I don’t often quote Scripture but hey here goes….
Luke 12:15-21 (NIV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
I want to examine the actions of others and also my own actions in response to the very worrying and sad coronavirus. So here is my story…
We run a medical business which needs to use medical supplies (masks, gloves, skin disinfectant etc), and a body jewellery business which we have manufactured in China.
My man in China is in lockdown so I bought from an American wholesaler (and paid about twice the price..). We have only just received new stock a couple of weeks ago so with the new order that should last us about 4 months. But we did not need it right away…..
In terms of the foot business, masks in particular have become hard to get and the prices are inflated. Luckily as healthcare practitioners we can buy from Podiatry suppliers - but as I was trying to buy them they were selling out! I did however in the end manage to secure some.
So firstly, I will admit I have bought ‘ahead’ for both business’ on the basis that if I don’t buy it now, should this situation continue we would not be able to buy it later - resulting in not being able to run either business and thus having no income. In fact as I write now, just a few hours since I purchased, all the podiatrist suppliers seem to be out of stock of masks. I am also sending masks and gloves to my stepson in Hong Kong - he and his wife have recently had a baby so somewhat worrying and they can’t get hold of anything locally. Naturally if anyone else is in need I will share.
I can’t make up my mind if I have sinned! Comparing what I have done to the parable, I have done the same thing. My buying ahead has prevented others from buying no doubt. I could have done nothing - but that is unthinkable as it would put our businesses and income at risk. I feel a mixture of relief that I have protected our businesses but I have a nagging feeling of guilt. I will certainly be praying about this.
Now the next issue is the inflated prices on Ebay and other selling platforms. I bought my masks at the price of £3 for 50 from a Podiatry supplier. Now let’s look at what they are selling for on Ebay…. £20 for 10 of the same masks! And if you look at their previous sales you see they were selling the same thing for about £5 or less a month ago!
So as Christians what do we think of this? A chance to make a quick buck, or totally immoral? I can understand the temptation - the opportunity to make a lot of money quickly - these sellers are making thousands of pounds a day. Should we just treat it as supply and demand? Or is it taking advantage of a very sad situation and exploiting people who are very worried for their families?
I have more questions than answers on all this. Looking on the motivational aspect, what I have done was for different reasons than the rich man in the parable - it wasn’t for greed or to get rich - but for the survival of our businesses. And it did not occur to me to buy ahead until I saw things selling out. However are these just excuses? Am I just trying to justify my actions? And of course my purchases have denied other from purchasing.
In terms the sellers on Ebay, their motivation seems to be to make excessive money - so perhaps that is the same motivation as the rich man in the parable - and perhaps a comparison to the Tax Collectors in the Bible? Perhaps it could be argued that we live in a different world now - but I would think morals and ethics are the same.
But who am I to judge
Matthew 7:3 (NIV)
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
I will be praying on my actions
Ruth and myself are currently undertaking the 'Foundations in Christian Ministry' course by the Diocese of Exeter. This is a foundation course which can lead on to Lay Ministry or Ordination training. As part of our course we had to write reflections on our experience on the course. Here are our reflections
I learned of the FICM course from Karen who very enthusiastically encouraged me to apply in 2019. I had been thinking and praying for an opportunity to explore my faith and future Christian service having retired in 2018, so this course appeared as an answer to prayer. I have attended church all my life but had been asking myself how was faith influencing me now.
I attended an Alpha course in 2015 at a Pentecostal church. By doing this Alpha course I gained a greater understanding of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, it further opened my eyes to the fullness of redemption only Christ can give us through faith in Him.
On the FICM course there are a diverse group of people ranging from Theologians and scientists to people like myself (retired midwife). We all have a common purpose to grow in faith and explore our Christian ministry further. Some are looking to become readers others for Ordination, I am seeking to grow in the love, knowledge and service of God
My bible knowledge continues to be a work in progress as I now see this as an essential part of growing closer to God.
To date I have attended 2 study days. I have found the teaching to be of a high standard whilst challenging and thought provoking holding my interest throughout. I leave wanting more, looking forward to the next study day.
During the day we have time within our tutor group for group discussion and one to one time with the tutor if required. Whilst it’s still early in the course I am certain it’s the right course for me and I’m looking forward to what is to come.
Proverbs Ch1 v5 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtains guidance”.
Please pray for me to grow in the love and knowledge of God
As you may be aware, Ruth and I commenced the year long Foundation in Christian Ministry course in September through the Diocese of Exeter. This is my reflection on the course so far.
For me it was my first experience of Christians on a large scale. On the first day we arrived at the Chapel to find noise. Lots of noise - Christian noise - and whilst it was somewhat loud it was a happy, friendly, excited noise. A noise of people who belonged - joyful at being amongst each other. And that was wonderful!
