Dear Friends: alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia!
When Mary Magdalene goes to the garden, she sets in motion the Easter gospel as she finds the tomb open and empty. A new day has dawned, God has broken the powers of death and hell and has given us the victory. Though fear, cruelty, power and violence had their way with Jesus, as they continue to have their way with too many in our world, death has no more the final word, Christ has burst from the tomb. Mary Magdalene stays at the empty tomb, grieving and crying and meets a man whom she thinks to be the gardener until he speaks. She hears her name, recognises her teacher and believes: ‘Go, dearest Mary, go and tell them all the good news, death has no hold, – I Jesus, am returning to my Father and your Father, my God and your God,’
The same command applies to us, too! Let us go, Easter people, let us go and let us tell them all the good news, death as no hold! Our Lord promises, ‘Whoever is in me, and I in them, is a new creation.’
With love and prayers
Alleluia Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, alleluia!
The following can be found on the Diocesan website together with a couple of photographs and a short film about us, the Church of God at St Aidan’s Harehills in the Diocese of Leeds: http://www.leeds.anglican.org/news/christ-we-are-kin
“The latest film in our year long campaign to tell our story here in the Diocese of Leeds is a glimpse into the life of St Aidan’s in Harehills, Leeds where ‘In Christ there is no foreigner, in Christ we are all kin’ underpins its ministry.
This is a richly diverse and challenging parish on one of the more deprived outskirts of Leeds and its vicar, the Revd Andi Hofbauer, describes the parish and ministry on the day we came with our cameras:
‘We remember well the day when the Diocesan team and the cameras came…an ordinary Sunday at St Aidan’s, Leeds…
…an exciting and demanding parish, engaged in and enabling distinctive and distinguished service to and within the local community in a challenging, richly diverse part of Leeds, combining a catholic spirituality with a desire for social justice and service to the local community.
Over a dozen nationalities, settled or strangers, comfortable or poor, new Christians, seekers or long-standing members, excellent English or hardly any, gathering week-in-week-out to worship, to learn, to grow, to share life together.
And it is the Mass, with its rich liturgy and great gestures, its unconditional welcome and its grace-given compassion, which anchors us in the mystery of Christ’s self-giving love, sets us on the path of life and calls our response in love and service. This is not ‘just a proud tradition of the past’, but at the heart of our calling as God’s people in this place.
And combine that with our many distinct ways of Christian service: be that twice-weekly English classes through HELP (Harehills English Language Project), be that the weekly food share and the regular community meal feeding 70-100 people, be that hosting a weekly drop-in by PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and the weekly Eritrean church services, be that working with the various communities within our congregation and our community, with the hungry, the homeless, the refugees, the strangers – these are all ways through which we under Christ play our part in making present a bit of the Kingdom of God.
Here is our opportunity not only to serve, but also through our love and example to help those who are recipients of our services to learn to become servants of the Living God themselves. If people can say about us ‘see how they love and serve each other’ they will not be able to help themselves but to be drawn in.
“Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” – this was straight from the Gospel of the day, when the diocesan team came to film that Sunday in October.
‘And’ I preached, ‘we need to mark this well, my friends, the foreigner understands the sting of prejudice and oppression. I am one myself. … ‘The foreigner understands the rootlessness that characterises the stranger’s life. And these are all experiences that shaped the story of Israel and its Messiah. […]
‘And foreigners are not just “over there.” They are our neighbours, we are your neighbours, we are colleagues, we are family, we are friends, we are part of this church congregation and the people with whom we share life. […] ‘Foreigner’, a word so much tinged with contempt. […] But, my friends, people of God, but…
…in Christ there is no foreigner, there is no stranger. In Christ we, all of us, are kin.’”
That’s us, my friends, diverse, inclusive, loving, at times challenging and challenged by each other, generous, faithful, faith-filled, seeking, sharing life. May God continue to give us His blessing.
With love and prayers: Mo. Andi
The tempter does not come to test Jesus’ abilities, of those he is convinced. Bread, safety and power over all the kingdoms are Jesus’ by right. What is tested, though, are the basis on which Jesus founds his choices: the root of his obedience in the will of God, the obedience of the Son of the Father and Servant of All.
The gospel story of the temptations of Jesus is foundational for all that lies ahead.
In it we see the conflict between the ways of the world and the ways of God, between the way of death and the way of life, between the way of darkness and the way of light. And at the center of this conflict stands the cross of Jesus. And where we live Lent ourselves, we too with him live between temptation and crucifixion.
