Saturday, 6 September 2014

So, I prayed for the VCR

Praying hands from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Jan Smith, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Yeah so I did that, I prayed for the video player this week. And you know what, it was answered right away!

So let's take a step back. I do pray about everything, well ok maybe not what socks to wear in the morning, but you know the important stuff, the day to day stuff, just giving my day to God. Paul says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and I kind of think that is a reflection of us giving all of our lives to God. It's easy to pray when we need an answer, it's easy to pray when something big is going on, someone is sick, we need to move house, we have a job interview. We all do that, even people who aren't Christians do that! But you know I think God wants all of our lives, not just to turn to him when really need him.

So. I pray, a lot, all the time. About important stuff, about random stuff. Doesn't matter, I want God in all of my life not just the bits I choose. Now I know that some people think praying selfishly or for yourself or even, for random objects, like,  say a VCR, is wrong. I don't agree. I think it's all part of the whirlpool of our lives and so I think we should include God in it all. 

So the VCR - how did that happen? Well, we've been having a big clear out and I found a video someone had made of our wedding. We do still have a VCR but it isn't used regularly. Anyway of course the blooming' thing wouldn't work would it. My husband tried everything. We had planned a bit a family time, the youngest two were sat with milk and cake, in PJs, all ready to watch it together before bed. It was going to be a special time. 

Except it wouldn't work. 

Let down... 

So just as my husband was about to give up, I just threw out a prayer: Lord please would you let this work, we'd really love to have this special time together. Well, instantly it came on, without my husband touching another thing! ha!

And I know that some people will say oh that was coincidence or that my hubby had fixed it or whatever. But you know I think that was just God's favour. He knew it was important time for us and I think he answered our prayer. and after all, why wouldn't he? The bible says: 'Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart'. (Psalm 37:4). How lovely is that - it's such a joy and a privilege to delight in the Lord and yet he offers us even more.

God wants to be part of our whole lives, in the nitty gritty, the details, the important stuff and the stuff that only we know about, but we just need to let him in a bit more often!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Discernment, writing and a neglected blog


So my blog has been rather neglected over the last few weeks, partly because it's summer but also because I've been using any spare time to write, to, well, to write! but just not here.... So as a reminder - here's what I'm writing and how can get get involved... see here


Sunday, 10 August 2014

"The Faith of Friends..." Talk at The Point Church // 10/08/14

Luke 5:17-26 TNIV

7 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."




Talk // The Faith of Friends

 So we are on our 3rd Summer Sunday and over the summer we are looking at some of the parables of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. Last week Will talked about healing after looking at Jesus healing the man with leprosy. This week we see another healing, this time of the paralysed man.

So in prep for this talk, I’ve been reading a book called: Through Peasant Eyes’ by Kenneth Bailey, which looks at the oral traditions of story telling in the middle east and particularly in relation to Luke’s Gospel. Parables and much of the early sharing of the Christian faith were shared orally by people meeting each other, sharing stories, social time.
In his book Bailey says of the parables:

‘The parables of Jesus are a concrete/dramatic form of theological language that presses the listener to respond. They reveal the nature of the kingdom of God and/or indicate how a child of the kingdom should act…’

and I was really struck by this line but just to make it a bit simpler:

We are the children of the kingdom of God right? So then, when we read the parables of Jesus, they should teach us how to act in a general sense but also foster in us some sort of response. Some sort of action.

So as I was looking at this passage, which has so much in it, and thinking on what to talk about today, I thought ok, well what is it that should be the response here? What is the action that we should take away from reading this story?

And what stood out to me and what I want to focus on today, is not in the man who was healed, ‘Matt’,  but actually it’s the people who carried him. The people who did something extraordinary for this man, who went way more than the extra mile for him. Not for themselves but for him, for this one guy, lying paralysed on a mat.

Why? Why would they do that?

Well I think it’s simple, the passage tells us that ‘Jesus saw their faith’.

So. Jesus saw their faith. And that’s why we asked you to think about how your faith has impacted others. How have others seen your faith?

I think these men were lovers of Jesus, early followers and they knew what Jesus was all about and they wanted some of that for their friend. We don’t actually know whether the friend wanted it but I guess he didn’t have much choice!
The point is, they loved Jesus enough and they loved this man enough to be pretty radical in getting him to meet Jesus.


