Saturday, 19 April 2014

His countenance is one of Peace: the Father and the Son

Then Jesus cried aloud: 
'Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me'.

This reading presents to us the inter-dependence of the Father and the Son. Glory as I reflected in my last post, is what God does for us in love and here Jesus tells us what he does for us is on behalf of the Father: they work together, not alone. Jesus is a reflection of the Father, if we see Him we see the Father. Devotion to Jesus – looking upon Him through icons, through reading Scripture, in worship, in sharing in the Eucharist draws us into relationship with the Father, because through Jesus we see the Father. Sacraments exist because Jesus tells us that if we look on Him we see the Father ––sacraments always refer to Christ – to his action in the world, and they enable us to enter fully into the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son.

I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, 
for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

It is remarkable that Jesus says that he comes not to judge the world. We have reflected this week on the meaning of betrayal but Jesus never makes betrayal the main narrative. The main narrative, the God-story is love in Christ; our actions, our sin, are not the main story. This is important because we might be tempted to be drawn into the story of sin, especially if we have been wounded or hurt. People who experience terrible abuse or trauma, will be tempted to remain in that narrative, to let that define them and ultimately I’m afraid it may destroy them. Indeed people who have been hurt very little also might enjoy styling themselves as victims so that they can feel justified in themselves in attacking and blaming others. Or, we might be tempted to remain in the narrative of what we’ve done to others. We might be unable to turn to the Cross in repentance, or unable to believe that we are forgiven. 

But, the good news is that the story we are called to listen to this week, is Christ’s story: he says – ‘I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness’. Christ comes for us – on behalf of the Father. He comes to us not as judge but as redeemer. This is the resurrection hope and it is truly remarkable, truly glorious. Keeping our faces turned towards Christ and what he has done for us should draw us away from everything that might otherwise lead us to despair.

The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.

Jesus de-personalises judgment here – he does not come to accuse, but his Words have life and truth in them. He speaks what the Father has given Him, and he speaks in love. The words will stand on their own in the last day, but we can be sure that Jesus is not the accuser - he cannot stand in a position of hatred or accusation towards anyone, as his countenance is one of peace. It is in this sense that we are able to call him friend. In a similar way, we know that we shouldn’t judge others, and we know how hard that is, but we should speak the words that Christ has given us from the Father, and if we are immersed in those words, if they feed us and renew us I’m sure we’ll find that neither can we accuse others. We are called to forgive them in love; the love that Christ has shown us from the Father.

The Father gives of Himself; relationship with God means a sharing in his glory, as we’ve seen and a sharing in His mission to the world. A little further on in John’s Gospel, Jesus says: 

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (14:12) 

God incorporates us and shares with us in his healing and reconciling ministry. What a vocation we are all invited to participate in! Jesus doesn’t point back to himself, but to the Father and what the Father will do in us. His actions are not the end but the beginning, the beginning of the new creation – the new kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. This is a life-giving, nurturing, empowering God. We may be tempted to look back to Christ as though if only we could reach into history and touch him then we will finally understand everything. But as Jesus leaves the world he looks forward, he looks to our future which we share with him and the Father. What a gift we are given! What a life that he leaves for us to live! It is wonderful! It is glorious! We are looking always to the future, our future in Christ, declaring what he has done and rejoicing in it.

John 12:44-50

Then Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.’

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

What needs to die in you?

Just a few days before he was murdered, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, offered these words of faith and affirmation: “My life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that as a Christian, I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Romero died loving his enemies. “You can tell people, if they succeed in killing me that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully they will realise that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will go on.”   (The Tablet)

Christian belief and faith is hope incarnate – dying Jesus conquers death. There is nothing that can destroy a Christian, because death the ultimate end, leads to only greater fullness of life: indeed death itself is instrumental, sacramental in the Christian spiritual journey: ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’.

Jesus asks us to give up our lives, to hate our lives. These are strong words, strange words – words that make strange the world that we live in. How do we do this, how do we renounce the world?  Giving up on our own lives means focusing solely on Christ as Lord; Christ showed himself contemptuous of his own life, he didn’t regard it – he subjected Himself to humiliating mockery, exposure, betrayal and violence – Jesus in this act teaches us what it means to hate our lives, to disregard them for something greater.

To serve Christ means a rapt devotion and obedience to his will in our lives. How do we know that will? We subject our lives to the scrutiny of the cross. In the economy of the divinity, death leads to new life, something that won’t die, lives only for itself; that which dies is born anew, living for others. It may well be worth reflecting on: What might need to die in me so that I am born to new life?