Of course it is often easier to choose power, violence, and domination instead of the reconciling ways of the reign of God. Of course it is easier to pick up lifeless stones and hurl them toward one another, instead of passing the bread that sustains life.
But, people of God, as we walk these great forty days between temptation and crucifixion, let us walk gently and with our hearts wide open … for what will it profit us to gain the whole world, but loose or forfeit our lives, our souls, ourselves.
With love and prayers: Mo. Andi
Have you ever thought of Lent as a yearly second chance? Each year the Church gives us six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God’s desires for us. Since most of us find that we’ve fallen short of the glory to which we are called, Lent becomes that second chance, or do-over, to “return to God with our whole heart.”
What are your Lenten practices, experiences and memories as you try to make Lent a meaningful time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? What are your thoughts, hopes, and desires for Lent? Give something up? Chocolate, alcohol or coffee? Take something on? Attend a Lent group, read the Bible more often, attend a mid-week service? Whatever it may be, let us decide to support one another in whatever we choose to do. As we journey through this annual second chance, let us remember that each step brings us closer to the welcoming arms of our loving God.
With my love and prayers Mo. Andi
No Christian is solitary. Through baptism we become members one of another in Christ, may we never forget it.
Malcolm Guite wrote the following sonnet for this time of the church’s year, a time which has become known as the Kingdom season:
Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty,
Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows,
Our soundtracks drown his murmur, ‘I am thirsty’.
He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made,
We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip – search him instead.
And if he should fall sick then we take care
That he does not infect our private health,
We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prisons of our wealth.
But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
The praises of our hidden Lord and King
The annual cycle of the Church’s year moves towards its end with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his proper kingly purposes. Pray that we may be ready to meet him when he comes.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
A tale of two prayers. The Pharisee prays standing by himself, some write, he prayed about himself or, to himself. Let’s sum it up: “I thank you, God, that there’s nothing wrong with me.” The tax collector stood at a distance. His prayer is seven short words. Let’s sum it up, “God, there’s everything wrong with me. Help me.” Jesus tells us the tax collector went home justified before God, not the Pharisee. The lesson? Like so many in the Bible: God treats us backwards from how the world does.
In the world, those who humble themselves are too often passed over for thanks, promotions or praise, ignored, forgotten, discarded, those who exalt themselves are noticed, praised, remembered, elected to office. But God’s ways are different. God exalts the humble and humbles the proud.
And that is how it ought to be among us, his people, too.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
Happy Centenary to our glorious Brangwyn Mosaics – what a treasure we have here, which has been entrusted to us: the four scenes depicting aspects of the life of St Aidan the gentle, our patron saint, spread over 1000 sqft at the East end of our beautiful church.
Aidan’s arrival, a time of new beginnings, following God’s call on his life, meeting the desire of King Oswald of Northumbria who invited the mission to bring Christianity to his kingdom. A new community forming on Lindisfarne, a holy place, a prayed-in place, a ‘thin’ place in which pilgrims and visitors through the centuries have been drawn into the life of the living God, a place where we can still experience heaven meeting earth.
Aidan preaching the Gospel of God, making disciples, bringing hope, sharing love, modelling a way to live. Aidan walked among the communities and villages, castles and farmsteads, on the highways and byways, listening, telling good news, praying, sharing of himself. Of course, the first thing he had to do, was learn the language, in the early stages of his mission relying on translators, even the king himself, to reach the locals with the message of hope and joy and love and life in Jesus Christ – our calling and vocation today, too, friends, sharing of ourselves, sharing the news of God’s love in our society, in today’s world, in the community we are set and which we are called to serve.
Aidan feeding the hungry, making people welcome, freeing the captives, giving what he could to those who had less, who had nothing, again, sharing out of himself, challenging the status quo, practicing the life of the kingdom of God, bringing hope. And a lot of admirable life-changing activities find their home at our church, too, as we aim to live as a serving community, following in the
footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray, Lord, that you may continue to strengthen our hands in your service.
Aidan’s death, his passing to greater glory, his journey home to his Father, and our Father, the one from whom he, we, all creation have our being – an ending, yes, but one which has not finished his influence, his witness, his example to reach through to us today.
As we give thanks for this beautiful house of God, as we give particular thanks for Frank Brangwyn and our glorious mosaic of the life of Aidan, we pray for the treasure of living stones, our congregation, our church family, our community, even ourselves, through which God continues to build his Church, continues to build his Kingdom – challenged, at times, yes, broken, at times, yes, hurting, at times, yes, but called to be ever thankful, called to be ever hopeful, called to be ever striving to respond in our living and loving to the Lord who was lifted up on high to draw all people to himself.
