Archive for August, 2016

Mary, or the human spirit enfolded in God’s grace

Dear Friends,

The New Testament is full of references to those – ordinary human beings – who by God’s grace are raised because of their humility and obedience to share God’s glory. Mary herself, without a trace of pride or arrogance, praises God because “he has raised the humble from their low estate: he has filled the hungry with good things”. And Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, reminds his hearers that those who will see God are not those who earn their way to heaven but the poor in spirit, the gentle, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted.

We can make sense of the Assumption as a feast of Mary, who is crowned Queen of Heaven because of her faithful discipleship, and also as a feast of the human spirit enfolded in God’s grace. The pilgrimage of Mary is the human pilgrimage. It is about you and me and all who, despite our manifest flaws and failings, try to live the spirit of the Beatitudes. We celebrate Mary because of her humanity, whose eyes have been on heaven but whose feet were very firmly in this world.

And we are called to live so, too: Be that in our engagement with the pains and disasters, injustices and hatreds of our world, be that in the desires and strivings for peace and reconciliation in so many areas of human life and history, be that in how we deal with each other, the visitor, the stranger in our community and the marginalised of our society, be that in the changes that honest, open, welcoming engagement will inevitably bring in all aspects of our living and loving.

We celebrate Mary because of her humanity, who may indeed be crowned Queen of Heaven, but who is of no earthly or heavenly use to us unless we realise that her robe is red, and the sword has pierced her heart…and her prayer is for those who, like her, experience the lack, the pain, the loss, the strivings of humanity. Her prayer is our challenge and inspiration, and we greet her when we say: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Transfiguration: on the mountaintop we can see that much farther

Dear Friends,

Jesus has been teaching and preaching, meeting people, touching their lives with his love and healing power, telling them about God’s Kingdom, calling them to return to God, to learn, to grow, to understand. Now he takes with him Peter, John and James, and goes up a mountain, and as he often and regularly does, and… he prays.

While he praying the glory of the Lord begins to shine from his face, his clothes become dazzling white, then a cloud overshadows them and a voice is heard ‘this is my beloved Son, my chosen, listen to him!’

A true mountaintop experience. A transformation, a clarification. One old bible translation for the transfiguration does not speak of the glory of the Lord shining about Jesus, but uses the word clarity instead. Everything is made clear, everything falls into place, everything becomes apparent, becomes transparent, if you will, the disciples, we, can see clearer, understand a bit better, can grasp a bit more about a deeper purpose, are touched in our very hearts.

On the mountaintop – we can see that much farther: That Jesus who had already done amazing things in the disciples’ sight, is the Jesus who after his transfiguration with a new clarity of vision sets his face towards Jerusalem to accomplish our redemption, he is that Jesus who after his transfiguration with the voice from heaven still ringing in his ears in the face of death can say ‘not mine, but your will be done’, he is that Jesus who knows what that voice from heaven has done for him – confirming, calling and commissioning, and giving heavenly blessing.

On the mountaintop – we can see that much farther: And, please God, can open ourselves to a new broadness of vision, pray for a widening of our perspective, for a deepening of our understanding of the love of God for you and me and all creations – and show it forth in our lives.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

 

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The Archdeacon’s Parish Visit … dreams and visions

 

Dear friends,

On Wednesday, your wardens, DDC members and myself met with the Archdeacon of Leeds, the Venerable Paul Hooper, for the Archdeacon’s Parish Visitation. There was plenty of paperwork to be ploughed through in preparation for the various meetings, and TK and Ros have done an amazing job in pulling so much information together over these last few weeks.

In the afternoon…we talked – inevitably – about the buildings, about boilers and lightening conductors, telecom masts and toilets, business minutes and fire plans, safeguarding and finances, about registers and log books, about inventories and insurances, about linen and Eucharistic vessels – lots of important and time consuming details which have to be just so, which have to be looked after in trust for generations to come, which have to be cared for well, which have to be right…

…and thank you, thank you, from me and from the archdeacon, to all who are involved with that: first and foremost our wardens, then our treasurer, members of various committees and the other members of the DCC, our readers, hall manager, chalice polishers and linen washers…and so many more…

…and then, when that part of the meeting was over, we talked some more about our joys and challenges, our achievements and areas in which we could do better, our successes and plans for the future…

