Thought for the week.

Thought for the Week                   Easter Sunday

“Do not be afraid!”

Jesus regularly reminded his followers not to fear their enemies or the uncertainties that lay ahead. After Jesus’ crucifixion, fear ran rampant among his followers. Joseph of Arimathea and  Nicodemus took down Jesus’ body but only under the safe cover of night. And the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, who had abandoned their Lord, ­remained hidden behind closed doors. 

Even the authorities were fearful. The tomb was securely sealed. And when the news reached the chief priests that Jesus had risen, they devised a cover-up, offering money to the tomb guards to spread the story that Jesus’ disciples had come and stolen the body.

Against this fear and fraud was the simple faithfulness of the women, who had stood at the cross, watched as the stone was rolled over the tomb, and come at dawn to anoint the body. Their reward was the gift of being first witnesses to the Resurrection, as  Our Lord greeted them with the words of reassurance they most needed to hear: “Do not be afraid.”

.“Do not be afraid”. The message attended his birth, his ministry, his death and Resurrection. And it comes to us today with the same gentle and compelling clarity with which it was offered on that first Easter morning.

Fr Mike

 

Thought for the week – Lent 5

“We want to see Jesus!”

Some Greeks, some foreigners,  have come to see Jesus.  They’ve heard a lot about him and have great expectations!  But Jesus makes clear that only after his crucifixion, can salvation of the gospel be available for the whole world. For his glory involves death, as a seed needs to fall to the ground to bear much fruit. So now, at the close of Lent, we come to Easter like these Greeks, with great expectations.  And the gospel causes us to ask ourselves again, can we share His cup? Are we yet ready to die to self, to sacrifice our own self- centredness, for the sake of others?

Fr Mike


Thought for the week – MOTHERING SUNDAY

Today’s reading, dramatised at Café Church, brings us the story of boy Jesus apparently lost in the Temple. We hear of Mary and Josephs’ grief at losing their son . When he is found by his worried parents, after three days of searching, he seems surprised that they do not know that he must be about his Father’s business. But there comes a time for all young people when they are called to step out and it’s always painful for the parents.  So a challenge for us as parents is to recognise and support this in our own children.

Khalil Gibran’s “On Children” in his book, The Prophet

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Fr Mike


Thought for the week – LENT 3

Today’s reading brings us the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple. The Temple for the Jewish people was the meeting place of heaven and earth. Knowing it was there kept alive the presence of God for them, wherever they might be. We need to keep the presence of Jesus alive in our churches, and like him we must look out for the tables that need to be overturned. Perhaps sometimes we are disturbed by ideas that there are wrong and right ways of being church.  Whatever our differing views, God wants us to be passionate about God’s house, and our focus should be on finding authentic personal ways of connecting with God, and keeping that connection beyond worship, out into the community and world.

Fr Mike


Thought for the last week before Lent..

“And He was transfigured before them and his clothes became dazzling white”

Our Gospel this week unusually is the theme of the Transfiguration of Our Lord before Peter James and John, traditionally thought to have occurred on Mount Pellon in Israel.

For the disciples, and for us, Transfiguration and Resurrection have to be taken together.  Michael Ramsay, that saintly Archbishop of Canterbury, often used to say that our Transfiguration was  lifting painful human experiences into the context of Christ’s Resurrection, taking our doubts and pain to him and  trusting in the healing power of Christ, who defeated death itself.. Michael Ramsay takes the example of human suffering.  He talks about people who, although they suffer greatly, yet their nearness to Christ transfigures them and their situation.  He writes,  “A sympathy, a gentleness, a sweetness, a power of love, a power of prayer makes all the difference to them and those who know them.”  I’m sure we all know people like this; I’m sure we all hope to be like this when we are tested.

As we enter the testing time of Lent, let’s consider how we, each of us, want to become transformed by the transfiguring power of the Holy Spirit, into the likeness of Christ.  Do we too have doubts, do we, like the disciples, lack faith, do we sometimes fail to love and forgive?  Let’s confront  all these things that set us apart from Jesus, and let them  die with him on the cross, so that on Easter Sunday we can rise with Him, transfigured,, changed into His likeness, shining like Him from “Glory into Glory”?

Changed from Glory into Glory

Till in Heaven we take our place

Till we cast our crowns before Him

Lost in wonder, love and praise

Fr Mike


For the first week in February by Mike Blanch

Thought for the Week :  In the Beginning was the Word

WE can imagine John, the Evangelist, aged in his 90’s, crafting his magnificent 4th Gospel in the library at Ephesus.  The opening sentence of John’s gospel describes the Incarnation of God’s Son in a way no other Gospel attempts to do, a beautiful poetry with cosmic canvass. It used to be the fashion that, at the end of all Sunday Masses, the Church would recite this every week, and it never paled with familiarity!

John describes Jesus as God’s creative, life-giving and light-giving word that has come to earth in human form. The Word made flesh. Jesus is the wisdom and power of God which created the world and sustains it .

 
If we are going to behold the glory of God we will do it through Jesus Christ.  Jesus became the partaker of our humanity so we could be partakers of his divinity (2 Peter 1:4). God's purpose for us, even from the beginning of his creation, is that we would be fully united with Him   By our being united in Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become his sons and daughters. 

