I must turn aside and look at this great sight

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

This year in my back garden we have blessed by an abundant pilgrimage of gorgeous butterflies. They are not there all the time but when the sun is out suddenly they appear swooping and darting above my head. 

Their beautiful flame red wings flash in the sunlight, they manoeuvre through the air effortlessly and sometimes are joined by a partner. 

They twist and twirl in a seemingly endless dance spiralling higher and higher. It is fascinating to watch, their darting display is irresistible I have to stop whatever I am doing and just sit and admire them. 

Moses in the Old Testament reading today has a similar experience. He is minding the flock of his father in law, he has wandered through the wilderness and suddenly he sees the bright red flames of a bush that is on fire but it is not being consumed by it. 

What a sight to behold, imagine standing there watching the flickers of flames seemingly using up the kindling of the bush but nothing happening to it.

Moses turns aside, stops what he is doing and invests his attention to this miraculous event. God notices that Moses has stopped what he is doing and has gazed all his attention on what God is doing, and God calls him.

This is a brilliant model for us to see how God does things and inspires us to pay our full attention to what He is doing. 

How often do we hear stories of people’s lives being transformed by God but we turn a blind eye, perhaps become cynical, perhaps even disbelieve that God would do such a thing?

How often do we sit in the pews and hear the word of God, how often do we see the Eucharist, yet we do nothing, we say nothing, the altar is aflame with the passion and love of our God and we sit there unimpressed, we have not turned aside to witness the glory of our God right here in front of us.

Yet here in this story we see Moses stopping what he is doing and he watches and he listens.

God then tells Moses to take off his sandals because where he is is Holy. 

We can learn from this command too, we can take off the things that make us feel comfortable when we worship because wherever God is present and doing things, that place is Holy.

How might we take off our sandals when we are in the presence of our God?

Can we dare to worship with more passion, can we approach the altar with joy and thanksgiving, can we say that something has touched us, or God has spoken to us. 

Taking off the worries and things that can hinder our ability to proclaim the beauty and amazing things of the Lord is difficult. But God says to Moses take off your sandals, because where you stand is Holy, it is Holy because God is there, it is Holy because God is doing something, and we are to turn aside, to look afresh on the all consuming fire that is our God.

The thing I love about the burning bush, is that it is not consumed, and this is another lesson for us, when we feel that everything around us is pressing in, when things are tough, when life is difficult, we are not consumed by it because the God who sustains holds us through it all. We are not burnt up, we are still under pressure, but we are held in such incomprehensible Grace that we can see the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

At the end of this, Moses is sent by God to do His work, Moses is afraid, he knows his weaknesses, he doesn’t believe in himself, but God does, God says I will be with you. I will be with you. I will be with you when it is tough, when you are feeling overwhelmed, but God is also with us when we fail to notice what he is doing. He is patient, and all we need to know is that somewhere God is doing something that we cannot see, we need to be attentive, to keep our eyes open, to listen intently to Him, because in that seemingly non eventful moment, like the butterflies that twist and dance in the sun, there waiting for us is something to catch our eye and draw us into whatever God is doing. 

He is waiting for you, waiting for you to take notice, waiting for you to turn aside, and gaze on the flames that dance by his command.

This week, try and take notice of what God is doing, perhaps it won’t be as spectacular as the burning bush, but whatever it is, God is waiting for us to take notice, to listen deeply, to pay attention, to gaze on His Glory and His grace, Moses said Here I am, let that be our prayer to God this week, Here I am.

Amen 

 

 

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Little girl, get up!

There’s something deep inside that has haemorrhaged for twelve years.

Myself being consumed without my consent.

Consuming me every day,
no one could help me,
I tried a few times to cry out for help,
but it wasn’t the right time.

It was just costly.

Then I saw you and I believed that if I could just touch your hem,
if I could just feel your love then I knew that I could be healed.

And I was.

And it stopped.

And then I stopped.

And now I felt death.

I lay there watching the world go by and you took my hand and all you said to me was “little girl, get up!”

And slowly I did, part by part I began to move and soon I realised I was now more alive than I’d ever been before.

You healed me.
You released me from my prison.
You transformed my heart.
You made me worth something.
You showed me love, proper love, not consumerist love, just pure transcendent unconditional love.

Now:

I pray when I want
I sing when I want
I dance when I want

And it’s all for you,
My Lord and my God.

And I’m so thankful,
I have no adequate words to speak.

All I have is the smile on my face, the sparkle in my eyes and a new heart that you put in me.

With a Holy Kiss you brought me back to life, you raised me from the dead, you breathed your spirit into me.

And I will serve you with every breath in my lungs and every beat in my heart.

You saved me.

Little girl, get up.

Tremble

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble at everything,
the world seems a new place,
light and dark,
day and night as one,
it is hard to see the blue sky,
with patches of deepest space,
but then there are the stars,
some shine day and night,
they are not afraid of this new world,
where blue is bluer than ever,
and black is darker than death.

