Today’s trouble is enough for today

Our curate this morning asked if we took our worries to God before worrying about it all ourselves. I though this was interesting as I always feel a little silly telling God how much I need my family car, or money to eat with or a new tumble dryer. I mean, does God care about my tumble dryer? Does he know what it does? Has he seen me trying to dry seven lots of clothes on the radiators with a smile on my face. I’ve not been angry about the lack of drying facilities, it’s just one of those things. 

But when the house is quiet and I draw close to my Lord, I whisper into his ear my worries. I imagine sitting with him on my sofa as I lean into him feeling soothed by his presence. I thank him for keeping us sustained, because I know without his support we would certainly be in a much worse position. I thank him for giving me the wisdom to be able to think through problems calmly without getting upset or overwhelmed.

He knows my thoughts, he knows his plans for me. But does he know about the tumble dryer? 

I continued to try and not think about the piles of clothes and just got on with it. I asked my mother to help dry some towels, but she struggled for time. So the towels are piling up, the boiler is older than my eldest child. Anyway I keep going and keeping a wary eye on the boiler pleading it keeps going, praying that these seemingly trivial things blow over. 

At one point, after praying, my brain questioned my logic, “have you just asked God, creator of heaven and earth, the alpha and omega, for help with drying your washing……..?” 

Yep.

But that’s our God, he listens to all our worries. In the Gospel set for today, we are loved so deeply that we are told that worrying is unnecessary. That worrying over clothing is not needed as God clothes his creations with his own hand. This gospel reading is timely indeed, as on Thursday my lovely Aunt rang me to say she’d bought me a new tumble dryer. I was gobsmacked by her generosity and by her love for us. She said she didn’t want to see us struggle, that I didn’t need the extra stress of worrying about drying the clothes, that we needed help that she was happy to be a part of. 

This is our God, these are the worries that Jesus felt in his human life, he has felt our anxiety, our stresses, our emotions and our pain. His provision is more than a physical thing (like my tumble dryer) it’s about taking the burden from us to let us keep moving forward. To keep us sustained whilst walking this Christian life that we have chosen to journey with our Lord. 

Praying about our worries to our God is necessary, he sees past the physical, he sees into our souls and that is where we find our peace, where we find his peace and his endless love for us. 

Do not fear, only believe.

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Events in the news recently have been hard to overlook. There are many people who are afraid of the impact of America’s new president on not only his country, but on the world. His choices and legislations have landed like a large stone hitting the glassy surface of a lake. The ripples from his actions are not only spreading but turning into large waves. People who thought that their home was America have been subjected to border forces declining their return to their country. Suddenly life has become uncertain and fearful, especially for those who are in need.

Some of you here will understand what it feels like to be in desperate need. As a child I was bullied constantly at secondary school, I was made to feel like I didn’t belong anywhere, that I was too ugly to be able to part of normal society. I felt awful. I was lost, lonely, upset, and desperate to be relieved of the situation I was in. Desperate to be healed from that living nightmare. 

In the Gospel today, we see a Man who is desperate for Jesus’s help to heal his daughter and we see a women who is desperate to be healed from her endless bleeding. We see two people who are healed by blind faith. The woman grasps the hem of Jesus’s robe because she knew and believed that he would save her from her suffering. The leader of the synagogue Jarius, who was taking a huge social risk by meeting Jesus, pleaded for Jesus to lay his hands on his daughter to make her well. Even after Jarius was informed of her death he still agreed to Jesus coming to help his daughter.

Jesus says to Jarius, “Do not fear, only believe”. This is a strong message to take away from this gospel today, for Jesus says this to all of us. With the changing atmosphere in the political world today, this message from Jesus is important. Let us not be ruled by fear, but just believe. Believe in the power of prayer, in the power of reconciliation, in the power of the gospel, in faith, hope, and in the power of love. Jesus calls us to love and that is what we should do. 

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Let us spread the Good news when at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any good news in the papers at all. Let us stand up against oppression, racism, and hate. And let our love be the light in the darkness for those who are in desperate need of help and support during this unstable time. 