However it wasn’t long before the feeling of self doubt reared its head - I was with Christians who had been Christians all their lives - or at least for many years, and many it seemed held positions in Churches. And me? Well at the time I had been a Christian for less than a year...
But it has in fact been ok. I am learning so much. My previous learning has been quite undirected and I have been reading what I want to read - rather than what I need to read. We are given suggestions of books to read and this has helped so much. We were given a book list prior to the course and I managed to read 8 of them. This opened my mind to different aspects and perspectives of Christianity. And on each study day we are given suggestions of books to read which relate to that day’s study topics. I am sure even after the course has finished I will still be reading the books as there are so many. But there is no pressure… it is suggested reading, not compulsory.
During the study days there are different sessions for Bible Study, Theology, Pastoral Care, Ministry Skills, Spirituality and Vocations - so the content is very wide reaching. However despite my initial fears, it is imparted in a very accessible way so that all can understand - and with the further reading suggestions you can expand your knowledge of each topic as far as you would like to.
I would certainly recommend this course to anyone who wants to expand their knowledge. Everyone on the course seems lovely and the organisers and lecturers do everything they can to put everyone at their ease. The course is for everyone of any age - not just those who want to progress to lay or ordained ministry - and there is a mix of ages - young and not so young. I was a bit worried about my age but needn’t have been. And I can’t emphasise enough how enjoyable the study days are!
I would like to thank you all for allowing me to undertake this course. Without your acceptance into the Church and support as a new Christian I would never have progressed on my Christian journey and been in a position to apply. And I would like to thank Father Simon for his encouragement and help in applying - and importantly his faith in me that despite my short time as a Christian, this was something I could do.
As many of my friends are aware, we as a family have had a bit of a strange time of late. What with Sophie’s broken leg and then operation, followed by this week bringing up blood. We also had my hip and now Lawrence’s leg infection. And next week brings the huge challenge of my dad’s aortic aneurysm operation.
I have had many emotions. Thankfulness, and at other times asking ‘what is going on?’, ‘why is this happening?’ The ‘camels straw’ happened after Lawrence’s leg - and I did momentarily question my Faith. But then I tried to look objectively in terms of there being suffering in this world and there also being a God.
On the assumption that all suffering is bad, my first thought was that God cannot discriminate between who suffers and who does not. That seems wrong on many levels and also I believe could possibly have a ripple effect affecting theological theory. I then looked at the suffering my family have and are going through and I was guided to find some positives. Interestingly I did find some. I won’t write them here as some are of a personal nature, and there is nothing black and white about this - more of a grey. But the positives are there.
Up to now I have avoided reading books about pain and suffering as I thought they may be a bit depressing. But now I welcome the chance to learn more. I have now started reading ‘Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering’ by Timothy Keller. Wow this really is an extensive subject and is going to take some learning!
The book looks at this from an Atheist, general Theist and Christian point of view. The parts I have really taken on board so far are examples of people who have suffered greatly yet come through the other side grateful for their suffering. On the face of it this sounds ridiculous, but hearing the stories you can really see the possibilities of this. I am around a third of the way through and so am yet to form conclusions on this subject - that is even if it is indeed possible to form a conclusion. For now I am going with the fact that there are some positives in our situation.
I am so grateful to have found God and become a Christian. I am also so grateful for my Christian friends who have given such unbelievable support. It does make you think how much kinder the world would be if everyone was a Christian….
Church this morning was overwhelming and full of kindness and love. A kindness and love I have never felt before outside of my immediate family. The service was very relevant - about suffering and healing - a last minute change. My family was prayed for and I felt warmth spreading through me and a surreal experience of being protected. Was this God? I believe so. I now believe he really is with me through my family’s suffering. And I can’t thank enough all the people at Church this morning for the kindness I received.
I will go into this week with God by my side - and the feeling of love and kindness, received this morning from all at Church, and from those Christian friends not there this morning but who have given me so much support in the last few weeks. Thank you and God bless x
This is the sermon I did on September 15th. It focuses on idolatry, identity and how that relates to Christianity. Below you will find the audio of the sermon along with the written transcript
IDOLATRY - CHRISTIANITY AND IDENTITY - WHO ARE YOU?
Good morning. Today I am going to ask - who are you? Who are you, really?
We have heard the reading from Exodus 32
‘The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried’
God was not happy at all.
Why? His people had made a calf of molten metal to worship. His people had committed Idolatry and had worshipped ‘things’ other than God
This was not an unusual occurrence - Idolatry occurs many times in the Bible. This very much angered God
We see in Exodus
“You shall have no other gods before me”
(Exodus 20:3 NIV)
Yet still the people worshipped idols.
The definition of idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. Idolatry worship does not need to focus on a physical object, it can also be a person - it can in fact be anything. And involves worshipping ‘something’ more than God.