For, God’s love that burns inside us impels us on the road to seek for Christ in the stranger’s face or feel the absence of his touch.
So, Lord, help us to carry forward Aidan’s torch of flame – Christ, the light of the world – in the gentle touch, in the listening ear, in the patient toil, in the concern for the poor, in challenging of wrong, in the next step of the journey of life. Amen.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
In our Gospel today, Jesus encounters ten lepers.
Ten human beings living with pain and estrangement, living without hope and care, tired, friendless, rejected, feared, cast out. They have grouped together for ‘company’, mutually miserable, counting that strength in numbers would give them some semblance of safety from the taunts and tricks of the cruel. And part of their group is a Samaritan.
Double-trouble, doubly burdened, this man is not only a leper. As a Samaritan he is an outsider anyway: a stranger, a foreigner, he is different, a non-Jew, he is impure, he worships in the wrong way, in the wrong places, he does not belong, he is not acceptable into normal society, hated, looked down upon, pushed around, pushed away.
‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,’ the ten lepers cried. And when he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
And as they turned and walked away, they saw that they were made clean. Healed. Nothing to keep them from taking up their old lives again. All they had to do was to go back and present themselves to the priests.
Except for one. One leper who was healed on the road, could not turn to the accepted religious institution to present himself. Because whoever he was, and wherever he was on his journey, he was not welcome, he was a Samaritan, he was a foreigner.
He was on his own, healed from leprosy but not from the effects of prejudice.
Where would he go? And without the other nine, to whom could he turn?
We read on, ‘Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.’
Something, some instinct caused this man to turn back, because he knew that there at the feet of this man, this Jesus, he was in the presence of Light and Life and Love.
Here he returned, and gave thanks.
And Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was there no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’
Well, the others were on their way back home, just as Jesus told them to be. They were on the way re-joining their communities, their families, their friends and the centre of society – their faith tradition.
The Samaritan though, this foreigner, who turned back, who gave thanks, found himself renewed, made whole, transformed, acknowledged and recognised as Jesus said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you whole.’
‘Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’
The experience of the ‘foreigner’ is not an enviable one. Familiarity is often hard won, even for the most adaptable, the most integrated.
And many ‘foreigners’ will dream of returning to the land of their birth one day. Though their new home is their true home, it may never quite feel that way.
We need to mark this well, my friends, the ‘foreigner’ understands the sting of prejudice and oppression. The ‘foreigner’ understands the rootlessness that characterises the stranger’s life. And these are all experiences that shaped the story of Israel and its Messiah. Without them and their stories, the narratives of God’s intercessions in this world are incomplete, even nonsensical.
And ‘foreigners’ are not just over there. They are our neighbours, we are your neighbours, we are colleagues, we are family, we are friends, we are part of this church congregation and the people with whom we share life.
But…but in Christ there is no ‘foreigner.’ In Christ, all of us are kin. And yet we know too well our human tendency—even sinfulness—to isolate one group, to exclude those people, to make an other of our sisters and brothers.
Not so, sisters and brothers, amongst us it is to be ‘not so’. The ‘foreigner’ is a reminder that God’s promises know no boundaries or borders, that God’s grace will not abide by the lines we draw between one another, that God consistently uses the most unlikely proclaimers of the good news to be the best choice of all to announce God’s will.
Like the Samaritan in our story. He it was, the stranger, the ‘foreigner’, he it was, who gave thanks, who returned, who praised God, who showed gratitude.
Living faithfully is to live thankful lives, living with a thankful heart is an expression of our faith. Of the faith in the one who is Light so we would never have to walk in darkness, who is the Way which will lead us into all truth, who is the living Bread in whom all our hungers are satisfied, who is Love incarnate, Life in a its fullness.
With my love and prayers: Mo. Andi
In my reading this week. I found this ‘Prayer of the four elements’:
Aidan’s prayer turned round the winds: may we, Lord, be borne along by your winds.
Aidan’s blessed oil calmed troubled waters: may our souls, Lord, be lapped by your gentle waters.
Aidan soaked a place in prayer for forty days: may the earth remind us, Lord, to live on it with prayer.
Aidan’s name means ‘fire’: kindle in us, Lord, the fire of your love.
With love and prayers: Mo. Andi
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