I cradled a coffee in this new world,
everything felt different,
I could have more than one cup,
if I wanted,
I could stay until the chairs were lifted,
if I wanted,
and the floors swept clean,
if I wanted,
or I could leave like I’d never been.

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble at everything,
the sounds my house makes at night,
the doorbell,
the floorboards,
and as I wait to listen more,
my heart stands still,
a little too long,
and my bed feels,
a little too long,
and the days,
a little too long.

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble with you,
because it is you that spoke,
that breathed,
this new world,
you split the rock,
encased around my heart,
and now it pours out,
freely,
but so new,
so delicate,
like fresh butterfly wings,
and I tremble,
a little too long,
but I can fly,
if I wanted.

You say,
do not be afraid,
and when I look up,
hold me close,
a little too long.
because all I see is you,
and I tremble,
because my life and my heart is anew.

And what of love?

And what of love?

That drives down relentlessly
pounding
like rain on window pane
singing a strong yet delicate symphony
of newness, freshness,
yet builds to overwhelming flow
like waves
which lap the shore
crescendos into more,

water pours from split rock
in the desert places,

and what of love in these spaces?

Clouds broken,
you are my beloved,

words spoken,
you are precious,

hope awoken,
you are beautiful.

And what of love?

Nothing but gift,
rained relentlessly,
bestowed from above.

Ascension

As I walked with prayerful purpose,
two butterflies twirled,
caught in a dizzying dance
so close
yet not touching
on and on they span.

I stopped and watched
mesmerised by their symmetry,
and I reached out to become part of them
close they came to me.

Soon they spiralled above my chest
and I felt my heart flutter by,
it lifted up
and joined the butterflies.

Coaxed out of heaviness
leaving all and raising up into the sky,
I reached out to see if I could touch my heart,
on and on they span,
over hedgerows
and endless green,
such beauty in their dance
peaceful weightlessness
a release of yearning
for a chance
of freedom
on swift wings
who knew a heart could do such things?

Thank you Sister and Brother butterfly
for your prayerful purpose,
that lifted me
ascending
ascended
beautifully free.

.

Enlarge our hearts Lord

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

Finding extra room is difficult. Before I moved to Rochdale my family and I lived in a small three bedroom terraced house. Choosing wardrobes and chest of drawers that would fit was always a challenge. I learnt the use of loft beds and that Swedish furniture company was so handy to have down the road from us.

But one day though the furniture situation was critical and no amount of furniture shuffling could solve the problem.

We had to make a choice.

My bedroom was given to the children and so began a long season of sleeping downstairs.

It is amazing how we adapt and make room, there’s been so many occasions where my little house was absolutely brimming with people, but no one was turned away, spare chairs were found there was always the possibility of expansion.

It was love that made the expansion possible.

In today’s readings we hear the disciples being told by God to make room for the gentiles, and we hear Jesus telling the disciples to make room to love each other.

It is hard enough to find room in a small house but finding room in our hearts is even more difficult.

There is a certain amount of risk that goes into allowing ourselves to open up our hearts and love. We are putting ourselves at emotional risk, that old phrase about warning us not to wear our hearts on our sleeves rings true in today’s world, where success and continual improvement are the benchmarks of a satisfying life.

It is hard to make difficult decisions when the heart is involved.

When the heart is involved we are called to exercise patience with one another, to let love and relationships grow not at the rate that we deem acceptable that fits in with our lives, but growing at the pace that the Holy Spirit calls us to follow.

Peter experiences the immediacy of the Holy Spirit showing him a vision that he is to eat with the gentiles and share the Gospel with them. Peter did not have time to think about it much futher than the reaction to the vision, we see and hear in the reading in Acts “the spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them”.

The Holy Spirit is saying enough with these boundaries that are hindering the flow of love, it is time to make extra room in your hearts.

Peter had to exercise patience with himself, not to ignore the Holy Spirit, he had to suddenly make room for the Gentiles in his heart, with the love that Jesus had told him to share. It certainly was worth the risk. He says “who was I that I could hinder God?”

My heart is pulled and aches at the declaration from Peter, “who was I that I could hinder God” and “the spirit told me to go with them and not make a distinction between them”. Inside me I feel that familiar feeling of worry, the worry of falling in love, that there is always a risk that it is going to hurt.

However, whatever I do, whatever we do when we serve others I hear these words spoken over us. Do not make a distinction between them, love one another, just as I have loved you.

Where the love of God is concerned, The Holy Spirit is a gift of love breathed onto the disciples by the risen Jesus, we do not make a distinction.

This direct and empowering command from the Holy spirit, its immediacy is the same that blew into the room and landed with tongues of fire filling the disciples with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

We can see that when the fire and love of the Holy Spirit blows we must act, we must start to enlarge and make room in our hearts for others.

It is not a case of shuffling around the furniture to fit something else in, it is literally the opening up of another room where more love can dwell.