"Almighty God and Father of light, your eternal Word leaped down from heaven in the silent watches of the night.  Open our hearts to receive his life and increase our vision with the rising of dawn, that our lives may be filled with his glory and his peace.”

 

From St Peters on Christmas Eve by Michael Fullagar.

 

I remember as a child climbing  the Monument  (by the steps!). That building commemorated the Great Fire of London. In October this year, I could only enjoy a view by using a lift. This was to the top of Westminster Cathedral. ‘If I climb up into heaven, thou art there’, we read in a psalm. However, astronauts on the moon were not any nearer to God than we are. Christmas shows God coming down to where we are.

 

After I had descended by lift, and as it was the Feast of Simon and Jude, two of the twelve apostles, I decided to go on from there to Saint Paul’s Cathedral for Evensong. I was apprehensive about climbing all the steps to the main entrance. So I rang the bell round the side in the hope of taking the lift. Unfortunately, it was broken down. The steward showed me the way up by an easier set of steps. He suggested that I later make contact with a helper, who would let me out by another door. Evensong was delightful in the choir, lit by lamps. Afterwards, I explained to a young lady what I needed. She duly opened a great door for me. As she did so, I was aware, by my side, of a great life size painting, Holman Hunt’s ’The light of the world’. 

 

Though it was dark, I found it easy to negotiate the ramp which led into the garden. However, when I reached the gate, I found it locked, as was another, and yet another. Climbing back up to the Cathedral  door, I found no handle. At any rate, it was locked. So, like a Bishop attempting to enter his Cathedral, not with a staff but a walking stick, I struck on the door about fifteen times, till a verger heard me. ‘You were lucky that I heard you’, he said. ‘I know I was’, I replied. ‘I did not fancy being out there all night long’. The verger fetched his senior, who smiled, ‘I expect the gate was jammed. But, just in case, I'll bring along my keys’. He needed them. ‘I am very sorry’, he went on. We laughed as we parted. I had first however pointed out that the painting to which I referred was based on a Biblical text, ‘Behold I stand at the door and k nock’. Art had become reality. In the picture, Christ knocks, but there is no handle. He is dependent on those inside to open up.

 

When Mary and Joseph attempted to find an inn in which to stay, the owner said, ‘We are so full we have not even enough room to swing a cat!’. The cat, if he overheard, must have been mighty relieved. So Jesus was born outside. He knocks on the door of our heart.  The handle is on our side. We need to let him in out of the cold, share the warmth, and see what a difference his company can make.

 

On Tuesday night, I turned on ‘Christmas University Challenge’, which had a Canon of Saint Paul’s on one of the panels. When he was asked for the name of the poem, written by Christina Rosetti, and set to music by both Gustav Holst and Harold Darke, he replied ‘The holly and the ivy’, instead of ‘In the bleak midwinter’.

 

The last verse goes, ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. What I can I give him – give my heart.’ When he enters, what Christmas present can we give him? ‘Give my heart’.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - ST NICHOLAS 

In the midst of the Advent season. we have an opportunity today to stop for a moment and reflect in a joyful way on one of the greatest of all Saints, so great that people have turned him into a fictitious character and given him the name Santa Claus or Father Christmas. I am talking none other than Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey around 300 AD.

There are so many stories about St Nicholas but at core, Nicholas symbolises that which is at the heart of our Christian faith which is the ability to give, to give, and to give again. To love, to love, and to love again. And to care, to care, and to care again. Isiaah today says of the little voice of the Lord behind us saying “This is the way Walk in it!”. Nicholas gave his all to the Church. In commissioning his disciples Our Lord  says in today’s Gospel “You received without payment. Give without payment” As did Nicholas. A rich man, he gave away everything he had.

To me, the greatest lesson would be to be like Nicholas himself. You don't need a cope and mitre, you don't' need a red outfit, you don't need a bag of toys; what you need is a giving a heart, a loving soul and a willingness to share your faith, share hopes, share your dreams, share your fantasises, share even materially with those who come in contact with you day by day—whether it be at work or at school or at church or on a train or in a shop. So let's not let the tradition of Nicholas falter; let us restore it with great enthusiasm. Let us embrace the celebration of Christmas with a new heightened reality—with even those who want to change Christmas into some sort of winter celebration or Yuletide festival. Let them realise even the image that they hold up as the most secular—Father Christmas and Santa Claus—belongs to our Christian family. Let us not be shy about it; let's proclaim it; let's share it with our children. Let's not have one child not know that the reality is that Santa Claus is truly our Saint Nicholas.

Fr Mike

 

Christ the King 23rd November

A reflection by Mike Blanch

Christ the King

The feast this Sunday, Christ the King, was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a response by the church to increasing nationalism and secularism in  the world. He wrote, “Christ’s power embraces all men .. He is King of the Universe .. he must reign in our minds, our wills and our hearts!”

Nationalism and secularism is even more a problem in 2014, and we, as Christians, are reminded on this day of our responsibility to take forward, to build on and strengthen, the kingdom of Our Lord on Earth.

One man who strove to advance the kingdom was Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Archbishop of San Salvador was a brave man.  He fought against military repression, drugs and violence, and was murdered for it in 1980.  When I think of all that seems to be asked of us, I find it really helpful to reflect on the words of one of his prayers:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that,

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We are workers, not master builders;

We are prophets of a future not our own!” Amen

 

AMEN

 


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