory alive and in doing so bring ourselves comfort.

There is another funeral prayer that talks of using the time that we have left aright:

“Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the grace to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth. Lead us to repent of our sins, the evil we have done and the good we have not done; and strengthen us to follow the steps of your Son, in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I like this prayer for it reminds us that we all pass through this life quite quickly and that we should try and make the most of it as we do so. We need to regularly reflect upon our lives and to give thanks for the good things and to make amends for the things we got wrong wherever we can. It is a prayer that encourages one not to live one’s life with regrets and to get on and do the things we want to do. We cannot change the past but we can apologise for it, we live in the present and we can deal with things as they arise and we can hope for the future and perhaps control it to some extent too.

So returning to my opening question what does All Souls Day say to us?

It tells us to remember our loved ones both with smiles and sorrow and it tells us not to squander the time we have left. I also think it says to us not to worry about what we may or may not leave behind either. For what we leave behind is ultimately decided by those who are left, for it is they who remember what is important to them about us. This does not mean that we should not try to live a good life, far from it in actual fact because I suspect we would all like the memories we leave behind for others to be good ones.

This morning we are remembering with kind thoughts and prayers of thanksgiving those we love and as we gather at the altar the living and the departed are united in Christ and thus we sing God’s praise; ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord’ for we have a generous and ever loving God and he is our thanksgiving.

 

Oh! On a final note – what is heaven like? It is a question that we could spend the whole of our lives discussing but I once heard someone on ‘Desert Island Discs’ say that he thought heaven was remarkably like this life but that you had had the nose job!

 

Autumn traditions - a few reflections

Submitted by Dean on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 10:39

Folklore & Traditions

a few reflections by Canon Dean Fostekew

There is, think, something about the darker months of the year that seems to engender the creation of different traditions. Halloween is almost upon us with the more modern and American tradition of ‘trick or treat’. Based on the ancient Scottish and Celtic tradition of Samhain, which pre-dates Christianity, it was a time when our ancestors believed that the veil between the living and the dead was very thin and it was all about remembering and commemorating the dead. It also confronted death with humour and ridicule, to help keep that “other world” at bay. The Christian practice of keeping All Saints and All Souls  Days on the 1st and 2nd November grew out of this tradition with Halloween becoming ‘All Hallows Eve’ - the preparation for the celebration on the 1st November, when a festival Mass would have been said and a party followed.

The 31st October was also the start of the Celtic New Year and not about ‘ghosties and goulies’, however many of you will remember the tradition of  ‘guising’ at Halloween. Guising is all about disguise. On Halloween, when it was believed that spirits could walk among the living, people dressed up to protect themselves. If a spirit came looking for you, it might not recognise you. Guising door-to-door was also a way of building social bonds and relieving community tensions. It was always meant to be a bit of fun. I suspect the ‘trick or treat’ aspect came from this knocking on doors and hoping for a warm welcome. A bit like carol singing, if you performed well you got a treat!

For me, growing up in the South  of England, guising and Halloween was a bit of a mystery when I came to Scotland. At this time of the year I was more familiar with Bonfire Night. I can remember children making ‘guys’ to burn on the bonfire and collecting money to buy fireworks. This was well before Health and Safety crossed anyones mind! On the 5th November the people from my local community gathered in the old kiln area and an enormous bonfire would be lit. As the fireworks filled the skies we would enjoy playing with sparklers and eating jacket potatoes filled with butter that had been cooked in the flames. But, I wonder how many folk associated the fun with the attempt to blow James VI to bits in Parliament in 1605?

As November moves in to December we have more traditions associated with light and the light returning to the dark world. For Christians this was to herald  the coming birthday of Jesus Christ and to celebrate the fact that He is the light of our world. One only has to think of the Advent Ring - perhaps some of you remember its annual creation on Blue Peter? - with an additional candle lit every Sunday in Advent and the final candle lit on Christmas Day. No doubt you’ll hear more about theses traditions in the coming weeks.