Do not fear, only believe.

Amen 

Your beauty comes from inside you

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘new year, new you’ message that floats around at this time of year. There is nothing wrong with setting goals or targets for yourself, but I believe that truely loving the person you are, the person who God made you to be is the best New Years resolution that can be made.

I believe it is much harder to learn to love yourself in today’s society. We are bombarded by the media, by the vastness of the online world to live a certain way, to look a certain way, and to think a certain way. Marketing up to Christmas tends to be, ‘spend as much money as possible and eat as much food as you can before the new year.’ Yet as soon as January 1st arrives the message changes to ‘get yourself to the gym you overindulgent wretch’ and ‘lose a million stone before Easter so you can put it all back on in Easter eggs.’ I wrote an essay recently for my MA on the power of consumerism and how it can and does have a debilitating effect on our lives. People are being pulled, but not in the natural seasons such as Spring, but by shopping seasons. We know what time of year it is by what is on the shelves and when the sales have started. Fruit and veg are available all year round, imported from around the world. I saw red tulips on sale recently, a spring flower available here in December. All seasons are becoming one with Earth’s resources becoming a 24hour supermarket, a supermarket that isn’t even open to all.

It is so difficult to keep a foot on the rich and worldly wise Earth that we inhabit. It is so difficult to look in the mirror and love what we see. Yet God looks at us with such unconditional love, we are his creation whom he loves. When Jesus walked a human life it was his deeds, his love, and his words that made him shine as the light of the world. His inner glow radiating out to all those who follow him. 

But what about us? Can our inner beauty be seen through our outer appearance? I’m not talking about clothes or make-up here I’m talking about our personality. Can our smiles say a thousand words, can the joy in our eyes lighten up someone’s terrible day, can our good deeds bring love to people who desperately need it, can we laugh at ourselves when we are wrong or have made a mistake? Can we remember that we are not perfect?

We are beautiful, imperfect people who come to Christ for forgiveness. That forgiveness allows us to start again, to keep moving forward doing more good than bad. But we’re not perfect so we regularly come to Christ for forgiveness to set us out on the path again on a lifelong journey of faith.

So this new year, don’t focus on changing who you are, focus on finding out who God has made you to be. Ask him through prayer to show,to guide, to encourage, to forgive. Listen and reflect, read and feed your inner self, and love the person you are called to be. Through this prayerful relationship our inner beauty will shine through and everyone will see him through us, through our deeds, through our smiles, and through our words.

Silent night

A prayer from lips that make no sound

a noise exhaled

though none around

to hear pleas through heaving breath

barely alive close to death

quivering hands gently placed

palm to wood

splinters sharply

pain

sheltered darkly 

from the tree

the manger built

from the tree

a saviour wilt

set me free

on my knees

with silent lips

he arriveth to me

under that star

palm to wood

I lean in

breath newborn scent

heaven sent

on this silent night.

Can God really spread a table in the wilderness? 

I’ve been thinking a lot during this season of Advent. I’ve also been on a journey, I’m not quite sure what that journey is, I think that a large part of it is a wrestling of my own self doubt. A line of questioning that began with the completion of my BAP forms. I think those forms have some sort of mystical powers, or questions that stir up all sorts of feelings, doubts, and confusion. It’s been a real sense of being in the wilderness since I filled and sent them off. 

Why do I feel so alone? Yet I don’t feel alone? Why do I feel like I don’t belong anywhere? But yet I know I belong somewhere but not quite sure where that is. Why do I love church and then feel absolutely infuriated by it at the same time? 

I’ve been thinking about John the Baptist, and thinking about how part of his calling from God was to be in the wilderness permanently. I wonder what that must have felt like to John? Was he confused by his placing on the outskirts, or did he just know that his calling from God was worth so much more than feeling comfortable. Did John sit at night in his rough robes in the freezing cold, enjoying his honey and locust buffet, being one with nature, being one with everything that God’s hands had made with a smile on his face? I like to believe that he did have a deep love and joy for his calling, and how amazing he must have felt to fulfil it and baptise Jesus, the one he was paving the way for.

