Archive for September, 2016

Comfort, O comfort, my people

Dear Friends,

There are so many struggles against illness and disease and physical pain in our midst; there are so many families broken by heartache and misunderstanding and separation; there are so many sisters and brothers living as strangers and refugees among us; and there is death – so often too soon and never really expected, and the grief and sadness and estrangement that follow.

Into the pains and grief and brokenness of his time, the prophet Isaiah speaks: “Comfort, O comfort, my people.”

The prefix com of comfort means with.  And the word fort of comfort is related to the notion of strength.  Like forte, in music: strong and powerful. Like the common word we know, fort – a stronghold, a place of strength, a power of defence.

“Comfort, O comfort my people” — give my people strength!

The passage continues: “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”

God changes the very face of the earth!  The world as we know it will be transformed; the events and experiences that cause us so much pain – they will be changed.

This is the news, the promise, the hope that comforts us…

…this is the news, the promise, the hope that gives us strength.

Here is another vision for us, another hope for us,

…we are invited to look into God’s hope-filled future,

…we are invited to see that even in our present pains and grief and sorrow, we are called into an experience of wholeness and healing….

…an experience in which we open our hearts and minds to the promise of a new heaven and a new earth.

On this side of the kingdom, we may not evade the accident, the disease, the cancer, the surgery or the treatment.  We may not be able to alleviate confusion, bewilderment, pain and grief – and certainly not by our own efforts…and also not according to our own standards.

But God has ways that are not ours, and standards that are not ours, and measures that are not ours.

As we come forward to pray together…

…we are invited to sink deeply into the presence of the God who longs to heal us and our loved ones, whose greatest desire is for the restoration and wholeness of all creation…

…we are invited to embrace the presence and actions of our God whose ways are not our ways, and who may be strengthening us for journeys we would not choose, inviting us into places we do not want to go, and healing us in ways that we do not seek…

…and we are invited to open our hearts, breathe, taste, touch, see the God who makes all things new, and place our prayerful confidence in the one who is the ‘Word made flesh and dwelt among us’, whose promise stands forever.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Harvest

Dear Friends,

Gratitude does not always come easily, especially when we are caught in the grip of anxiety. Nor does gratitude come suddenly. Gratitude comes through a slow turning away from worry by intentionally focussing on something, anything, for which to give thanks to God. In the midst of worry, that can be a real stretch. Jesus understood this. ‘Take simple, common things,’ Jesus says, ‘for which to give thanks: a bird, a flower, a blade of grass.’ Anything will do: a breath of air, a dog’s wag of tail, a smile, a glass of water. It is the small step of moving out of self, self, nothing but self, absorbed and hurting, to notice something or someone beyond the self that matters.

This small step leads to huge results. It leads to us beginning to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us: everything is God’s, and God is eagerly waiting to give us more and more – if only we would allow it. Jesus wants us to notice what is in front of us, to believe that God is present, and to be thankful. ‘Change the subject,’ Jesus admonishes. There is a lot of stuff in life we are powerless to change, but changing the subject is always in our power. ‘Look at the birds of the air, consider the lilies of the field.’ Jesus wasn’t being idealistic; he was being practical.

So, friends, people of God, let us practice gratitude, let us rejoice in thanksgiving – for light and life and love, for the gifts of the harvest which we celebrate today, for food, fellowship and friendship, for each other – and live as children of our loving God who loved us so much that he gave us himself in his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ and gives us himself through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Diocesan Clergy Conference: loving, living, learning

Dear Friends, this week past, I spent three days at the Diocesan Clergy Conference, the first of its kind since the three historic Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield were brought together into one in 2014. Over 400 clergy from across the Diocese of Leeds came together to worship, to learn, to listen, to meet, to study, to discuss, to get to know each other a bit better, to grow …  and to do all these things together, and to do them in love. We met at Liverpool Hope University, and no surprise, the theme of our conference was HOPE. The hope of ‘faith, hope and love’ from 1 Corinthians 13, the hope that wants to burn within us and draw us from glory into glory, as we trust in our Lord Jesus Christ in our living and loving. And ‘living’ and ‘loving’ have become two of the triplet, of the ‘trinity’ of promises and commitments under which we as a new Diocese are called to flourish: loving, living, learning – exploring what that means for us in our context to be part of the Church of God in this part of the world. Pray, my friends, that we here at St Aidan’s may do so with hope and charity and grace in our love and service of God and of each other.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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New Christians & all our call to light and life and love

 

Dear Friends,

A rabbi is said to have once asked his students: ‘When can we know that the night has ended and the day has begun?’ – ‘Is it the moment when you can tell the difference between a sheep and a dog?’ one student suggested, ‘Or when you can see the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree?’ another tried.