In Genesis 22 we see Abrahams worship of Isaac. He made his son into an Idol. He longed for his promised son and this wait made Isaac even more special in Abraham’s eyes. God asked Abrahim to sacrifice his much loved son Isaac so that Abraham could demonstrate that he trusted God completely and placed him above all else, even his own son. And of course Abraham passed the test… he was prepared to sacrifice his son. And thankfully he did not have to sacrifice Isaac.
Now that all happened a long time ago, and I don’t know about you but I don’t have any molten calves at home and don’t actually know anyone who does. Does that mean the end of Idolatry? Well no…
Society today has its’ own forms of molten calves. We worship money, careers, beauty, sporting achievement and our children.
Matthew 6:24 (NIV) states
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
And whilst Matthew uses money - this could equally be valid be it career, beauty and any of the many things we could worship.
So what do you worship? Is your love of God greater than anything else in your life? For many in society sadly this is not so
This brings me onto the title of this reflection - Who are you? You see there is a relationship between what we worship the most and our identity. What we worship the most, usually forms our identity.
Identity is something we all have, even if we are not aware of it. It is ‘who’ we are. It is the image we project to others, telling them ‘I am this - this is who I am’ and whom we know ourselves to be. It is the ‘who’ that others see us as. And it provides our self worth.
So who are you? What is your identity? Well it could be that you have a solid fixed identity as being a Christian and one of God’s Children. But that is not the same for everyone as we shall see.
Jesus knew who he was - and was keen for his Disciples to know who he was too.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples ‘Who do the people say the Son of Man is?’. Peter replied correctly with ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Sociologist Anthony Giddens writes on identity in relation to late modernity. He highlights the shift from the fixed identities of earlier ages, formed from gender, class, family or locality - to fluid, unstable and reflexive identities of the modern age. Giddens cites many reasons for this such as globalisation and the breakdown of traditional structures, but will leave the reasons for another time.
Our ancestors knew who they were - they were given their identity. If their family were blacksmiths, then they would be a blacksmith and their identity would be as such. Nowadays, it is more likely for young people to be told to follow their own dreams and become who they want to be.
So how does this relate to you and I, Christianity and wider Society?
New York author and Pastor Timothy Keller talks about the problem of identities in today’s society. He points out how the shifting identities of today are risky and also have to be achieved. (thegospelcoalition.org accessed 23 July 2019)
Non-Christian identities are indeed risky, they need to be earnt and achieved and can be taken away at any time. What happens to the lady who pins her identity on her outward beauty when she ages? Or the person whose identity is based on money if they lose it all? Modern identities are always at risk and subject to others approval and circumstances beyond that person’s control.
Let’s look at John the banker. He went to university and once he had his degree he gained his dream job in a bank. He worked hard, obeyed all the rules, was promoted and at age 40 had achieved a top position with his bank. When he attended social functions he was ‘John from the Bank’ - and he enjoyed being known for that - it made him feel good. His wife and children however missed him. Late nights at the bank, weekend working - John’s career was everything to him. He did not need to work as hard but he enjoyed his work and wanted to go higher and higher in his career.
John’s identity is clearly someone who is a ‘successful banker’, and this is more important than anything to him. His Idol. He seems himself as a successful banker and others see him as such. He gains his self worth from this.
Sadly during the banking crisis he loses his job. John feels destroyed. Not only has he lost the most important thing to him, he has also lost his identity. And due to his neglect of his family, he does not even have a close relationship with them anymore. The whole of him was tied up to him being a banker. Along with his identity he has lost his self worth. And due to disordered priorities he has a poor relationship with his family.
John as we can see is destroyed. Now let’s consider the situation if John had been a Christian and had his identity in God. It could be argued that instead of feeling ‘destroyed’ he would be ‘disappointed’. It could also be argued that he may not have neglected his family as he would not have felt the need to work extra hours.
In this fictional story you can substitute someone who spends hours in the gym trying to achieve the perfect body, the lady obsessed with her beauty. And how often have you heard of ex-footballers finding it hard to settle down to normal life after being a ‘footballer’?
On a personal note it has seemed that I have searched for my identity all my life - that is until I became a Christian last year. My identity has changed frequently. In my late teens and my twenties my life was ‘skiing’ - that was the most important thing in my life. But in my late twenties I thought, I can’t do this forever and returned to the UK. It was awful - I could not settle - I had lost my identity. However it wasn’t long before I gained new ones - career, mother, student, ‘weight loss’, business woman and many more. It sure got confusing at times…. I would wake up in the morning and have to remember which identity I had decided to adopt of late…
And then I became a Christian - and my identity finally was a perfect ‘fit’ I am no longer searching for who I am - I know who I am - I am one of God’s Children - and I love it!