And that is what I am going to suggest should be our guide, or our response to this parable. A guide to what our actions should be as children of the kingdom of God. Do we love Jesus enough to enable others to meet him? Do we love others enough to be radical in how we help them to meet him?
Do we?

There’s our challenge… and it’s a challenge to us as individuals and as a church.


To love Jesus enough and to love others enough.


Xxxxx



Another book I’m reading, which I will probably be mentioning a lot in the months to come is this: ‘Being Church, Doing Life’. It’s all about people getting outside the church, being missional, meeting people where they are at. I really recommend it, especially as we start to look at being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. Anyway, I just want to read you a bit from this book: It talks about a mission heart, but don’t freak out at the term ‘mission’ in this sense, it simply means having a heart for others.
P.152, 


So - Are we up for it?  To be part of buildings Gods kingdom?

xxxxxx




So, going back to our passage in Luke, what do we actually know about these men? What can we learn from them? Well we don’t actually know that much to be honest but we can use some assumptions too! This parable actually also appears in Mark 2 and a version of it in Matthew 9 as well.

Mark tells us there were 4 men, here in Luke it just says some, but as it says he was lying on mat we can guess that’s one at each corner, carrying it like a stretcher.

So, four men are carrying a paralysed man on his mat.

Now don’t forget this is a culture with little medical provision. There would have been no hope for any cure for this man or any improvement. We don’t know how long he has been paralysed, whether from an accident or injury or from birth. But he would have probably been shunned by society. Often illness and affliction were seen as spiritual – a judgement from God or something demonic. Many people with long term illness or disabilities were reduced to begging in the streets.  

So for four men to willingly pick up this paralysed man and carry him to see Jesus, I think we can assume there must have been some quite strong connection – probably family or perhaps friends. Of course as followers of Jesus they could have been simply acting out of compassion but I believe with the lengths they go to it is likely to be someone they know. And I think that is confirmed also when we see what they do. Not only do they bring him to Jesus but they are so desperate to get him before this great healer that they go to really desperate measures don’t they?!  


xxxxxxx



Here’s the other thing about this situation. Here we have a building rammed with people to hear this young Prophet speak. Of course we don’t know who all the people in that house were but we do know that there were a lot of religious leaders there – from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem. So we’re not talking 2 or 3 here, that’s a lot of religious leaders.  (v17)
We also know from what happens later that they are really here to check him out aren’t they. They want to prove him wrong, they want to be able to condemn him.
So we have a house full to bursting (no H&S obvs!) with a bunch of cynnics come to check out this guy, responding to reports of a prophet not following their teachings perhaps, ready to catch him out, ready to condemn him. These are not men who need Jesus, they are men who think they are better than him.


And yet outside there is a man, one man, who cannot get in. Possibly the one man who really needs to get in and he can’t. His way is blocked by religious leaders. His way is blocked by a crowd. Perhaps even his way is blocked because of his condition, because of his needs.  In other places where Jesus has preached, the bible talks of him healing all their sick but not here. Here it says the spirit is present to heal but until this man comes in no one is healed. Are people repulsed by his needs? Do they keep him out rather than making a way to let him in?

xxxxx

I think that gives us a picture of what the church is often like. A building full of people focussed on what is going on in the inside, whist outside are those that really need to meet Jesus but for one reason or another can’t or won’t come in. Perhaps we are repulsed by the needs of others? Perhaps we don’t want to make a way to let people in?  ….

xxxxx

Yet here, outside there are 4 men showing their love for Jesus, showing their love for their friend, absolutely determined to get in. Radically determined I think. I mean that’s hard core isn’t it digging a hole in a roof! (literally hard core!)
Not sure any of our bits of paper will say that!

But anyway they get in and what happens? Jesus saw their faith. HE SAW THEIR FAITH. Not the mans, Matt’s faith, but their faith, the friends faith. IT is the faith of the friends in bringing this man to Jesus that prompts Jesus to say to the man ‘Friend your sins are forgiven’.  That is the impact that our faith can have on our friends and those around us. OUR faith… this is so key!!!


