Monday, 6 August 2018

Sermon for Trinity 10 on 5 August 2018


EPHESIANS 4: 1 – 16

I have just received a letter from the Apostle Paul to Holy Trinity Poulton-le-Sands with St Laurence Morecambe. It got a bit delayed until Tychicus realised it’s usually known as Morecambe Parish Church.
Let me read you this morning what the Apostle says:

Dear friends in Morecambe:
I heard about the party – all that singing by the choir and soloists and the geriatric something or other. They told me about those 2 old geezers with their maracas trying to accompany Mike on the guitar. And that bloke called Michael Page who was all shook up or something – we didn’t sing that in my day so I didn’t quite get it.

And I heard about Mike’s message last week – I couldn’t have done better myself. All that about bread which you had again in the gospel this morning. And your presentation of that fabulous picture Linda had painted. And that Reader of yours feeling she’d made a fool of herself. Just tell her to get over it; she was probably expressing what many of you felt.

I know you’re going to miss your previous Rector, Mike, but you know, God is not leaving you; I know it’s scary going into a vacancy but God is going to be with you. He doesn’t leave his people to flounder, in my experience..

And thinking of you all there in Morecambe, it reminded me of some things I said to another church that was in a sort of vacancy in a place called Ephesus an awful long time ago. So that’s why I’m writing to you this week.

I had a lot to say to that church in Ephesus about all that Jesus Christ had done for them and about who they were in him. You’ve got that bit of the letter. And then I got onto talking about some practical things. And those are the things I want to say to you today.

1          Maintain the unity of the Spirit
The first thing is this: I want you to keep united. I want you to keep together. That’s going to take humility and gentleness and a lot of patience because unity is not easy.
It takes a whole load of effort.

There’s always something or somebody who wants to undermine it. A little misunderstanding and suddenly you’re not speaking to each other. You get tired I know in a vacancy because there’s so much more to do, so many more responsibilities. You suddenly realise what the Rector did behind the scenes, without anyone noticing and it’s easy to feel over-whelmed and then to get irritable with each other and before you know it something has been said that you regret and it’s very hard to take it back. My advice is, apologise quickly, put it right, don’t let things fester – maintain the unity.

I said before and I’ll say again: bear with one another, put up with one another – even those who really wind you up. Jesus has loved you and his Spirit living in you will help you love them. You may not feel very loving like you do to people you like. But do the loving thing; want the best for them and you’ll find that the feelings will eventually follow.

You know I, Paul, had rows with people when I was a young apostle. I was so furious with my fellow worker Barnabas because he wanted to re-instate a young guy called Mark that we went our separate ways (Acts 15: 37). But when I had time to reflect during my long years in prison, with God’s help we put it right and eventually Mark became one of my closest companions. (Col 4: 10 & 2 Tim 4: 11)

So maintain the unity because “you’re all called to travel the same road and in the same direction. . . . you have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all” Permeate everything you are and think and do with being One.” (The Message)

The other thing I want to say to you is that:

2          God has given you everything you need for this vacancy
I know some of my original letter to the Ephesians sounds a bit complicated but that’s because they were Jews like me and were familiar with what I was referring to.

You see the most important story to us Jews was the Exodus from Egypt and how afterwards when they were wandering in the desert, their leader Moses went up the mountain and came down with stone tablets on which the Law was written. We thought of the Ascension of Jesus as rather like that. Jesus had been through death and resurrection – a new Exodus, setting us free from bondage to sin and death. And then he had ascended to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit and now his Spirit was showering gifts on his Church.

Well let me tell you Morecambe Parish Church, Jesus is still sending the gifts of his Spirit on the Church - including yours. So if you’ve got the same Spirit as we had, you can serve like we did. It may be a different millennium but you’ll find ways that are appropriate to your generation.
In my day, God’s Spirit equipped and sent people like me into new situations all over the Mediterranean and we planted new churches. We were called Apostles. Some of you will be able to tell other people about Jesus in a very natural way so that they want to become Christians too. We called them evangelists.

Some will be able to speak truth to power; they’ll understand what’s going on in the world around you and say things that are just right on the mark. We called them prophets. Some will be able to open up the scriptures to you and make them live. We called them teachers. Some will be really good listeners and take care of your needs. We called them pastors. There are lots of other gifts God gives to the church – I wrote about them in other letters, but these are enough for now.

They have a very special purpose. They are to help you grow up, so you aren’t tossed about on a sea of opinions that haven’t much to do with Christian faith v 14.
These gifts are to help you get on with the ministry like Mike was encouraging you to last week, to keep up with the things already established and be alert for anything else God wants you to do.

It may be a vacancy but that doesn’t mean it’s a vacant lot in Morecambe! You’re not a vacant building; you’re a body. And just as the ligaments in your body link all your skeleton together, so you are linked to each other so that you pull in the same direction.

These gifts will make the body of Christ there in Morecambe strong, so that you become more and more united in purpose, more and more full of the knowledge of God, more and more like Jesus.