What are the traditions you most remember associated with this time of the year?

Reflection for Bible Sunday 25th October 2020 by Canon Dean Fostekew

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 12:28

Bible Sunday 2020 Year A

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak; forbidden fruit; set your teeth on edge; in the twinkling of an eye; give up the ghost; by the skin of your teeth; bite the dust; a wolf in sheep’s clothing; cast the first stone and can a leopard change its spots?”

Familiar words and phrases which all come from the King James Version of the Bible. As the historian Jenny Wormald says:

“The translators somehow had a wonderful instinct for evocative language. Their towering achievement was not that it was complete, or that it was accurate, but that they produced an edition of the Bible where the language sang.”

Many of you will have grown up, like your parents and grandparents before you, very familiar with the words of the King James Bible. Until the 1970’s it was really the only Bible used in churches of an Anglican ilk. Comfortable and familiar words to you but perhaps more confusing to generations of my age and younger, especially for those like me coming from homes where religious practice was rare. I can appreciate the poetic constructs of the King James Version of the Bible and read it aloud but my personal preference is for the New Revised Standard Version a translation that chimes with the language and phrasing I have grown up with.

Some of you might dislike so called ‘modern translations’ as being too modern – but you have to remember that the ‘Good News’ version is now over 50 years old! What we forget, though, is that 400 years ago the King James Version was seen as being radical and different as well. What has become familiar and acceptable to us was in 1611 new and strange and enforced by law to; ‘be read in all churches’. In this there was no choice, it was what the King, James VI/I wanted and decreed and because he was head of the church it was what you got!

As a small boy I was fascinated by the great, chained Bible in my Grandmother’s Aunt’s (my great, great Aunt) village church – St.Michael in Cumnor (Oxfordshire). It was then still used every week and at the time I can remember being filled with a sense of history and the presence of God simply by touching it as others had done over almost four centuries. The King James Version has influenced our churches and our language in Britain more than anything or anyone else. As Melvyn Bragg is quoted as saying:

“There is no doubt in my mind that the King James Bible not Shakespeare set this language on its path to become a universal language on a scale unprecedented before or since.”

Words used in this version have also helped to ensure that Christ’s words have not ‘passed away’ either. But there is a danger, a danger not just with the King James Version but with the Bible per se.

In the first reading from Nehemiah, today, amidst all those impossible names there is a phrase that can easily be over looked. Yet it is one of significant importance. Importance because it is the key to countering the dangers of the Bible:

“helped the people understand”

From the earliest times of the Hebrew faith, out of which Christ came and our faith grew. There have been prophets and teachers who have taught the people and helped to explain what the Scriptures meant. There was never a tradition of accepting the texts as written, they were supposed to be interpreted and explanation sought as to what they might mean here and now. When the Bible is read without interpretation or explanation it can be very dangerous. Dangerous in that it can be used to control people and to frighten them into submission. The medieval church worked on this principle and some congregations, denominations and sects continue to do so today. In this month of Black History we are also reminded how the Bible was used to justify slavery and the inhuman treatment of equals on the basis of skin colour alone.

As someone who is thoroughly Anglican but catholic (with a small ‘C’), I have been led to believe that Scripture is not the inerrant word of God but a record of people’s experiences of God through the ages, a record written in human language codes which in themselves contain something of the essence of God but not a total understanding of him. The Bible was not dictated by God to anyone man (women hardly get a look in as prophets and teachers) it has grown up over many thousands of years in response to humanity’s experience of the divine or that which we call God. Very few books of the Bible, despite their titles, are actually the single work of anyone person. There is more than one ‘Paul’ and umpteen ‘Isaiah’s’ for a start and let alone how many psalmists. Even the four Gospel accounts are different in the details they record.