You see, as Christians, we worship God above all else. We are given our identity - we don’t even need to earn it - it is given freely through Faith. Our identity can never be taken away from us and is not subject to other’s approval. No risk.. And this is the identity I found
This does not mean we have to change our enjoyment of performing well at our jobs, looking our best, or any other parts of our lives we enjoy or are important to us. But we can do this without the permanent fear of having our identity taken away.
But we do have to be careful as Christians. We must be careful not to get confused with our Christian identities. It is very easy for our identities to shift from worshipping God to worshipping what we do in Church. Everyone, from Priests to Church Treasurers must ensure that their identity is not formed around their ‘function’ rather than the worship of God
To sum up we can see that the Golden Molten Calf is alive and well in today’s society. However, we, as Christians are lucky. We can still enjoy our lives, careers and interests. In fact we need not love them less, but we need to love God more. With God we can have an identity that is fixed and risk free. We can love God and know he will always be with us
So who are you? I am a Christian and one of God’s children - that is who I am and this cannot be taken away. My identity is fixed and it is wonderful!
Let us Pray
Dear Lord, thank you
Thank you for your love
Thank you for allowing us to love you
Please help us with our faith
To never forget what Jesus did for us on the Cross
To never forget who we are
To keep you in our hearts
Giddens (1991) Modernity and Self Identity, Stanford University Press
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/tim-keller-our-identity-the-christian-alternative-to-late-modernitys-story/( accessed 23 July 2019)
I did my first every Sermon on 16 June 2019. Scary or what! But have to say I loved it - I loved writing it - I loved delivering it in Church. Below is both the audio (not all that good - does improve...) and the written transcript.
Hi……. Well this is my first ever Reflection…. Oh and guess what… it is Trinity Sunday… which I have heard is the Sunday people try to avoid doing and pass to whoever they can… I am that ‘whoever they can’ person!….
I have to say this is the hardest thing I have ever had to write - full respect to Fr. Simon who produces two a week and to Wendy and others who undertake them regularly. I would like to thank Yvonne for her valuable advice and for stopping me reading my first attempt which was an essay rather than a Reflection….
I would also like to thank you all for welcoming me to St Anne’s. As you know I am quite a newbie to this - and I have to say it has changed my life in every way. Every day I thank Jesus for bringing me to him.
As you have probably gathered, with today being Trinity Sunday I am going to talk about the Trinity….. And I actually feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to talk about such a wonderful subject - the heart of Christianity - the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Whilst doing my research I read that the most important thing you can do when writing a Reflection is to Pray. Pray before you start, Pray during, and Pray once written. So I did a lot of Praying. But did the words just come flowing? No not at all! … but I did manage to write something. I think this could be how God works in these situations. He does not hand things to us on a plate, rather he makes us work but with a guiding hand.
Anyhow here is my attempt so please bear with me!
Humanity has met and known God in three different forms:
God the Father: revealed by the Old Testament to be Creator, Lord, Father and Judge.
God the Son: who lived on earth amongst us
God the Holy Spirit: who fills us with new life and power
But what and who are the Trinity exactly? There are many analogies describing the relationship between the three Holy Persons, but none seem to really get to the heart of the true relationship between the three parts and the one whole.
How could the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each be God without there being either three Gods or only one person? We have:
Exactly one God
Three really distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
And each of the Persons is God
Mathematically and logically this does not work so perhaps this is beyond our human understanding. A mystery…..
Of course God exists in a different realm to ourselves - one without time or space…. So there are things beyond our comprehension - and perhaps the Trinity is one of those things...
But perhaps God also has a good reason for the Trinity being a mystery
If we had a complete understanding of God and the Trinity, could humanity perhaps adopt the wrong idea of God, for example in terms of being a patriarchal or hierarchical God?
And of course it provides a model for human relationships, both as individuals and in community
So what can we take from the relationship between God, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
In the ikon of the Holy Trinity by Rublev, the three persons continually gaze at each other, a circle of love, a divine dance.
Throughout the pages of the New Testament we see a respectful, selfless, loving relationship. The Father displays His Son as the pre-eminent one, the Son glorifies the Father, the Spirit empowers the Son in his human incarnation and the Son gives the Spirit to his followers.
A relationship of mutual love and respect.
Our reading today of Romans 5 contains such beauty, and shows the ways in which God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit interact with one another and act on behalf of us.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory ……. And verse 5 continues with the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.
What beautiful words and what comfort this brings to us all. Jesus was crucified to give us peace with God. Peace with God is offered to us all - and what do we have to do to have this peace?
Do we have to be perfect people?
Do we have to do special acts?
No …… all we have to do is have faith in Jesus Christ and we have peace with God
A state of Grace with the promise of salvation in Gods’ Glory
But does that mean we are free to do anything we like regardless of the consequences?