‘No,’ said the rabbi, ‘it is the moment when you can look at a face never seen before and recognise the stranger as a brother or sister. Until that moment, no matter how bright the day, it is still the night.’

What a challenge, sisters and brothers, in this world which sees so much darkness, so much night, in this word in which so many long for the light, long for the day … to be Christ for each other, to see Christ in each other. A calling for those who have been made Christians today as we celebrate their baptism – may God bless you on your journey of faith – a calling for all of us who gather here as Christians in this holy place. Let us together strive for that light, people of God, let us strive to overcome the darkness within us & be that light for each other, to the glory of God the Father.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Father, put the mantle of Aidan upon me, I pray.

 

Dear Friends:

A pilgrim kneeling at the foot of the sculpture of St Aidan on Lindisfarne once wrote:

Oh Aidan, you had the vision of a population transformed in Christ. You had the faith to come. You had the gentleness to win the hearts of king and commoner.

You ministered in power and patience to the sick and dying. You created teamwork. Your visits to tell people Good News gave your team a pattern to follow. You loved the people of the island. You lived simply and prayed much. You prepared a mission to the kingdom. You influenced many to reach others for Christ. You are Christ for this nation. You are apostle to his people. You are in pain that people here are heedless of your Lord. You will not rest till they are won.

Father, put the mantle of Aidan upon me.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Made in the image of God – called to love, service and dignity

 

Dear Friends,

What is more important, rejoicing over and sharing in God’s unconditional love or total conformity to an elaborate canon of doctrines, rules and rituals?

This is not simply an ancient question, an issue we have overcome following Jesus, but on so many levels it is a question, an issue which faces us today, too, both as a Church and as individual Christians… in our daily living and loving… where fuelled by our prejudices, our hard-heartedness, our pet-hates, we denying ourselves. And it is so easy to hide behind ‘the word of God’, the doctrines, the rules, the rituals…’we have always done it like this’… and thus sell out that greatest gift of all: self-sacrificing, life-affirming, all-transforming love.

Today’s Gospel is a Gospel of physical disfigurement, disability, infirmity, with all its ugly consequences…which made it impossible for that woman to lead a life without pain, without being at best pitied, but probably much more ridiculed, neglected, rejected…which made it impossible for that woman to lead a free and fulfilled life.

And in our Gospel it is the Sabbath day, the day when God rested from the labour of his creation, the day holy to God, the day when we are to rest, too.

And what is that ‘resting’ all about?

I want to suggest it is a call deliberately to interrupt the working schedule of the week, to take one day and give it to God, whose invitation it is to keep the day holy… to keep it holy, but not inactive …this ‘resting day’ is not a license to ignore a neighbour in need, it is not a permission to rest from practicing love and compassion, it is not a sanction to rest from involving ourselves in the dawning of the Kingdom of God.

What a contrast today’s Gospel story presents in the days the world celebrates the Olympic Games.

The Olympics celebrate all sorts of things:

its core values are named as excellence, friendship and respect, but among those and other things, the Olympics are a celebration of bodily human perfection.

Those gold medals seem to be our way of saying, this is the standard of ideal humanity.

Thus the Olympics send mixed messages, some tolerant, some intolerant, and some of the messages extol the virtues of the honed body to an idolised, unhealthy level.

But be that as it may, at every Olympics there are extraordinary achievements by athletes from small, poor, bent-over countries or by poor athletes from richer nations, or by athletes bent under the burden of racial or social prejudice, whose achievements defy the deep prejudices of right living many nations hold.

The Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini whose home was destroyed by a bomb offers an amazing story, too.She and her sister fled a year ago, going through Lebanon and Turkey, before getting into a small boat with eighteen others, heading for Greece. When the boat’s motor failed and it began taking on water, Ms. Mardini and her sister, along with the only other two people on board who could swim, got into the water where they spent over three hours pulling and pushing the boat to safety. Everyone survived, the Mardini sisters and their parents eventually ended up in Berlin, where Yusra continued her training and was selected for the Refugee Olympic Team.

One of many stories of achievements and of courage, of making and marking the difference, of transformation and hope. On of many stories which defy prejudices, which challenge hard-heartedness, which overcome selfishness.

Jesus challenges us all, today and every day, to revise and to keep on revising our image of God, and our image of humanity and the value and dignity of every human life, so that our codes of right-living, which after all are Sabbath codes honouring our creator God who is great and powerful, can become mirrors reflecting the just mercy of God, rather than the merciless injustice of this world.

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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