Magnificat

The 15th August (the day that I’m writing this blog) is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Catholic Church it’s the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, in the Orthodox Churches it’s the Dormition (or Falling asleep) of Mary, but in the Church of England it is just the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There can be no doubt that the place of Mary in the piety of the church has been a bone of contention, especially between Catholics and Protestants, for centuries. Today, in the C of E some churches will call today the Assumption, others the Falling Asleep, others will probably ignore it altogether. Continue reading “Magnificat”

To have and to hold

Marriage is a major problem for the Church of England. It shouldn’t be – after all we’re all pro-marriage – but it is. Well, when I say that we’re pro-marriage you’ll understand that I mean that we’re pro the sort of marriage that we all understood twenty or more years ago; the sort between a man and a woman until death us do part. And we still don’t have a problem with that sort of marriage. But the world has moved on – quickly. Continue reading “To have and to hold”

Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

Well, that was a shock – but not, perhaps, a complete surprise. Last Thursday the British people (or more accurately the English and Welsh people) voted to leave the European Union.

It was clear during abrexit heated and often acrimonious, and sometimes depressing campaign, that feelings were running high. As is always the case on such occasions those who wanted to leave were passionate and forceful, while those who were not actively involved in the campaign largely held their counsel. A lot of things were said by campaigners – some of them true, but many clearly not – and some were provocative and have led occasionally to confrontation between people who voted leave and have been telling immigrants to Go home now or worse. Continue reading “Out of the frying pan, into the fire?”

I bind unto myself today

I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity. (att. St Patrick)

What sense can we make of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity? I suppose most of us would say, ‘Not much!’ And yet, everywhere we look the Trinity pops up as if to mock us for our lack of understanding. There it is in our prayers – through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. There it is in our hymns – praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There it is as we begin

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The Holy Trinity – Peter Paul Rubens

our worship – In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And there it is, of course, when we baptize new Christians – I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere we look, it’s there. There’s no escaping it. Continue reading “I bind unto myself today”

Thy Kingdom Come

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited all churches and members of the Church of England to keep this week, leading up to the feast of Pentecost, as a week of prayer for the evangelisation of our nation and for the mission of the Church.
The need to share our faith and to keep our focus on calling new members to join our churches has TKCbeen a key focus for Archbishop Justin ever since he was appointed to the See of Canterbury, and rightly so. We have been a church in decline for decades. Each new set of statistics has shown that fewer people worship in our churches and a smaller proportion of the population claim to align themselves with a religion in our country (although that proportion remains remarkably high). Continue reading “Thy Kingdom Come”

Pay unto Caesar

The news over the last few days has been full of the fallout from the so called Panama Papers. Something that we’ve known to be true has been proved to be true by the leak of these documents – that the wealthy and large companies hide their income in offshore trusts and companies and so avoid large tax bills. It has been an uncomfortable few days for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, as it was revealed that his late father had a company based overseas which meant that he paid no tax in the UK. Over a few days Mr Cameron has been gradually forced to admit that he did, in the past, benefit from this offshore company that his father set up. As a result he has now been forced to reveal his tax returns for the last five years since he became Prime Minister.panama-mossack-480 Continue reading “Pay unto Caesar”

The Lord is risen indeed!

At our celebration of the Eucharist on Easter Day we will hear, as we always do, the account from John’s gospel of the discovery of the empty tomb and a first encounter with the risen Lord (John 20.1-18). He tells how Mary goes early in the morning to complete, what the disciples could not complete because of the Sabbath, the burial ceremonies for Jesus, or perhaps she goes simply to spend a little time with her thoughts in the quiet of the early morning.

John brilliantly gives us a sense of the panempty-tombic in Mary’s mind as, finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, Mary runs to find Simon Peter and tells him, They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him. Continue reading “The Lord is risen indeed!”

Telling the Passion Story

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and now we’re into Holy Week; that week of the year when we tell the story of the suffering and death of Jesus as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection on Easter Day. Most Christians find this to be a bitter sweet time for it can be hard for us to reflect upon the death of the Jesus we love – even though we know the end of the story. The end may be wonderful and glorious but the journey towards that end can be painful.

Telling the story is important. Any child can tell you that about stories – they need to be told to come alive. It is necessary for us to recount the events of that week from Jesus entering Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, greeted by the crowds, cheered by the people but upsetting the religious

Alonso_Cano_-_Cristo_crucificado_-_Google_Art_Project
Christ on the Cross, Alonzo Cano, 1646

leaders as he throws the traders out of the temple and rebukes the priests and scribes and lawyers for their hypocrisy, to the shadow of the cross that almost immediately falls over the story and leads us to the rigged trial (rigged by the priests, or rigged by Jesus, or both?) and so to the death on the cross and the tender burial by disciples who had, at best, been on the fringes of the group who followed Jesus. That story needs to be told. It needs to be heard. It needs to come alive for us. Continue reading “Telling the Passion Story”

When you pray, say …

Prayer is a tricky business. Or at least so it would seem from conversations that I’ve had with other Christians, with people on the fringe of Church life and non-Christians who challenge me about it. And, if I’m honest, it can be a bit of tricky business for me too. And lots of teaching on prayer appears designed to make us feel guilty about it.

CANDLEAnd because so many of us find it tricky, we also find that it becomes a source of guilt and anxiety for us. We don’t feel that we pray for long enough or often enough; or we don’t pray well enough; we don’t know what to pray about; our prayer is too formulaic and stale, lacking variety and inspiration; we get too easily distracted; and everybody else seems to do it better than me. You probably have your own anxieties that you could add to the list. Continue reading “When you pray, say …”

Welcome to Lent

We often describe Lent as a season of Fasting. But, in truth, fasting has fallen out of favour. Now, rather than fasting, we are likely to give up something for Lent – biscuits, cakes, wine, sweets. Increasingly we are encouraged to take on something for Lent – more prayer, more bible reading, more charitable work. All of this is good but I want to suggest that there is still some benefit to be had by fasting.Lent

The dictionary definition of fast is: Abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.

So what are the benefits to us of abstaining from food or drink? Continue reading “Welcome to Lent”