Jesus says: ‘Whoever serves me the Father will honour’: we might be reluctant to talk about reward for good behaviour, but Christ is never reluctant to talk of rewards. The Father will honour us if we’re found serving Jesus Christ his Son. But it is not only honour that Jesus talks of; there is also ,specifically in John’s Gospel, much talk of glory. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. Glory comes at the time of greatest need: ‘Now my soul is troubled’ and what should I say ‘Father, save me from this hour?’. No Jesus replies to himself, ‘it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour’ and addressing the Father he says: ‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’

Glory is a very religious concept; it is certainly not the secular equivalent which is fame. Christian glory says something about God which is indescribable; but we will experience it. Glory then is about relationship with; God glorifies himself through Jesus. Unlike fame which is about an individual’s desire for recognition, glory is about others – for Jesus’ glory is that he draws all people to the Father. The Father’s glory is shared and bestowed on others; He doesn’t keep it to Himself: ‘and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.

David Ford, writes that Jesus’ ‘self-effacing glory shines in order to reveal the glory of God in and for others’ (Self and Salvation). Glory from God has an outward action, it moves to include others, it is made manifest in sacrifice and love; the opposite of ambition and desire for fame. It therefore moves to include us. Christ’s action glorifies the Father and we are caught up to participate in that glory, indeed it was for our sakes that the Father acts in Christ. As St. Paul puts it:

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3-8)

Jesus’ glory importantly therefore is made manifest in his suffering on the Cross, in his sacrificial love for us.  The glory of God has depth to it in that it is borne of that self-sacrificial love: To see the glory we must behold that suffering face, indeed we look at his face on the Cross – and have to re-imagine glory and the Father through that face.

Christ offers his life so that we might know His father and participate in His glory. He asks us too to offer our lives so that in our actions we might glorify God and in those actions bring others to Christ. We are called to a life of self-offering, a life of sacrifice, a life of outward movement to the ‘other’ whom we as yet do not know.

Archbishop Romero knew that his death would lead to greater life for the Salvadoran people, greater faith and more hope, not less. Christ’s death does the same for us, we live differently, and we are different because our lives are lives of resurrection. Nothing in this world can destroy that –nothing. ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present,nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38)

John 12.20-26 - Glory

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them,
‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

Jesus says: ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 3Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 3Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


John 12:1-11 (see at end of text)

As the passion of Christ gets closer and closer there is an intensification of emotion, of love but also of danger and threat.

The first thing to note is that Judas is close to Jesus; he is intimate with Jesus too, like Mary and Martha; a disciple, who shares his table. He is also someone who takes on responsibility within the group, he keeps the common purse. So whilst there are attackers on the outside, waiting to kill Jesus and Lazarus too, on the inside, around the common table is the greater threat – the betrayer.

The second thing to note is how evil intent is shrouded with the veneer of good intentions: ‘why was this perfume not sold and given to the poor?’ Less we imagine that evil is ugly and blatant, let us remember that the great deceiver is cunning and charming, covering his tracks with a kiss, here with a feigned care of the poor.

Jesus is not in any way living in a bubble of love and coziness; he is living in the midst of human relationships, he is right in the middle of life, with friends, and with enemies. Judas was a disciple, a close follower an intimate with Jesus – intimate with God, no less.

So, here is Jesus intimate with friends and foe. It reminds us of certain unpleasant realities, for example,  that most people are murdered or raped not by strangers but by people they know. An unhappy and unpleasant truth, but one we are called to confront and reflect upon because of Jesus’ story, because Jesus leads us right into the heart of human experience.

Christian communities are often shocked and appalled when they find that sin exists not outside the community but inside it. We imagine that Christian community should be safe and good, but if we are attentive to the story of the Cross we may see a different and harder truth, that those who are intimate with God, eating at the table with Jesus, are the ones who can betray him. Indeed, to betray by definition requires friendship.

And yet, we of all people in the world, Christians who worship a crucified God are called to see evil, with its machinations, with its hold on our own lives. It is our duty to know its face and to steer away from it and to help others steer away from it. It is to recognise that there is a choice, a battle and danger. There is no way to avoid this danger; it must be confronted in our hearts, whoever we are. Perfection Jesus shows us lies in faith, devotion to God, weakness and suffering; not in power, control and the authority of this world.

The Christian story, then, narrates for us what goodness is and what evil is; it presents us with a reference point for understanding these concepts. Tina Beattie, a theologian writes:

Outside of this story [God’s story in Jesus], one is neither saved nor damned, neither poisoned or cured, anymore than one is poisoned or cured by a drug that one does not swallow. It is only from within that one recognizes redemption and damnation cure and poison, as the two sides of the fabric out of which faith is woven.

Judas sees and lives with the truth, Jesus Christ and yet he chooses to betray that truth, for a mere handful of gold coins. Yet if he had betrayed any other man so, his crime would have been lesser: it is because of who Jesus is that Judas is remembered as the one who betrays. Goodness makes real evil. It makes real the choice between the two : ‘outside of this story one is neither saved nor damned’.