The thing is, we cannot do this on our own. In both readings God is present speaking His word of love, in the Gospel we hear Jesus saying to the disciples

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love on another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

People will know that you are my disciples because you have made room in your hearts for my people.

We have to let Him into our hearts to be able to have our hearts continually expanded by His love and in turn enabling us to make room in our hearts to love others.

I don’t know if anyone has seen or heard about the “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative that takes place every year between Ascension Day and Pentecost, where we commit ourselves to daily prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I saw a video last night recorded by Archbishop Welby that has a Message from His Holiness Pope Francis, Pope Francis speaks of asking the Holy Spirit to enlarge and widen our hearts as we all have a problem, and that problem is that our hearts tend to shrink, they become smaller and close, it is a problem that we can’t solve by ourselves, only the Holy Spirit can solve it.

The readings today and the message from the Pope points us to committing ourselves to asking the Holy Spirit to come and move and expand our hearts, it is time to push the boundaries of who we love and to take a risk in the name of Jesus.

I spent a lot of time in hospital with my Mum this week and I saw the Holy Spirit at work, enlarging hearts of those who were suffering with the worry of a loved one being ill. I sat in the waiting area alone in the High Dependency Unit for hours, yet other people who were also visiting spoke to me, listened to what was going on with my Mum and I in turn did the same. People contacted me through text and social media and in the middle of that long silent waiting, I felt my heart push against the lure of closing in on itself through loneliness and despair.

In times where we feel that we must protect our hearts at all costs, we run the risk of them becoming smaller and closed off.

When we reach out and communicate, when we reach out and love, pushing against the boundaries that the world, society, culture sets for us, when it feels like we have nothing left to give, here is where Jesus calls us to make our hearts grow in His love.

Jesus says loves one another just as I have loved you, make room for Him and in turn make room for his people, don’t make a distinction, just radiate the gift of love freely given by the God who loves us more that we could ever know.

It is time to stop shuffling the furniture around, it is time to make another room, it is time to step forward in patience born through fortitude, strengthening our hearts within the brokenness of the world that tempts us to withdraw and keep safe our love.

Through brokenness we saw God’s greatest act of love, let us re-enact that love and listen to the Holy Spirit blow through our boundaries, who was I that I could hinder God?

Amen

You know that I love you

When we feel a loss it is quite likely that we go through the motions of doing something that reminds us of that person, or situation.

When I was little, my Grandad treated me like a princess. In the mornings when I stayed over I would wake up and scramble into my Nan’s bed. We would wait excitedly under the covers for the familiar sound of the tea set rattling and tinkling as my Grandad made his way up the stairs with a hot tea pot of tea, gorgeous china mugs and a selection of shortbread biscuits. This is how we would start every weekend morning. All three of us would then sit in bed, enjoy the first cup of tea of the day and laugh and share stories.

My Grandad would clear away the tea set and my Nan and I would get washed and dressed for the day. When we came downstairs, a bacon sandwich would be waiting for us. My Grandad who was obsessed by my safety, would cut the bacon up into tiny pieces so that I wouldn’t choke on it. He still did the same as I grew older.

If I want to invoke memories of my Grandad, this normally involves me making a cup of tea with shortbread biscuits and then following it with a bacon sandwich. I’ll sit there thinking about his voice and what he would say to me and I miss his love for me deeply.

When I think of Peter suggesting that he and the disciples go fishing, I imagine that they might be doing a similar thing. Peter must have been missing Jesus, although he knew that Jesus was risen, it must have been difficult to not have the presence of Him around every day like they had become used to.

I can imagine the yearning for Jesus’ guidance as they cast out their nets through the night and found that there was no fish. Peter who was desperately clinging onto his memories of Jesus, was now right back at the beginning where he was called by Jesus, empty handed, tired, naked, and not sure what to do next.

But in this place of sadness and desperation, Jesus’ voice cuts through and John recognises it and tells Peter. Peter must have been so sad and overwhelmed that even he could not recognise the familiar voice and command of Jesus. But once he did he set off into the water following his heart and not his head.

Jesus calls us to do that, to know deep in our hearts when His love is calling. We can jump in headfirst because we can hear the glimmer of hope that we are loved and cherished and that no matter how awful things become, He is stood at the shore, at the break of dawn bringing light into whatever darkness, whatever situation that is troubling us.

Peter says to Jesus, “you know that I love you” and it is in the receipt of that love that Jesus commissions Peter to feed His sheep.

It is in that place of love where Jesus calls and commands us to love each other, it is in that place of love where Jesus forgives and transforms, it is in that place of love where Jesus provides and nourishes.

It is why when we celebrate the Eucharist we take back into ourselves what was given out by Jesus. Over and over again we remember and reenact, over and over again we look up and out to the shore and see and hear Jesus, we jump into the water and swim out to Him and are fed by the food that He gave us, and by the love he freely gives out, bringing us back to Himself and sending us out again.

Lord you know that I love you, now send us out to do your will and work.