No not at all - this is not what happens when we are in a state of Grace. Grace is the key to this. Filled with the Holy Spirit and Grace all we want to do is please God - voluntarily. We have been given God’s gracious gift of salvation through Jesus and we surely want to please Him. In Romans 6:15 Paul says we are not ‘under law’ but ‘under grace’
And perhaps today is a good time to remind ourselves of Jesus’ reply to the Scribe in Mark 12 when asked which commandment is the most important of all. Jesus replied:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
Can we do this? I am certain we love God with all our souls, minds and strength. And loving our neighbours as ourselves is fine for those neighbours who we like.
But what about those neighbours who act against us or we just can’t see eye to eye with? A bit harder - but remember Grace and the Holy Spirit will help us.
Personally I have found that forgiveness a great asset. When others hurt me, once I forgive them the hurt eases. Perhaps this is the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to forgive and thus able to obey the commandment to ‘Love thy neighbour as yourself’
Grace.. What a wonderful word… and such a wonderful feeling to know that whatever happens in our lives we are always in a state of Grace with God.
Our lives are full of good and bad times, and all things in between. When I have bad times I have a ‘time out’ and just spend a minute thinking of God and the Trinity and what that means to me. It may not change the bad times but it changes me and how I feel.
On a different note, as well as it being Trinity Sunday it is also Fathers’ Day today. So a huge Happy Fathers Day to all Fathers
Whilst not a Christian festival as such, I hope you will agree that Fathers, and indeed all those who take on the duties of being a Father need to be celebrated for the role they play in life - in nurturing and providing role models for future generations
And whilst women had their role on D-Day - with the recent 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings perhaps in addition to giving thanks to our own fathers - we can also give thanks and prayers to those fathers who lost their lives on D-Day - along with those who were denied the chance of ever becoming fathers in the future.
And perhaps whilst war and God are not a natural companion, I believe that if we look at the relationship between all those who took part in D-Day, we can see such love and respect for one another. God bless all of them,
Thank you for listening to me today and have a super Sunday. God Bless you all.
Strange Week - Well my anticipated daily journal has been anything but. 5 days later and we are at Friday. Every day I have been ‘meaning’ to write - even opened this file, but alas no writing took place. Don’t like to make excuses but it has not been a good week - daughter Sophie it would seem has broken her knee - her tibia and fibula too, and has to have an operation next week, which makes me a very scared mama! There has been much praying and I have to say God is helping me with my worry. If only Sophie would accept the Lord, but she may one day.
Theologically speaking, I have been wondering about life on other planets. Like, what impact would that have in terms of Christianity? I kind of knew that it would not affect whether God exists or not, but was wondering on the implications. Anyhow my wonderful Minister friend Janet explained it in terms of ‘if a mum has more than one child, it doesn't affect the others.’ and also ‘if there is life elsewhere, there is still only one God who cherishes all life and interacts with those who can have a relationship with him.’ That really makes sense to me.
Today I have started to think what surrounds all the universes. Like if we are still expanding after the big bang, what are we expanding into? I am thinking God must be there too.
So that is it for today in mine and my daughter traumatic week, which will be even more traumatic next week. However I am a Christian, I have the wonderful support of God.
Sunday 8 September 2019 - Reflection of Day One of Foundations in Christian Ministry Course at Marjons - Day one completed. My thoughts are wow what a lot of walking and where was the water.. (oh why didn’t I bring a bottle of water with me…). To get the walking bit out of the way - a few months ago I would not have been able to do it. Losing a bit of weight enabled me to be ‘normal’ just like everyone else.
So Ruth and I arrived at the same time as one of the Vicars and followed him… But why did I decide at that time to Blaspheme? A very mild word - but all the same, not the best way to start. A hang over from my non-Christian days.. But have to say I am getting so much better - this rarely happens now… but yes I choose my moments!
We arrived at the Chapel and then there was noise. Lots of noise… Christian noise and whilst it was somewhat loud it was a happy, friendly, excited noise. A noise of people who belonged - joyful at being amongst each other.
Time for Worship and then to formal classroom based lectures. There was a sense of nervousness and people sussing each other out.. At least I was. It was like entering the unknown. A year ago I was not a Christian, and now I was with people who more than likely had been Christians all their lives, or at least many years. I have worked like crazy during the last 11 months but will I be totally out of my depth?
I was pleasantly surprised at the Theology lecture, I guess because I have been focusing on this and philosophy in my studies at home. However the Bible lecture was hard. I really felt I lacked the in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament. I also know that whilst I feel a familiarity with the Gospels, I really need to learn more about the other books of the New Testament.