In the book: ‘being church, doing life’ – here’s an example from one person:
P;48 ‘Ive become a follower and lover of God, because I was introduced to him like that by people who have God in them, and not the religious stuff..."

That’s what our faith can do for others….

xxxx

And Jesus didn’t literally see their faith did he, its not like they had a sign around their necks saying ‘full of faith’ – no he saw it in their actions, in their love for their friend. Having faith is one thing, but we usually have to act on it as well. We don’t just sit there waiting for God to wave some magic wand over us do we?

Do people around us, SEE our faith? In our actions, in our lives?


In these friends we see in them, their love of Jesus, they know who he is and what he can do, not just for them but for their friend.

You can just imagine it - They are undeterred. Outside the building. They are so close. They can probably hear Jesus’ voice, they know they are so close. Even the man on the blanket can hear. They are not giving up now!

So they do something so crazy out of desperation, they dig through the roof. Mark tells us: in 2:4 ‘Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it. Lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on.’ Or ‘through the tiles’ as it says here in Luke. Either way it was not an easy task to say the least!

We see their desire to see transformation in their friend
We see their sense of urgency – they don’t give up and say we’ll come back another day – who knows Jesus might not be there another day.

And we see ingenuity. I mean they dig a hole on a roof – how’s that for thinking outside the box!
xxxxx

I just wonder how often we take our faith for granted. You know you don’t have to be standing on a street corner shouting about it, but we are not supposed to be hidden, people should see our faith. Luke 8:16 parable of the lamp on a stand: ‘ no one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under his bed. Instead he puts it on a stand so that those who come in can see the light’…

Can people see your light?

Now I’m sure I’ve stood up here and said this before but we are all different, ok. I know that I am a natural evangelist, I will talk to anyone about my faith but I know that not everyone finds that easy. But we can all find ways to let our lights shine without shouting about it. If We are part of Gods plan to ‘contribute to the salvation of others’ – then Surely God gifts us, prepares us, equips us for all he has for us?

We can all impact those around us with our faith. That’s why I wanted to see what you said – how you have used your faith?

How your faith has impacted those around you – because we are all different. We can all learn from each other.

So how do people see your faith? How has your faith impacted others?

Share some examples….. from the box! and expand on them...

xxxx

Earlier in the service we had asked people to write down times when their faith had impacted others and put them in a box at the front. Then at this point we read some of them out. It was a powerful time of encouraging each other as individuals and as the body of the church and then we prayed together... 

Some examples were:

"Prayed for many in the town, healings are happening here! this town's ready for revival!"
"all my friends were gossiping in the common room at college and I wasn't joking in but instead reading. This started a conversation about why I wasn't joining in and showed Jesus!"

"I did a bible reading at school"

"I was walking down the street and a lady and her dog saw me. The dog approached me. The lady was so surprised that she kept asking what is it about you? Well I told her it was Jesus and I was able to pray for her right there"

"My friends come to me when they've got tough stuff going on in their lives and need advice"

"By treating anyone who comes into our house as if it was God coming in, we've recently had the theory tested when we found a group of half drunk teenagers partying in our house (as guests of our daughter). We didn't kick off but cooked pizzas and made them all feel welcome"
" loved a friend who was going through a really tough time, ended up sharing Jesus with her and eventually she became a Christian!"
" Aiming to run a business with kingdom values, creating a supernatural workplace environment"
" Telling people at work that I go to church"

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Women Bishops, Chichester Diocese and the future….

The 'Bolney Babes', 4 women chosen to serve communion at the consecration of the new Bishop of Lewes,
Richard Jackson. One (me!) training to be a priest, and the other 3 married to one!

So, 18 months ago I wrote here and here, after the previous failed vote in favour of women Bishops, about how gutted I was that the vote had not passed, that I was surprised by how strongly I felt and how tough I was finding it in this diocese.

Well, what a difference a few months makes… yesterday afternoon I was in the park with 2 of my kids watching the tweets roll in, keeping me informed and as I saw there were just a few speakers to go we all headed home. I knew whatever the result was, that my reaction would be loud and over the top so I'd rather do that in the comfort of my own home! So as I sat in my kitchen watching the live feed (which miraculously came through just as the vote took place and the results were read out - and it has been a shocking connection this week!) I wept and tried to explain to my youngest daughter why I was crying and why it was so important, I was reminded of exactly the same scenario in Nov 2012, when the vote failed and I sobbed as my kids wondered what on earth was happening to Mummy!