When I reflected on my past, compiling memories that I had to put in my form, I realised there was a pattern. A pattern of me feeling lonely as I was repeatedly pushed out from wherever I had been. I started to wonder whether this recurrent feeling of loneliness was because of my own failings to not feel content and accept where I was being placed. Had I thought about whether I was experiencing all these things because that is where God is placing me. But for what reason might I have to feel this way? The answer was pretty simple really which came to me in a reaccuring dream. Being put in uncomfortable situations where you can’t rely on your own ego, where you can’t rely on the affirmation of popularity, where you can’t rely on the praise of peers is exactly the place where you let go and let God take you by the hands and walk with you.

Maybe this is what John the Baptist realised in the wilderness, maybe he also experienced the caring and nurturing nature of God through his provision. John ate and drank off the land, God spread a table for him in the wilderness, he didn’t need others to keep him going and even in prison I’m sure that God was with him in those chains. By letting go of himself, John freed himself to serve, to Baptise, to motivate people to repent, to point the way to Christ. 

Is this what God is showing me? That I need to change the way I think about being in situations that push me away? That I need to remember that God has me by the hand. To remember that I leave my emotional neediness baggage at the feet of Jesus and keep walking forward secure in his plan and the calling he has for me.

This I believe I can do, and I think I’m doing it, and I hope and pray that I can pass this message of hope on to whoever I can serve, whoever I meet on the outskirts, in my future ministry.

The armour of light

The sunsets have been amazing this week. I drive to pick up my eldest from her secondary school at 3:45pm and as we are about to head home, we are greeted by a blanket of golden light. The sun hangs in the sky like a ripe fruit on a branch, it is so near the ground, yet is suspended in the air, engorged and filled with colour. The golden light engulfs the streets, and as we are on a hill the town below us is a haze of shadow and every possible shade of orange that our eyes can see. When I turn down a particular street the car is illuminated inside, we all are suddenly part of this wonderful transition from day into night. It makes driving a little difficult as I’m relying on my eyes to distinguish where the road is, yet my mind is dancing in the sunset.

I sometimes feel like following Jesus is a mixture of being amazed by his glorious light and also dazzled and disorientated. I’ve had times this month where I have felt completely confused by where I am being guided to be. I often feel burdened by blind faith. I have had times of resilience where I don’t think I can give or take anymore, yet just around the corner is a blast of the light and I remember I can keep moving forward. There is an indescribable feeling of knowing and walking with Jesus yet we can be dazzled and feel worried that we cannot see where we are going! 

But that’s what it’s all about! It’s not about us being in control (and I’m not talking about driving here) it’s about having the strength to open ourselves up to the will of God and the resting is his plans. To take courage that he will cover us with his wing and we will feel safe and loved by his guiding hand. 

In times of resilience or times of waiting, I remember to start my day with Christ. How can we face a challenging time of our lives without him? When I am sad or feeling lost, when I feel like I can’t take anymore I have a vision of someone taking my hand as I walk with them. Sometimes in my dreams I am so weary that I have to rest my head on their shoulders as they walk with me by the hand. It’s never the same person who I see, but like the disciples on the beach I recognise the repetition of the actions and the faithful return of the image, and I sit up and say it is the Lord!!  
We take the Lord’s love with us in everything that we do by covering ourselves in Jesus Christ. We take on his example for us and strive to live in a way that reflects his grace, his love, his peace on everyone we meet. We clothe ourselves in Christ like our favourite jacket keeping us warm. We start the day and leave our house with our coat on and we should do exactly the same with Jesus Christ. We put on his armour of light and lay aside the darkness that is around us. Like that low hanging sunset which filled the streets with golden light, we bathe the world in the light of Jesus. The light he gives us helps us to see clearly, and even when we are dazzled he stretches out his hand to guide us, to keep us moving on a lifelong journey with a deep friendship that will never leave us.