Recognising ‘the truth’, and then valuing and honouring it is what God asks of us; we can be living close with truth, seeing its face every day, but do we turn to it, do we give ourselves to it, do we show our devotion and love of it, by buying it so to speak the costliest perfume? Or might we too be betraying Jesus every day in ways that other people don’t even see? Christ is here with us, today, in the
sacrament, in the church:
It is through accepting the promise of redemption that one risks damnation, and through seeking the cure one risks being poisoned. That is faith’s mystery, and it means that the Christian story is the locus of a dynamic, transgressive and dangerous volatility, sacramentally and socially embodied in the material world. Here we encounter God and Satan, the beatific and the demonic, the redeemed and the damned, and in historical, human terms they are inseparable. From the perspective of human reason, Catholic Christianity is an impossible paradox. (Tina Beattie)

Entering into the Christian story of salvation is to enter into a place of vulnerability, of choice, of danger and of temptation. There is no cosy space for Christians to retreat to, to feel safe and protected from the world. Christ makes real the actuality of evil. We belong in a story which gives us the meaning of truth, evil, death and resurrection. As we enter more fully into that story this week, let us ask God for the faith to believe in His son and turn from what is evil.

John 12:1-11, Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Are you worried?

Worry, Jesus quite rightly identifies is toxic and ineffective – worrying does not lengthen life, indeed it may actually shorten it, it certainly limits it. But, worry we might say is endemic in contemporary society, it comes under various names like anxiety or stress, but its pervasive atmosphere in one of the wealthiest nations in the world suggests that the accumulation of wealth does not bring an end to worry.

But to tell us not to worry, surely that is the craziest of teachings. Who can live a life without worry? How does Jesus explain such a commandment?

To worry that our basic needs won’t be met, Jesus argues, is to doubt the essential blessedness and goodness of the creation. It’s not that Jesus asks us to live a life of blind faith, but to recognise that God has created a world in which even the lilies of the field are clothed in splendour. In linking his argument about trusting in God to the created world, Jesus is explicitly referring us to the role of God as Creator; as Creator God has created a world that is good (cf. Genesis) and one that is designed to supply the needs of it inhabitants.

The disciples left their livelihoods to follow Jesus and perhaps we can hear their questions in the background that have provoked Jesus’ teaching: What will we eat tomorrow Jesus, what will we drink? Jesus’ answer to them is that their needs are supplied by the Creator God who has ensured that the world is able to provide for them.

If we trust that life is blessed and good it means that we can turn our focus away from our needs towards the kingdom of God: ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you as well’. It’s not that we think that God intervenes all over the place for his people, but that the natural world is sufficient for us (cf. Matthew 5. 45 – he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous).

In accepting this understanding of the world – which is of course not generally accepted these days –our experience can be transformed into an experience of life as gift. Life is given to us by a benevolent Creator who wishes us to be happy and blessed. In spite of what we see of the corruption of the world, it is still blessed by God.

Trusting in God is a daily discipline; it’s so easy to fall back into fear and doubt. There are so many examples that we can use to say but life isn’t good, creation isn’t good, look at this, look at this…. But, our essential task as people who believe in a benevolent Creator God is to trust. As St Paul encourages the Romans: ‘Now hope that is seen is not hope’. We trust in a God that we do not see and we hope for a kingdom that is not yet realised and we work not for our own satisfaction but for the greater goal and prize – the kingdom of God:   ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given unto you as well’.

In an age that doubts, that questions, that worries and that fears the simple trust of the believer in goodness is a transforming and miraculous trust. It is the common vocation that we share – take trust out into your world and be a beacon of hope in the places that you inhabit.

For as Julian of Norwich saw in a vision and communicated in her writings:

‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’.

Gen 1:1-2-3
Romans 8:18-25
Matthew 6:25-34

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pinocchio: the courage to believe

We all know the story of the wooden boy who longs to be a real boy, but who has to learn to be good in order to achieve his dream. The story of Pinocchio.

If you were Pinocchio, would you be one that longed to become a boy or would you rather counsel acceptance of one’s reality? One position might be summarised as ‘I am a wooden toy, accept it and enjoy my lot’ and the other ‘I am a wooden toy, I want to be a boy’.

It might be that the first position is the wiser one. What sort of existence would it encourage? The second position may only lead to disappointment. What sort of existence would it encourage?