So yesterday I cried as I heard the result read out. In fact I was on the verge of tears all afternoon, but the funny thing is I didn't actually feel that full of joy, more of relief. As I wrote back in 2012, that vote had made it very hard to defend the Church of England, and to be honest I wasn't sure how I would handle it had it not passed. Although it was unlikely to fail this time, there was still the fear that it could. The fear that my church would reject me and people like me, again. I've only been in this for a few years but some women have had to go through this rejection time and again for decades. So although I am over the moon that the vote was passed, there is a tinge of sadness as I think about how long it has taken, the pain that has been caused and the hurts suffered, of those who have given up along the way, the damage that has been done to this church of ours and what's more to the reputation of those who profess to follow Jesus.

All that said, I do sit here this afternoon, reflecting on it all, and like many women working for the church having had various jokes made about when I will become a Bishop (not even ordained yet…!) and feeling rather hopeful about the future of this church. To be fair I don't think I've ever not been hopeful but it's a whole lot easier today, that's for sure.

I also wrote back in 2012 about struggling in the Diocese of Chichester, and yet, again, I am staggered by how different things are today, some 18 months later. The now not so new Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, is a lovely bloke and I have been really impressed by his ideas and plans for this diocese. He has not got an easy role, there's no disguising the fact that this diocese needs a re-branding campaign and he is clearly picking up the pieces from other peoples failings and mistakes, and having to sort it all out. I have also been really encouraged by his stance on women in ministry, whilst clearly not able to support the ordination of women I have never once heard him speak against women, in fact quite the opposite, all I have heard him say is very positive and recent new appointments show that as well. One of which is the new Bishop of Lewes, Richard Jackson,  who happens to be a friend of ours, so I know personally what a fantastic appointment that is for this diocese. In fact, when he ordained the first women in the diocese ever to be ordained by a serving Bishop in this diocese, just a few weeks ago, he personally delivered a rose plant to each of them, with a note saying ' I'm sorry this has taken so long'. Aside from that and perhaps more importantly he is a Godly, spirit-filled man, with a passion for mission, and, a sense of humour!

++++++


A few weeks ago I was tweeting for the @OurCofE project and had a few tweets hurled back at me for saying that God was really moving here at the moment, as someone had thought I was saying He hadn't been previously! My point was that Chichester has not had a particularly good reputation for some years, but that now I can see how things are changing and what an exciting place it is to be. 18 months ago I was seriously thinking, how can I possibly stay here? and now I don't want to leave!

This really is a place where God is on the move, not that he wasn't before, but it's a whole lot more obvious right now! There are such exciting things happening, appointments being made, strategies being forged. Chichester is no longer the last bastion of male supremacy, it's no longer in the dark ages and no longer can it be called the 'dead see'. 

Watch this space people…

  

Saturday, 5 July 2014

@OurCofE - my experience


A few weeks ago I got to take part in the @OurCofE Twitter project which is currently running. I’ve got to say I think the comms office at Church House have excelled themselves with this one. What a fantastic idea, bang up to date, great way to interact with people and ‘such fun’ !
@OurCofE is basically a year long project, running on Twitter to ‘tell the story of the Church of England through the eyes of its people, providing a daily insight into modern faith in action’. A different person from within the Church of England tweets about their own life and experiences within the church each week. So far it has included a Bishop, Vicars, Curates, people overseeing churches and a school chaplain to name just a few.
The CofE PR says this:
‘Followers will be able to peek behind the curtain of church life and see behind the scenes as they get a feel for daily life in parishes.  In addition to daily life there will be a glimpse of the inevitable unusual and unexpected events that come with being part of the Church of England.  Through it all the account will seek to show through thousands of tweets how God is at work in His Church each day.’
So, when I heard about this idea back in March I applied straight away, a twitter addict and a lover of the CofE I was keen to be involved. Getting to tweet about God and the church - some of my favourite things - how much more awesome than that can it get!? So then I was super excited to get chosen to take part.