…about our diverse and beautiful congregation and their faithfulness to worship; those who provide hospitality and welcome,  a cuppa and a biscuit, who make music and serve; the need for more people to step forward and be involved even in small ways to walk forward together, about the new Christians we are making and welcoming into our community and congregation, from church families or just the community around us, from the ever growing group of Iranian brothers and sisters in our midst; about the ever present burden of money, stewardship and wholesome ways of dealing with our finances, about the many wonderful ways in which we serve our community and those in greatest need through the foodshare, the community meal, through the house communions, care home masses and sick visits, through hosting HELP, PAFRAS, IntoUniversity and the Eritrean Church…

…dreaming of more and new uses and users for the hall and the church; dreaming of a growing congregation, of a transformed neighbourhood and community; dreaming about being that worshipping, serving, sacrificing community following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, about being a blessing in this part of Leeds and beyond…

…and then we talked even more, now with all of the members of the DCC who were able to join us in the evening. And Archdeacon Paul was again mighty impressed by the group of people who met together. He led us in prayer, and then just listened …

…listened to and encouraged people’s stories and dreams, the areas we see as challenges or opportunities, honouring people’s commitment and vision, labours and prayers for our church…

…and as I was listening with the archdeacon what shone through for me most …was LOVE…a love of God, a love of Christ in his Word and Sacrament, a love of the Church, a love of OUR church, a love of our church family and community… a love that gave thanks for the glories of the past, and yes, there is a lot to be thankful for, a lot to praise and to give praise for, a lot to be proud of…but it is also, very clearly, a love that is willing to continue to commit, to continue to grow, to continue to respond to the challenges of today, to continue to serve, to continue to have our Lord Jesus Christ at the heart of it all, our Lord Jesus Christ who loves and who serves us, calling us to be loving and serving, too.

Again and again, masterfully, really, the archdeacon recapped, pulled together, thanked, praised and encouraged, sometimes clarified, every so often gently pushing us to think a bit harder, to try and see that bit more clearly, to reconnect, to rethink, re-informing our working and our praying and our serving and our loving.

And you know what? The listening, the sharing, made me realise yet again and reaffirm there and then why I am here: I am here because God has called me. God has called me to be here with you, among you, for you, beside you, one of you…to love, to serve, to share life.

Share with you in living lives that respond with love in the words we speak, the smiles we share, the bread we break, the hands we shake, the Peace we bring.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Lord, teach us to pray

 

Dear Friends,

“Lord, teach us to pray.”  We want to know how to pray.  We want to make our prayers meaningful and worthy of what we think God wants to hear.  And perhaps just here is our problem:  trying so hard to bring meaning to our prayer life that we don’t allow our prayers to bring meaning to our life.  God does not need our prayers; but we need to pray.  God does not have to be invited into our lives; but we have to open our eyes to God’s presence already in the midst of us.

Jesus knew that.  So firstly he showed the disciples what was at the core of his own life—an intimate, loving relationship with God. And then Jesus provided words to address God.  The Lord’s Prayer begins by imploring God to take charge of our life and the life of our world. The remaining petitions have to do with basic human needs — food, relationships with others, our relationship with God. It is a prayer that brings us into life with God, praying for those things only God can provide and we cannot live without.

And Jesus teaches us to be persistent, to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.  God is already in motion, God has already answered every prayer, and God has already opened every door that needs to be opened and is standing at the threshold inviting us to enter. And it is in praying that we begin to experience God’s presence – in the world, in each other, in love and service, in sharing life.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

 

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‘Doing for’ and ‘Being with’

 

Dear Friends, the story of Mary and Martha, well known, well loved…Martha, busily doing, seeking to be recognised, doing her best…Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, dreaming, recognising the presence of the Christ.

What are we to make of it?

In short, I wonder how much it is about not ‘doing for’, but ‘being with’, the portion to which we are called, the life into which we are invited.

That doesn’t mean, we’re not to serve, not to put ourselves out for others, not to go the extra mile, but it has everything to do with our approach, our motive, our expectations.

What does our service flow out of? A sense of creating our own self-worth by being busy, by being ‘seen to be doing’, by choosing who to help, with whom to engage, whose needs to ignore, how underhandedly to work against somebody else? Or a sense of being recreated by the love of the Christ at whose feet we sit, who wants to be at the centre of all our living, striving and being? Then it won’t matter whom we serve, whether nobody ‘sees us doing’, we won’t need, we won’t want to reject, to choose, to ignore, to oppose…because it is Christ we are serving.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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