It is for this reason that for me, and I know that I am not alone in this, the Bible both the Old and New Testaments cannot be read or interpreted fundamentally. They contain enough universal truth for salvation but they are not without inaccuracy, contradiction and bias; they are imperfect. This is why the Bible can be dangerous when some choose to insist that the Bible is perfect and use its imperfections to persecute others or to justify inhuman actions towards those who think or appear different to them.

Without interpretation we would still support slavery; women would be considered less than men and anyone who was not male, not white, not heterosexual or disabled should probably be burnt at the stake. James VI persecuted many women as witches despite being an excellent scholar and Biblical revisionist, simply because they were good healers. We may laugh at his actions today, but we forget that in some places in the world similar things continue to happen in the name of the Bible – like Uganda’s repeated attempts to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals. Legislation proposed by a ‘Christian Government’ but supported by the Anglican Church there. ‘Burning at the stake' still happens.

Despite its dangers the Bible also contains some of the most humane and loving commandments. What better rule of life could there be than to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’? When the Bible is studied critically, prayed about, interpreted and expounded with love it can be the most effective tool for change in our world. When not, it is I believe dangerous beyond words and belief.

We have a gift in the Bible, a gift that with interpretation and love can be used to effect great change and the establishment of a Holy Commonwealth or Kingdom here on earth. Used wisely its power is immense; used badly and it can be so destructive that one could wonder if it had any good in it at all. Its use, good or bad though depends on one thing – US and that really makes you think.

Reflection from the Rev'd David Warnes for Sunday 18th October 2020 St.Luke's Day

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 11:10

St Luke Year A 2020 Good Shepherd

I wonder how many of you used to enjoy the Peanuts cartoon strip by the American artist Charles M. Schulz – the cartoons which featured Charlie Brown and Snoopy, the dog who fantasized about being a First World War fighter ace. Schulz was a lifelong church attender and a Sunday School teacher. He comes to mind today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Evangelist St Luke, because today’s Gospel reading was his favourite passage from the New Testament. It’s a reading which encourages us to think about the nature of peace.

When Jesus instructs the disciples about how to conduct themselves on the mission on which he is sending them, he tells them:

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.”

It’s a strange and profound saying, for it suggests that peace is something tangible, something that the disciples can carry and offer to people; something which may be accepted or rejected but which is not diminished by rejection. It is the person who rejects the peace who misses out, not the person who offers it.

Peace has many meanings. The peace of which Jesus speaks here is not an absence of noise, nor an absence of worries; not even an absence of conflict. The Hebrew word shalom, translated as peace, means much more than that. An American Rabbi, Robert Kahn, defined it thus:

One can dictate a peace; shalom is a mutual agreement.

Peace is a temporary pact; shalom is a permanent agreement.

One can make a peace treaty; shalom is the condition of peace.

Peace can be negative, the absence of commotion.

shalom is positive, the presence of serenity.

Peace can be partial; shalom is whole.

Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete.

An ancient and reliable tradition has it that St Luke was a physician. His Gospel has plenty of medical detail in it and many stories of healing, and it is likely that his presence with the imprisoned Paul, mentioned in today’s Epistle, was helpful for that reason, as well as for the spiritual support that he offered. For Luke, healing was far more than the curing of medical conditions. It was a restoration to wholeness, a restoration to community, a process intimately bound up with forgiveness. Healing was, in short, a re-establishing of shalom.

Today’s Gospel makes clear that shalom requires us to be both generous bearers of peace and willing recipients of it. Shalom is a two-way street.

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.”

To be a willing recipient of peace is not easy, for it involves acknowledging our needs – our need of healing, our need of forgiveness, our need of both the benefits and demands, the joys, the sorrows and the vulnerabilities of being in relationships.

To be a bearer and a giver of peace is no less difficult, for that involves an openness to and a discernment of the needs of others; a willingness to meet those needs. The Jesus of whom we read in Luke’s Gospel has a complete understanding of the people whom he encounters. He offers them shalom in the form of healing and forgiveness.

