Saturday, 28 September 2013


A reflection on the gospel: Luke 16:19-31

Only God can judge.
In our heads we know this to be true,
but most of us will have a go nonetheless.
So, in our harshness
are we prepared to ask ourselves:
Have we done all we could?
Did we set out the stall properly?
Did we challenge or cajole?
Did we love and love and love again?
When our neighbour falls
is our first question:
What more could I have done?
Or are we too busy condemning to admit culpability?
Can we share the riches of our table
with those who are used to the dregs
and keep the channels of grace
open to all
in the knowledge that God comes
in the strangest of garbs
and dines with the sinner
and with the saint,
inviting both to find a home
in the incredible welcoming arms of God?

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Skilful sharing

A reflection on the Parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13)

The end justifies the means?
Well... not quite.
But we do not have to hang back, we do not have to reject what works,
we can redeem sharp practice
for the sake of the kingdom.
God requires our transferable skills and our cheek:
the things we use in our everyday to see us through.
It is not about rolling over but about stepping up
to clinch a deal for God.
And when folk see
that we are not so heavenly minded to be of earthly use,
when they understand
that we speak a common language then can we all
gather around the one table.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

I know you're busy...

A long, long, time ago, when I was training for ministry, an older minister advised us that we should never let folk know how busy we are. His concern was that if folk perceived us as being very busy, they wouldn't want to bother us with important pastoral issues and our relationship with our communities would be diminished. He maintained that we should be worried if folk approached us, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." That seemed like sound advice and I have tried always to play down the volume and scale of my work. But still, folk approach me saying"I know you're busy..."
And, all this time later, I have come to be suspicious of that advice. Firstly, because it never seems to stop folk lobbing more work my way, no matter how busy or otherwise they perceive me to be. Secondly, because it is more often than not, simply a turn of phrase that folk use as a means of respectful approach. And, thirdly, because it just is. I am busy. Bigger workloads are being placed on fewer people. That's the way it is. Me pretending that it is otherwise serves no good purpose. And I believe that folk often discern that there can be a competence in busyness (though not always). Of course, there is always the danger of becoming too busy. But the fact that others see that we are busy does not diminish our ability to offer effective pastoral support when invited to do so. Nor, in my experience, does it dissuade them form requesting the support that they desire.
So I am going to stop feeling bad when folk approach me, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." Their perception does not make me a bad pastor!

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Arise and dance

As the sun creeps over the hill
the mist dances
unfurling its tendrils
lazily coming to life
Yawning and stretching
then rising up
to magically disappear
making way for the new day
to begin
creating space
for energy to awaken
and join in the dance.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Make a joyful noise

What a happy sanctuary this morning as we celebrated Jacob's baptism. It was filled with the buzz of children, young and old, at play. Jacob and his older brother, Jackson, were particularly interested in the water in the font. Grace was demonstrated in the playful, splashing water becoming a sacramental element. The love of God made real as promises were made and journeys honoured.
Even the preaching of the word was accompanied by a happy,gurgling, baby who brought a smile to this preacher's face. Reflections on the gospel, from Luke 15, challenged us to retrace our steps to find those elements of our faith that had been mislaid somewhere along the way.
Hopefully, many lost things were found this morning in worship, not least a warm welcome into the family of God, encouragement to continue the journey and the invitation to all to make a joyful noise to the Lord!
For of such is the kingdom of God...

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chain of events

12 years ago, I'd just left the photocopy room at the hospital where I was serving as whole time chaplain. I was clutching in my hand copies of the order of service for a Presbytery Communion Celebration that I was conducting that evening as Moderator of the Presbytery. A white faced staff member stopped me in the corridor and asked: "Have you seen the news?"
For the next few hours, folk wandered from office to office, checking out the latest updates, not saying much, not doing much except seeking out companionship, unable to grasp the enormity of the events we witnessed in New York.
The Hospital Chapel was just a few doors down and people trickled in and out as the afternoon wore on looking for space to reflect and connect. It was the next day before we got some written prayers organised to help folk in their reflections.
The service so carefully planned for that evening went out of my head until the organist called and asked what changes I'd like to make to the choice of hymns in the light of the day's news. In particular, he was concerned about the first item of praise: Singing we gladly worship the Lord together. It seemed altogether too bright to sing in the light of carnage and death. I was about to agree. But then I looked at the words again:
Singing we gladly worship the Lord together
Singing we gladly worship the Lord
Those who are travelling the road of life
Sow seeds of peace and love

Come, bringing hope into a world of fear,
a world which is burdened down with dread,
a world which is yearning for a greater love
but needs to be shown the true way.

Come bringing joyfully in both your hands
some kindling to light the path to peace,
some hope that there is a more human world
where justice and truth will be born.

Whenever hatefulness and violence
are banished for ever from our hearts,
then will the world believe the day is near
when sadness and pain shall find their rest

Those words have been in my heart more than ever recently as we light candles and take time to reflect on the effects of chemical warfare in Syria. And, as once again, our collective breaths are held while we await the outcome of retaliation by nations that know first hand the devastating ripple effects of violent resolve.
Incidentally, the second song we sang that night was Bernadette Farrell'sChrist be our light
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Two hymns, chosen before horrific events unfolded, with words that, to our shame, continue to be the words that we need to pray today. When will we deign to be involved alongside God in the work of answering our prayers for peace?

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