My input was really on 2 main levels,
1)     as a member of staff at a Fresh Expression Church based in Mid Sussex and
2)     As an ordinand studying at SEITE.
and it was great to be able to give a perspective on both.

As the week approached I have to admit to being both nervous and excited. I had been following the account from the beginning when it started with the fabulous Kate Bottley (The vicar from Gogglebox in case you didn’t know) and there have been some fantastic tweeters so far, giving a really broad view of the work and life of the Church of England. So it was no small task to follow the amazing tweeters that had gone before. And of course there was the added thought that I would be representing the CofE too – someone said to me – ‘ohh you’re the face of the church this week’ – so, no pressure there then!

All that said it was such a great experience and a real privilege to be part of it. I have to say I have never tweeted so much in my entire life (my husband might disagree with that one…!) I was quite taken aback on the first morning to suddenly have so many retweets, favourites and replies! What a great bunch of people the followers are, I really felt like I had suddenly been embraced by an amazing community, with so many people interested in what I was saying and wanting to know more.

One thing I really loved was that each morning I do Morning Prayer (see I'm almost a proper Anglican) and so I offered to pray for people each day and quite a few responded. I always think it’s a completely privilege to pray for others and this was no different. It really did give a sense of community that people felt able to ask for prayer. Those who say social media doesn’t provide a real community are often wrong…



As I’ve said the interaction on the account was great, so I really wanted to highlight that during my time tweeting there. On day 3 I think, I was banging on about how much I love my church so I thought I’d ask others what they loved about their churches using the hashtag #IloveMyChurch  Well, what a great response, people really got hold of it! One thing that was really lovely was many people saying how welcomed they felt in their churches despite being broken or having difficult issues. That is what the church is all about – loving EVERYONE! and it was so great to have an opportunity to show that. Another great one was asking people to say who their #ChristianHero was - had some great responses to that too, from someones primary school teacher, to well known legends of the faith and just ordinary, everyday people.


 Have to say I may have been inadvertently slightly more controversial than intended. On the first morning, after innocently mentioning the book of Job, a whole Twitter discussion opened up about suffering and whether God deliberately allows stuff to happen. I so wasn’t ready for that! Then there was the debate about whether one should refer to Theological College as #VicarSchool - don’t even get me started on that one… That said one of the things I love about Twitter is the chance to chat and debate things with others, and it was no different on the @OurCofE account, except just slightly more frenetic!

Something I feel passionate about is helping people to see the heart of the church and the love that flows through it from people full of Jesus. So often I meet people who have a story about how the church has hurt them or let them down and I want to say that’s not everyone and it certainly isn't every church. The church is full of people who give their time, who welcome strangers in unconditionally, who help the broken to see their lives transformed. I want people to see the communities who are brought together by a building, a person, a welcome. I love that Twitter is a great place to do that. I know not everyone understands how Twitter works, not everyone ‘gets it’ but even those that stand on the fringes get to see a different perspective. You can’t avoid it on Twitter, opinions, ideas, thoughts, they all get thrown around like rice in a liquidiser. It’s all in there! Thing about a lot of social media is you never know who’s there just watching. My husband calls himself a ‘twitter voyeur’, he reads a lot of tweets but doesn’t often tweet himself. He might not choose to interact as much as I do but he is still getting reached by all those grains of rice…

This is from the Church of England Website:

Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Head of Social Innovation at Twitter, said:
"The incredible engagement levels we see on religious tweets the world over prove the power of 140 characters to convey hope, motivation, and inspiration. The @OurCofE Twitter account will build on this by telling the story of the Church of England through the eyes of its people, providing a fascinating insight into modern faith in action. Spanning great cathedrals to tiny parishes, it will provide real-time glimpses into the workings of the church for followers across the world, 140 characters at a time."
I love that line: '...the power of 140 characters to convey hope, motivation, and inspiration'. Imagine if we all used Twitter for that alone, how much more powerful would it be as a medium for change…?


 ..oo0000oo..



If you are interested and want to find out more you can check out the info here, and my own tweets from the account are here (although not the replies to individual tweets so you can't see whole conversations, but you can always read back through the tweets on the account if you are that keen!)

Also If I have included one of your tweets in these images and you would rather I didn't please do let me know.