I found everyone on the course to be lovely and there was a mixed age range. The organisers and lecturers did everything they could to put everyone at their ease. And everyone seemed very educated…
What would I do differently? Well I felt I had to try to answer questions - maybe this is because I feel insecure in my ability. I need to realise that I don’t need to do this. My ability won’t change just because I answer questions. Also I will dress more as ‘me’. I am a very casual dresser unfortunately and what I wore whilst to others would be casual, to me it was smart - and I did not feel comfortable as it was not ‘me’. So going to go down a notch in terms of casual (but not a scruff..) I will also bring water with me!
A reflection on my reflection. For next time I must write more from my heart. I think my Christianity will develop and maybe change into directions I never imagined. I think by writing it really helps to get to the heart of how we feel and where we should go and I am hoping by regularly writing that this will happen. Often it is hard to see the wood for the trees.
Our lives are often filled with news of Brexit, the latest on the Duchess of Sussex and getting our children into the ‘right’ schools. In Puri their daily goal is to eat. Add to this the effects of the recent Cyclone and you can imagine a community in total desperation.
Until Alison’s talk I never realised the impact of the community of Puri being both ‘outcastes’ (Dalits) and Christians. Dalit means suppressed, smashed, broken to pieces and untouchable. So doubly persecuted. Persecuted for being Dalits and persecuted for being Christian.
In the UK we often moan about political correctness and the anti discrimination laws. But wow how lucky are we to have the Equality Act 2010? I had never really thought about this until now. However having a law does not necessarily stamp out such atrocious prejudices and unkind actions. There are indeed laws in India - however in India they do not go much further than a statement of fact. The prevalent belief in the population is that the Dalits are untouchable and until this culture changes this will continue.
Which brings me to the UK again. We do have these laws of protection, but it is down to us to create a culture of acceptance of all and we must never allow divisions such as this to happen in this country. Presently we have an exceptional situation of a large influx of refugees to the UK. It is vital we make sure that these do not become the outcastes in our country due to race and alternative faiths.
As Christians we should follow the example set by Jesus in terms of his relationship with Samaritans, lepers and other such marginalised people. Jesus set a wonderful example for us all. Just as he accepts us all through faith alone - then we must accept others nonjudgmentally, and persuade others to do so too.
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
In May of this year, the community of Puri was devastated by a Cyclone - destruction to a community who already struggled. But what did they do after the cyclone passed? Worshipped to God on the beach to give thanks that they had survived. Still thankful to God despite what had happened to them. An act of such committed Christian faith. God bless them.
Well I have truly neglected my writing of late. And this is something I must not do - I love writing and also it helps me ‘get my head sorted’.... All sorts of thoughts tend to be going around in my head, but writing seems to untangle everything and it takes on a more logical form...
I think I will briefly outline what has happened lately and my emerging thoughts etc, and go into more detail in future blogs. This might be incredibly boring to read….. sorry……
Ok, here goes:
After being thrown back into the New Age environment last week I feel inspired to write about my experience. Yes, hands up, I was a ‘New Ager’…. but it served its’ purpose. Without this experience I may never have been able to embrace Christianity and accept the Faith required.
So to start from the beginning - my background has always been to only accept concepts and theories which are scientifically 'proven'. Then for some reason I was drawn to learn reflexology and discovered crystals – but my rational mind was able to dispense with the spiritual side and put it down to ‘science which we are yet to understand’.
Then it all changed…. I went on a Reiki course – and there was definitely something very strange going on there! I could feel energy running through my body from hands which weren’t even touching me. I saw colours and patterns. So this heralded a huge change - I finally accepted that there are mysteries in life outside of science. With this new understanding I pursued Angelic Reiki and embraced the whole holistic scene. But I never felt quite at home there – I dismissed this feeling with the belief that I needed to get better at it – become more in-tuned etc. But now I see it was not right for me.
But my New Age experience certainly opened my mind - and without that I may never have become a Christian. Perhaps this was mapped out for me and I do wonder in terms of spreading the Word of God, whether this is an area which could be explored. You have people who are already open minded to the Supernatural.
So back to my experience last week. I spent a day teaching reflexology in a room I hire at a Crystal/Reiki/New Age inspired shop. It felt so wrong. Previously I have loved that room – considering it full of good energy, but not this time. This all came home to me when I attended Sunday Service at Church. I felt such an energy of love and ‘rightness’ and it really made me compare the experiences.
I do not want to particularly knock New Age and indeed I do have some very good friends who are part of this – lovely, kind, good people. But I do see inherent problems in New Age – such as it being very money orientated, promoting the love of the ‘self’ rather than others, and a lack of moral framework. And of course, there are Christian reasons for not engaging in New Age in terms of attracting dark energies masquerading as good.
My week has been full of images, words, light, dark, silence, contemplation and joy. A week of focussing on Christ with like minded friends. My week started on Monday and to be honest I did not have a clue what to expect – and the words ‘Holy Week’ had no inner meaning to me other than the facts stated in the Bible.