One of the characters in the Charlie Brown cartoons is a girl called Lucy van Pelt. She is a pretty acidic person whose mission in life is to deflate other people, including her long-suffering friend Charlie. Lucy is not a bearer or giver of shalom. In one of their encounters Lucy says:

“You know what I see when I look at you, Charlie Brown? I see failure written all over your face!”

There’s an approach to Christian evangelism which might be called the Lucy van Pelt approach because it starts by telling people that they are sinners and that they are badly in need of salvation. You may have encountered it on your own doorstep or in the form of one of those sandwich- board carriers whose sign says: “Repent for the end is nigh”. It wasn’t Jesus’ way, as today’s Gospel makes clear, and it shouldn’t be ours. Rather we are called to share the peace of Christ, to share what we encounter and receive in the Eucharist.

Charles M. Schulz understood that well. Lucy’s words to Charlie were cutting and judgmental:

“You know what I see when I look at you, Charlie Brown? I see failure written all over your face!”

Charlie Brown’s response was profoundly wise:

“Just look at my face...don’t write on it!”

Our calling is to do, as best we can, what Jesus did – to discern the needs of others and respond to them. That is the tangible gift of healing peace that we can offer in the hope that it will be accepted. That is a peace which is far more than the security for which all human beings long, more even than the absence of conflict which would be such a blessing in Yemen, Nagorno- Karabakh and other places. It is a costly peace because it involves the risk of reaching out in trust to those who are different, being open to their needs and their fears. And the starting point for that is:

“Just look at my face, don’t write on it!” Amen.

Sunday 11th October 2020 Trinity XVIII A reflection from the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 10/10/2020 - 14:16

Trinity XVIII – Sunday 11th October 2020

Think about these things……

As a lawyer, I spend much of my working week thinking about words. What do they mean? What do they say? Have I understood them? Am I being clear when I speak or write? Do I have the courage to say that I don’t understand what is being said or what a particular impressive word might mean?

There is a client who invariably uses the phrase “modus operandi” in every conversation we have. I know what it means but it is not a phrase I would use myself.

Since I was last with you over six months ago, I have had time to think about what has been happening globally; in our own communities; in our circle of friends and among colleagues. How have things changed? What is important to me? What are my priorities? What does the future hold? When will I be able to attend a live concert, or travel abroad or go down to London?

I recently went into the local post office to get some five-pound notes for my elderly mother. She does not have internet banking and relies upon cash or writing cheques. In front of me was an old lady with a walking stick, not unlike her. She asked for a stamp, removed it from the sticky backing and put it on her envelope prior to handing it over to be posted. As she turned round to leave, the postmaster said “Do you wish me to put the sticky backing in the bin?”. She replied “Yes. Thank you.  I didn’t see it”. That was not sufficient for him. He persisted by saying “It is normal to put waste paper in the bin; don’t you know?”. She replied further by saying “I’m sorry. I’m just a bit nervous today”. She turned round, bowed her head and left suitably chastened and rebuked. There was no need for such behaviour. He was being disrespectful and objectionable. I had seen it before. What was even more galling was that there was a sign in front of the counter saying “Abusive and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated”. My dilemma, being next in the queue, was whether or not to say anything to him.

The words from Philippians 4:8-9 which we hear today: -

“Finally, beloved,

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable,

Whatever is just, whatever is pure,

Whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable,

If there is any excellence

And if there is anything worthy of praise,

Think about these things.

Keep on doing the things that you have learned

And received and heard and seen in me,

And the God of peace will be with you”.

are some of my favourite. They speak of all that is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. Some of the characteristics of what it means to love, to be human, to be kind, to be vulnerable. Seeking to follow the One who became flesh and dwelt among us and who still longs to be known by us too.

In the delightful book “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse” by Charlie Mackesy  he writes in the foreward “I hope that this book encourages you perhaps to live courageously with more kindness for yourself and others. And to ask for help when you need it - which is always a brave thing to do”.

Think about these things…….