Monday, 29 June 2009

Now online - double issue Parish Magazine

The title says it all.

The Magazine for July & August hasn't yet got to the printer. But you can read it online by clicking here - and this way you get it in colour.

Still, I hope people will buy the hard copy...

The confirmation of faith

Here's the photo I didn't manage to take after last week's Confirmation. The Vicar of St. Cuthbert's, Benfieldside with Frank Barnes and Dorothy Dover, both newly-confirmed by the Rt. Revd. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham.

In the Rite of Confirmation, the individual Christian affirms his or her faith, and the Bishop confirms it in prayer with Christ's people. So the individual and the corporate come together. I believe, but as part of a greater whole.

Sunday's Gospel reading took us to the example of faith we find in the woman who pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak and to find healing - and the challenge to faith we find in the death of Jairus's daughter. I preached on them, and you can find the homily here. I found it worth quoting from the challenge to faith which the late Cardinal Basil Hume found in his enounter with starvation in Ethiopia - and with one individual in particular. They're his words, reproduced in the week's issue of "The Tablet:"

“This small boy came up to me and gripped my hand. With his other hand he pointed to his mouth. That was his way of telling me he was very hungry. I said to the interpreter: ‘Tell the little boy that I’ve come here to go home and make certain that food is sent to him.’ He went on doing this, but he also got hold of my hand and rubbed it against his cheek. I couldn’t understand that, but for the whole hour I was in that camp that little boy wouldn’t let go of my hand, and from time to time rubbed it on his cheek. He was very, very hungry … I remember speaking with that boy and asking him through the interpreter: ‘Why are you looking so sad?’ and he answered very simply in his own language: ‘I am hungry.’ I could see in that face the suffering Christ, and I realised just what a terrible scourge physical hunger is. But also there was an echo from the Cross which Our Lord spoke when he said: ‘I thirst’, and how he thirsts for us and wants us… Then, when the visit was ended and I had to go elsewhere, the little boy stood – I can see him now – feet astride, his hands on his waist, and looked at me almost with reproach. I could see in his face, ‘Why are you leaving me behind?’ I felt awful because there was no way I could take that little boy and bring him back to England.

“I realised that when you’re lost and are very hungry, and you are abandoned, you have a craving for two things: for food and for drink and for love … It was the next day when I was celebrating Mass that I understood as I’ve never understood before, the secret of Holy Communion. Our Lord, realising how much we need love, how much we need to be fed by him, had this marvellous way of doing it: by giving himself to us. When I visited Ethiopia … I saw clearly how when people are abandoned and dying of hunger they crave for love and for life … I have never forgotten that incident and to this day wonder whether that child is still alive. I remember when I boarded the helicopter he stood and looked reproachfully. An abandoned, starving 10-year-old child … A little boy who taught me in a wonderful way something very important about going to Holy Communion. I have often wondered since what happened to him.”

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Alone at sea... asleep in the boat

I see that I haven't blogged for quite some time. June has found me officiating at four weddings, getting ready (myself rather than our candidates) for our Confirmation on Monday of this week, and enjoying a Summer Fair. All this at the same time as my younger son has been taking GCSE examinations - thankfully finished today, and we've just been out to celebrate.

Annoyingly I didn't have my camera to hand when group shots of the Confirmation were taken - I hope to borrow some picures soon. And the picture above is the only one I took at the Summer Fair - during a performance by the Jane Robson Theatre Group in church.

But generally we've been having a good time. The sun has been shining again, we're hoping that landscaping work around the Hall and below the Car Park will soon be complete. And thoughts are turning towards the holidays (a week in Italy booked so far).

On Sundays we're working our way through St. Mark's Gospel - this week with Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. This is what I had to say in my homily. If you don't want to click on the link here's an excerpt:

... the crucial question: to ask who Jesus is for us. To be able to recognise that he is at the centre of the storm with us. That we are not alone. But we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have times of sheer desperation. Jesus is sleeping in the stern of the boat. It’s not the first thought of the disciples that they’ve got him with them. Their first thought is that Jesus is asleep. They feel on their own, and this man is doing nothing for them. They feel on their own, even though other people must be near to hand. St. Mark tells us that as they set out across the Lake, “Other boats were with him.” But there’s no other reference to the people in these boats. When we are in the midst of the storm, perhaps we forget the peril that other people are in – “this is my disaster, and I’m going to suffer it all myself.” When we are in the midst of the storm, perhaps we forget that there are other people who might be able to help us. But the disciples are so pre-occupied with danger that they forget anything other than their own fight for survival on that one tiny boat. Nothing else and no one else matters. It’s as though nothing else in the world seems to exist.

And perhaps that’s how life is for us when we know that we are in trouble. All we can do when things are extreme is be conscious of the peril. So easily we feel that we’re on our own. We don’t care that other people may have their problems, because nothing can match mine. We don’t think that anyone else can help, because my problems are so far beyond my being able to deal with them that we don’t believe anyone can help us find a solution. And if we call on God, it might be only to find that he seems to be asleep.

It’s this story that tells us that it’s not necessarily so...

Monday, 8 June 2009

Trinity Sunday - trying to get it right

Preaching on Trinity Sunday is one of those tasks which many clergy try to avoid. How many heresies can you unintentionally commit in the space of 10 minutes or so?

But a faith which may seem difficult is something to be engaged with. "Keep it simple," is what so many people ask - and there is indeed a simplicity in Christian faith which is the simple recognition of God's love for us. But that is love revealed in Christ, and made real by the Holy Spirit. So already you're into the realms of Trinitarian doctrine.

In preaching this Trinity Sunday I didn't aim to go far into the doctrine of God's Being, nor did I want to say that faith is difficult. But I did want to say something about what it is to hold a faith which can sustain people in the complexity of their lives - that we shouldn't expect faith to be laid out for us on a plate. If life is difficult, is a simple answer going to satisfy you? Well... there are times when that can be the case (though it's often so simple and direct that it's not really welcome either). But there are times when we just have to wrestle with it. Just because faith can be difficult, it doesn't mean that it's not real.

And the reality of God can be sensed in his Glory. That's where we started in our use of Isaiah 6. And you can read what I had to say in my homily here.