Monday’s Stations of the Cross was not a good start for me. The reason? I was focussing on me instead of Christ. Walking around the church and standing at each Station was hard for me with my back and I had to sit down quite a bit. I was totally embroiled with my embarrassment of having to sit down instead of focusing on what I should have – Christ’s journey towards Crucifixion. It was all about ‘me’ instead of being all about ‘Him’.
This ‘all about me’ sentiment stayed with me until Thursday’s Midnight Vigil and the Altar of Repose. Something then changed inside of me. As I sat in silence I was totally immersed in the vision of the Altar of Repose – the beauty, the sadness, the dark, the light, the stillness, the movement... The ‘facts’ then changed to ‘feelings.’ Holy Week and the Crucifixion truly entered my heart.
On Friday the Church had a different atmosphere. One of emptiness – I think due to the lack of Cross, Altar and Altar dressings. The afternoon started with a repeat of the Stations of the Cross. This time is was not about me but entirely about Jesus Christ. Yes I had to sit – but what does that matter. The important thing was that I was there. This time I was able to truly focus on Christ’s journey.
Then we come to Easter Sunday – oh what joy – He is Risen! An early 6am start with bonfire and lighting of the Paschal Candle. Some very interesting images produced by the flames of the bonfire.. I did not notice this until I examined the photos afterwards. Maybe significant, maybe not, but still awesome! Then there was the point in the service that it was proclaimed that Christ is Risen – and sunlight streamed into the Church! My mood changed from sadness, silence and contemplation to one of joyous celebration. That joy has stayed ever since!
What a truly amazing Holy Week - so many emotions - so much sharing. This has truly changed my Christian life. I entered Holy Week with Jesus living in books and stories. I ended Holy Week with Jesus living in my heart and a feeling of deep joy. It feels wonderful! Thank you to Fr. Simon for enabling this, and to all my friends for sharing this week with me.
(written 28 March 2019)
As you may have gathered my posts so far are a bit of a ‘catch up’. I had written notes but kind of never got around to starting a blog – until now. So I have included these posts for the sake of completeness – so please forgive me if they are not that inspiring. I am going to move to the present as quickly as possible as even I can’t be doing with writing ‘old news’
During the last few months I have realised that I would like to have a role in the Church. I am not sure what that will be – although I have some ideas. This includes communicating both verbally and in writing the Word of God – particularly how Gods’ word relates to society today and conversing with those who are perhaps exploring faith. Additionally, I am excited by the idea of mission and using online and social media as ways of serving existing Christians and promoting the Word of God to those who are not. I guess this blog and website is part of this.
I have decided to formally ‘go for it’ and have applied for the ‘Foundations in Christian Ministry’ course with the Church of England. This helps to discern what your calling is. And being so new (and of confused mind…) I really need this. In conjunction with this I was asked to join my Parish PCC and have taken on a role of representing the Parish at local Deanery Synod meetings.
AND….. I did my first reading in church today! I am going to include the reading I did here as I feel this is a bit of a milestone for me – I can’t believe I actually took part in a Church service! Feedback was it was fine except I need to slow down. So here is what I read.. and I think I will always remember this reading. I actually feel I have ‘started’ now!
A reading from the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28 ©
Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God
These were my orders: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper. But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed the dictates of their own evil hearts, refused to face me, and turned their backs on me. From the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, day after day I have persistently sent you all my servants the prophets.
But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have grown stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors. You may say all these words to them: they will not listen to you; you may call them: they will not answer. So tell them this, “Here is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths.”
The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
A response to this morning’s Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’
O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’
Gospel Acclamation Ezk18:31
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Shake off all your sins – it is the Lord who speaks –
and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Very chuffed to have a brief piece I wrote published in the local Methodist magazine.
My writing was from an Apologetics angle and it was followed by a lovely piece by the Church's Minister Janet, putting it into perspective
Here is the text...
Made by God – The Wonders of our World
Many Christians express an evangelical desire to welcome people to our Faith. But how can we convince others that Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and that the Holy Spirit is living amongst us and in us? Perhaps in this world of Facebook, Twitter and ‘science explains all’ we need to play the world at its’ own game and come from an evidence-based view. This does not belittle ‘Faith’, but initial evidence-based approaches may perhaps open the door to people learning to have Faith in Jesus and to accepting the supernatural side.
On a purely scientific viewpoint I would include the following:
Something out of nothing – The Universe is expanding and hence the Big Bang Theory. But where did the Big Bang come from? If nothing existed originally, how can something come out of nothing? Gods hand perhaps. And if God did cause the Big Bang and set the formation of the Universe in action, then we can perhaps take the view that in doing this he set in motion the conditions for life itself and the Evolution process. How much guiding of Evolution once it had begun is of much debate by academics. Further evidence is provided by the finely tuned nature of the world in terms of creation and development. The odds of this happening by accident is not a feasible view
This whole area of discussion comes under the heading of Christian Apologetics – an area I am finding fascinating in my early Christian journey. Christian Apologetics serves to present a rational basis for Christianity. In addition to the scientific aspect of discussion, there are also arguments supporting the historic accuracy of the Bible. Additionally, there is a philosophic side, asking questions on morals, consciousness, our inherent desire to believe in a God and much more. Early emergence of this can be seen in Apostle Pauls’ Letter to the Philippians, with latter day authors including the wonderful C.S Lewis.
