All News Stories

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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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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Who is my neighbour?

‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ a lawyer asks Jesus, as we are told, as a question to test him, to trick him.

‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ Jesus shoots straight back at him. – ‘Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ – ‘Do this,’ Jesus says, ‘and you shall live.’

‘Who is my neighbour?’ we are told, the lawyer carries on – according to the Gospel “wanting to justify himself”.

Jesus does what he often does to teach, to persuade, to make our hearts burn within us, to blow open our narrow-mindedness, to challenge our hard-heartedness: he tells a story. The story of the Good Samaritan.

He finishes it off with yet another question, ‘Which was a neighbour? Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ – ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ – ‘Go, and do likewise.’

I’ve been teasing at the question of neighbourliness all week, wondering whether there’s any significance in the slight variance of the question about the neighbour asked by the lawyer and by Jesus.

‘Who is my neighbour?’ vis-à-vis ‘Who was a neighbour?’

The lawyer asks ‘who is my neighbour’ from the perspective of the one acting, from the perspective of the one dispensing neighbourliness, from the position of power, if you will.

Jesus asks ‘who acted as a neighbour’ from the perspective of the one who was passive, from the perspective of the one receiving neighbourliness, from the position of weakness and need.

Christ’s teaching challenges the parameters of compassion normally understood by his contemporaries and by extension by us today — from compassion for family and friends, to all without exception, even to the point of loving our enemies.

Through the example of his life, Jesus calls us, his people, to practice love, kindness, compassion, and servanthood toward all we encounter, on a daily basis.

The Good Samaritan makes the choice to come near the man who had fallen into the hand of robbers. He makes the choice to approach him. He makes the choice to overcome the distance between him and the man clearly in need of help.

This is how eternal life might be known also here and now and in this place: in nearness, not in remoteness, in proximity, not in reserve, in deciding to be closer, and not looking for ways to push others away.

This is how eternal life might be known also here and now and in this place: not in detachment, but in intimacy, not in disengagement, but in openness, not in disenfranchisement, but in relationship.

Who, in our story, acts as a neighbour?

According to Jesus, the one who dares to come near.

Our ‘neighbour’ is someone who, without a doubt, is experiencing pain, struggles, challenges, and sorrows, and yet to whom we draw near. Our ‘neighbour’ is someone who clearly has needs … which we see, which move us to pity, which make us act in compassion as we consciously decide ‘I will help you’.

This should not be such a stretch for us as God’s people, God’s children.

After all, God’s decision to become human is just such an act — a commitment to draw near, a desire to close the distance, a need for, the gift of closeness, intimacy, relationship, compassion and love.

So, friends, people of God, let us go and do likewise.’

With love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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Doubting Thomas

Dear friends, where was Thomas, that night?

Thomas seemed to have learned his lesson and vanished, for the cruel and the powerful had taken away his hope.

The people who insist that the poor deserve their poverty; that women have their place;

that immigrants cannot be equals; that race determines place in society;

all these people who cannot believe in a world more fair than this one, they laugh at poor Thomas:

He must be a fool, for the world is as it always has been and always will be, violent and divided and mad,

and he is deluded to follow anyone who points out a better way for us to live.

 

And yet, yet, the hope of these devastated people does not die, the followers of Jesus do not simply vanish.

Instead, they tell stories of their resurrected Lord who has appeared to them,

has given them important work to do, has breathed on them the Holy Spirit which will live with them and among them.

They continue to tell the stories of his life, they live expectantly for the fulfilment of his vision.

 

People of God, living as they lived, building on that hope and promise, is our calling, too.

And even more importantly today than ever before, with so many questions ahead of us after last week’s referendum:

how are we to live peaceably, gracefully, lovingly with each other, within our own community and nation, amongst ourselves?

Love and prayers: Mo. Andi

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