The contrasting Biblical texts that we read today (see below) present two very different understandings of what it means to be human in relation to God. They encourage us to reflect on our own expectations concerning the nature of human or ‘created’ existence. They ask us to consider what the end of human life is-

The first Biblical text, from Ecclesiastes, presents us with a Pinocchio who counsels if somewhat unhappily, acceptance. The particular passage that we have is one of the more comforting passages from this book. The familiar ‘a time to..’ encourages us to consider life as deeply ordered with a consequent sense of satisfaction. The idea that everything happens in its right place and at the right time appears comforting. But, as the latter part of our reading hints at, the text presents a pre-occupation with the passage of time and what that means for created beings, i.e. humans. Mortality for the creator of this text makes all human endeavour vain: ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ is a recurring refrain throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. And this is because the passage of time obliterates, according to the author, any sense of individual human achievement. He struggles to find deep meaning in a life that, the writer perceives, is crafted by another. The wisdom advised in this book rather is to live within the confines of our creaturely limitations and enjoy as far as possible the small framework of our existence: to work and play and enjoy it. The God that accompanies this understanding of human life is one who is other, incomprehensible – something to be in awe of: “God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him”. Consolation doesn’t come from any sense of hope that human existence might be transformed, but from the sense of accepting the difference between what it means to be creator and created, immortal and mortal. This viewpoint might be characterised as a Pinocchio who wants to be a boy, but who thinks such a desire is just vanity.

The second Biblical text, from the letter of Peter, presents us with a Pinocchio who truly believes that he will become a boy. This text is full of expectation and of hope – there is the destined for prize – eternal life, and the writer looks to this, he is sees it as the future. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’. So, rather than counselling acceptance of our natural limitations, such as mortality, this writer positively encourages the hoped for transformation: the passage is animated, excited. There is the reality of a living, abundant relationship between God and his created beings and there is hope of a future with God beyond death. This God inspires worship, praise and love. Here there is the expectation that mortality is overcome by God in Jesus Christ. This hope makes all the difference to the tone and nature of the relationship between God and human beings.

What is the difference between the 2 Pinocchios? The difference is simply in their willingness or not to hope. Of course, the writer of the second text has been given a reason to hope. The fairy tale dream of eternal life has been affirmed by and made real through his understanding of Jesus’ life and death.  But, the nature of whether we believe or not is in many ways to do with whether we have the courage to hope.

And so it’s worth reflecting upon our own instincts in relation to this story of Pinocchio. It is a story after all of transformation, and of hope being realised.  Christians do put their hope in what many could quite rightly consider to be as foolish a dream as Pinocchio, the wooden toy, wanting to become a real boy. And yet, perhaps one of the most animating drives in human beings is that of hope, and hope is ultimately a story of resurrection, of re-birth and of transformation from death to life.

Ultimately of course what we believe affects the way that we live. I asked at the beginning of this sermon what difference it would make if we lived within or sort to reach beyond our assumed limitations. There are dangers with both kinds of living, but, perhaps its worth reflecting upon how these assumptions affect our relationship with our maker.

The writer of Ecclesiastes certainly does not have a personal relationship with his Maker who is distant, unknowable, abstract, and awesome. But the relationship attested to in the Letter of Peter is one that is animated by love and desire on both sides. Imagine being Gespetto, the creator of Pinocchio – if you wanted him to become a real boy, your investment in his development would be very real, whereas if you simply created a wooden toy with no expectation of its transformation, perhaps your relationship with him would be much more distant and formal. I know what creator I want to continue to be in relationship with. The question for reflection tonight is, do we have hearts ready to believe that we will be transformed?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

 What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

1 Peter 1:3-12

A Living Hope – very different idea of God here, a God in deep relationship with his people. Able to bring about love not just respect and awe.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Message for St Andrew's Rugby

We can never know where God will take us in our lives and this season of Advent as we have been adjusting to living in Rugby, I have been reflecting upon the nature of the Christian journey. Within our Christian journey we all experience both familiarity and difference. New places make us aware of how particular and individual life and experience is; they make us aware of what we have grown familiar with. At the same time they confront us with the transitory nature of all our experience and with the limits of our experience so far.

Life’s journey at points can be very testing: experiences of loss or of illness both mental and physical can bring us to points of crisis. We may have limited ability to relate to others, we may lose any real sense of personal identity. At these times we rely on others to be our stability and memory and most importantly of all we rely on the church to tell the story of God’s continuing presence with us. The church has a duty to be that which, whether ignored or forgotten, keeps telling the good news. People deep down are hungry for and desperate to receive that good news and we have to keep trying to find a way of enabling them to hear it.

Like God’s presence with us, his abiding and eternal presence, we must never give up on our Christian vocation – which more than ever at Christmas is about hoping. My hope for us as we explore the eternal nature of God together in our very particular context here is that we learn to grow together as people who can explore, adapt and be transformed because we trust in God who has already written the story of our identities and knows the end of all our journeying and imagining. In that confidence and in that faith I believe we will make strides of discovery about the love to be found in communities where God really dwells.

May God bless you, those that you love and those you pray for, this Christmas.

Peace in Christ +