To conclude, perhaps we should appeal to society’s rational self in order to set the scene for a belief in Jesus Christ. Perhaps in today's world the leap to Faith without evidence is a leap too far.
Added by Janet
There are many ways of coming to the Christian faith, and scientific reasoning relating to our amazing world is one of them. However, whichever way the journey begins, it must always reach the point where we come into a
relationship with God.
God the creator and sustainer of the amazing Universe is the God who knows and cares about every one of us, who hears our prayers, forgives our sins, comforts us in sorrow and fills us with joy.
I am not prone to sensationalism and like to consider both sides and all angles, but I am aghast at how Brexit is being dealt with - there seems to be a loss of democracy in this country – courtesy of Parliament and aided by political commentators.
It is almost like there is a bubble which includes Parliament and political commentators – and this bubble exists in isolation to the rest of the general population. We are being led by personal bias and not facts, scaremongering, and condescension. We are also observing such a lack of respect between politicians, between the media and politicians and even the media and the public. What happened to courtesy?
We all have opinions but we need to keep our dignity. When expressing our views we should do it with integrity, honesty and respect. And including Brexit in our Prayers is likely to be a good move too....
So the exploration began. As a complete Christian and Bible novice I decided that reading the Bible was the best way forward. I started at Genesis at the beginning of the Old Testament and read right through to the end of the New Testament – all completed in one month. I then found out that I should have started with the New Testament and can totally see that now! I found the Old Testament quite shocking and violent and sometimes wondered if I was reading the correct book… but now I can see how it all fits in and the appropriateness of it. But oh the New Testament is such a breath of fresh air!
Just before completing the Bible, I attended church for the first time. I was a church novice. Other than school and formal occasions such as weddings I had never been to church. So I went, on my own, to my local church of Anglo-Catholic denomination. It was here I had a huge shock. Not at the functionality or content of the church service, but at how few the congregation was. I suppose I had been aware of dwindling participants from the media – but really – as few as this? However the ‘few’ were friendly and made me very welcome. I also noticed the mature age demographics – where are the young people? No young people equals eventually no church – this worried me.
After around a month I started wondering what other churches were like… got a bit curious! So hit Google and researched a lot of local churches – wow there are so many! Anyhow thought I would try a Pentecostal style church… On reflection I could probably not have chosen such an extreme opposite to the Anglo-Catholic church I was attending. I was very impressed with how friendly everyone was, and I was welcomed wholeheartedly. There were also a lot of people - the place was full – and with varying age groups including children. However, horses for courses and all that and I really was not sure it was ‘me’. So the search continued. I then spied the local Methodist Church via the services of Google – and headed down on the following Sunday. This was far more inline with my Anglo-Catholic church but different at the same time… And if there was a competition for friendliness and inclusiveness, this church would win it! So my life was now slightly more confusing as I decided to attend both churches - every Thursday Anglo-Catholic Mass, and most Sundays the Methodist Church. This also involved attending all accompanying events at both churches such as Bible study, fellowship etc.. I was very very busy… but happy…..
Welcome to my blog! Will keep this brief as probably only important to me… Have been Agnostic all my life and believed everything had to be proved by science to be true. Then some years ago I delved into New Age Spirituality – never really fitted in – but did make me realise my previous scientific beliefs may not have been the whole story.
I felt things – crystals seem to be more than just rocks and you could feel energy moving during Reiki. I saw colours – where did they come from? So my mind was now open to the idea that perhaps there are things we do not know or understand. Life is not so straightforward or scientific as I thought..
My first adult Christian experience was in 2015 when my husband, daughter and I went on a Christian ski holiday to Austria. We were accepted as non-Christians and we were all amazed at how caring everyone was. Whilst we never intended to, we attended nightly Bible study classes whilst there. This made me realise how very little I knew, and also how I ‘wished’ I could be a Christian too. One of the leaders actually sent me a Bible after we got home – I think he sensed how I felt. The time was obviously not right and I am ashamed to say I never read a page.
I am not sure if I had a ‘real’ calling or not – I am guessing it was – but then I think maybe I just decided it was - or am I thinking too much into this. Anyhow I was involved in community activities with the local church when one such activity was to no longer be connected to the church. When I found out I felt emptiness in my heart, and it is this emptiness that led me to believe I had a calling.
So the exploration began