You visit the earth and water it

This is a sermon written for St James’ church, 9:30am Holy Communion service , inspired by Psalm 65. (My first talk delivered at my home church)

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. The low hanging sun, the turning colour of the leaves, a crisp wind which catches our breath, hinting at the winter to come. It’s a season of change, a time to start a new school year, a time to put away the haze of summer, a time where nature puts on a colourful display of God’s creation. As a child I would spend as much time outside as possible when I went to stay with my grandparents. I have fond memories of my late grandfather who was a devoted gardener, always on his knees in the soil regardless of the weather. 

He loved to spend hours in the garden, especially around Autumn. In the mornings I would watch him sweep the multicoloured leaves from all around the paths to make sure my nan would not slip over when she hung out the washing. Through the day he would pull up the weeds that were breaking through the paving or those who had infiltrated his flower beds, he would trim back the holly bushes, and the trees which had become bare. In the evenings as the light began to fade, he would tidy up his pruning with his heavy duty gardening gloves. 

When he wasn’t looking I used to put my hands into his gloves and pretend I was him. I would walk around with the floppy gloves grabbing the yard brush and try to look after his garden as best as I could. The gloves always felt huge, my fingers barely made it past the palm section, his large gentle hands could snap the strongest branches yet still gently dust the soil from a seedling’s new roots. Whilst reading the psalm set for today I thought about my grandfather and how our Heavenly Father tends to us like a devoted gardener.

After giving thanks, the psalm delivers a vivid image of the wonderful strength of our God. “In your strength you set fast the mountains” “you still the raging of the seas, the roaring of the waves” 
In the psalm his almighty power causes people to tremble in awe, the gates of the morning and evening sing his praise. Yet suddenly and ever so gently God visits earth and tends to us like a devoted and faithful gardener.

I imagine when reading this section that God puts his gardening gloves on, examines the work to be done, rolls up his sleeves, and gets stuck in for the day. In the psalm it seems that the watering was the first job to be done, the life giving water which sustains not only the crops but us too.

God provides for us, from the moment we are created, I like to imagine a huge greenhouse where we are lovingly nurtured, protected by his strength and by his endless love. God knows our thoughts, and hears our prayers and when we are weary, or are spiritually dehydrated we are refreshed by his life giving water

The psalm says, “you drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges”, how wonderful it is to know that when we are dried up, so close to cracking, God waters us, smooths out our cracks, softens us and blesses us so we can start to grow again. 

His nurturing love and guidance enables us to not only grow, but to produce fruit. The fruits of the spirit, the outcome of spiritual gardening, which described by Paul in Galatians as Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. 

Not only does God refresh us and heal us through his water, but he provides plentiful growing environments where we are planted throughout our fluctuating life experiences. 

When life is amazing and we feel on top of the world, there is thick grass on the hills, the psalm says they are girded with joy, we can feel the sun on our faces and everything is great. 

When life is constant and enjoyable, flat and colourful like a meadow, the psalm says the meadow is clothed with flocks of sheep, God is providing here too.

When we feel cut off, on the outskirts of society, unable to fit in, still God provides a patch of grass for the possibility of growth. “May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness”

Lastly in the psalm, even in the valley there is corn that stands so thick. Being in a valley, where life could be darker, maybe we are out of the sun and stuck in the shadows, God is there providing that opportunity to sustain and nourish us until we climb that mountain and feel the sun on our faces again. 

In all our situations in life, our faithful gardener tends to us. There is spiritual nourishment, his love, his warmth, the sun cultivating and illuminating us. 

But we can’t do this all alone, and god knows this, so he brings us together and we start to grow together as one body, as one church, as one family. It is here where we are inspired by his cultivation and we start to provide the same support structures for those who might be in the wilderness or in the valley. Jesus instructs those who follow him to be like him so others may see him through us. We are Jesus’ hands, feet, eyes, on this earth as described by the famous prayer by St Teresa of Avila.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which he is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which he is to bless us now.

It doesn’t matter how hard the wind blows this Autumn or how many leaves fall to the floor, like my gentle yet strong grandfather, our Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit makes the earth plentiful for us. He tends to us, provides for us, and helps us to thrive in whatever the weather, wherever we are planted, and with whoever we grow with.

Amen