And so Paul ends this letter sending us grace and peace.                                                                                 

Friday, 20 July 2018

Magazine Article for July/Aug 2018

Dear Friends,

As this is our special two-month edition of the parish magazine, it will be my last contribution as Rector of Morecambe Parish Church. Many of you will now know that I have been appointed as Vicar of St Nicholas’, Beverley and Training Adviser to the Archdeaconry of the East Riding. My final Sunday here will be July 29, and my induction service at Beverley is on 30 August at 7-30pm.

As I explained in my sermon on Pentecost Sunday and also on my blog, I knew that after Debbie died, it would not be wise to make any big decisions for at least a year, if not two. It was important to be here to come to terms with what had happened with people who shared my sense of loss. As we got into 2018, however, I began to feel that my time here was drawing to a close. Around that time some possibilities for new posts came up, and to cut a long story short the Beverley post offered me a new start, and a job with some new aspects to it, which I look forward to engaging with.

I have been asked if my new church is Beverley Minster - it isn’t. The Minster is in the centre of the town and is the size of a cathedral. There is also St Mary’s, to the north of the market place. St Nicholas’ parish covers the most of the town on the east side of the railway line. It is a smaller congregation than MPC, and has very different challenges in terms of making connections with the community (there is no church school, for example). But there is a core of very committed people who I’m looking forward to getting to know and working with. They also said they are looking for someone musical, so I may be playing more in services!

In theory half of my working time is parish and half to the training role. The latter will include arranging training events and courses for church members, people in specific roles, as well for clergy as part of their ongoing development. There are also opportunities to help deliver some of the courses at the York school of ministry, which will certainly stretch my little brain! Keeping the two in balance will be a challenge, but I have done “dual-role” before in Coventry, so at least I know the pitfalls.

I’ll say more about leaving Morecambe later, but for now I just want to thank you all for your fellowship, prayers and support. The last 9 years has contained some very challenging times, as well as some wonderful moments of celebration and joy. Thank you for sharing that with me and the other Peatpeople.

Morecambe is a great place, and this community has character and resilience. As I said at Pentecost, I trust that God has already provided this church with what it needs for the vacancy, and that new opportunities and possibilities will come in this next chapter for you, as well as for me.

With all good wishes


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Magazine Article for June 2018

Dear Friends,

From time to time I get asked what the different seasonal colours use in church and on the vestments of clergy mean. It’s like so many things in church life. We take it for granted that things that are familiar for us are obvious to everyone, when in fact they’re asking what is going on and why.

Every now and then, it’s a good exercise to think about what church must be like for someone who has no previous knowledge or experience of it. For example, at some of our baptism preparation sessions, I show a short Youtube clip of the old Cadbury’s Smash advert with the plastic aliens laughing at the primitive earth people peeling and cooking potatoes.

Then I pose these questions: What would the aliens make of a baptism, and how might we explain baptism to them? (Best answers on a postcard to…)

You might prefer to think about some of the technical churchy language some of us can find ourselves using. For example, can we all identify an aumbry, a ciborium, a chasuble, or even a vestibule? Some church people, when talking about a communion service refer to the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, so we’re speaking Latin even though our services are in English. And then we refer to the Eucharist, which contains the Kyrie Eleison, and all of a sudden we’re talking in Greek. No wonder newcomers can be confused.

In the middle of June, we’re being asked nationally in the Church of England to regard June 17th as a Sunday to invite people to come to a church service. That’s great – and I hope you do. But moments like that are a reminder to us all that to be truly welcoming to newcomers, we need to go further than just a friendly smile at the door. We also need to be befrienders, interpreters, and go the extra mile to ensure that people are enabled to participate as freely and as fully as possible in every aspect of our church’s life. Otherwise if we confuse people with words like legilium*, they might be making their escape through the narthex**, never to return to share in our koinonia***.

With all good wishes


* a legilium is a folding lectern or bookstand, often used by priests for the first part of a service, before being packed away

** the narthex of a church is a lobby area at the west end of a church building.

*** koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship, sharing or participation.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Magazine Article for May 2018

Dear Friends,

There are lots of things that are difficult about prayer. We struggle over finding time, finding words, finding motivation, or even wondering whether anyone is really listening. And I know from many conversations over the years that people often give up altogether, rather than have a try and feel they have failed. And a result, there is always a lurking sense of guilt about it.

In fact, we all struggle with prayer (yes – even clergy!) and the life stories of many of the great saints include their wrestling with precisely this issue. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources and help that are available for praying. There are lots of different ways to find a way into prayer again. The traditional methods of using silence or a prayer book will suit some, while others may prefer to be more creative and pray as they go for a walk, or paint, or do something else spontaneous or visual. You can even pray with technology, using websites or podcasts.

However, we’re all being challenged by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to use the period from Ascension Day to Pentecost (10-20 May) to set aside some time to pray as part of their “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative. The focus is to pray for refreshing of God’s Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost Sunday, and to pray for others to come to faith, and to reflect on how we might be part of helping someone to do that.

Here at MPC, we’re going to be opening church every morning at 9am for an hour, from 10-20 May, so that people can use the building to pray, and there will be a short (15 mins) form of morning prayer said every day at 9-30am, which everyone is welcome to join in. It’s only a small contribution in some ways, but the mystery about prayer is that sometimes the simplest and briefest of prayers can make all the difference in the world. Do join us.