Wednesday 2nd February 10.00am The presentation of the Lord.
Thursday 3rd February 10.00am Feria Mass
Sunday 6th February 9.30am Parish Mass
Take place every Tuesday from 10.00am in the Narthex, all are welcome to drop in for a cuppa and a natter.
Sermon 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We are used to the word “Marmite” being used to describe something that divides people into those who love it and those who hate it. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between.
Perhaps in a way, Jesus may seem like Marmite in the gospels. I say “in the gospels”, because the idea our society can have about Jesus is that he is nice man – someone who was kind to people, who always said the right thing, who taught some good stuff. This is a man who you may admire and yet feel no compulsion to follow him or belong to his Church.
When we read the gospels, things seem very different to that. People seemed to divide up fairly quickly into those who followed him and hung on his every word and those who turned away or reacted with outright hostility. It surprises us, because our culture has made Jesus into someone very unlike Marmite – a man who doesn’t tend to provoke such strong reactions.
The gospel passage today picks up where last week’s ended. Jesus, after reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, says: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” The effect was electrifying. Jesus is the one who would bring good news to the poor and sight to the blind. He would enable the lame to walk and would heal those disfigured by leprosy. It should have been good news indeed. So why hustle Jesus out of the town and try to push him off a cliff?
People were astonished by his words, but questioned his authority to speak that way. He was a local boy and they knew his family. Why did he think he could make these claims and what proof could he give? Jesus knew that they were wanting him to prove himself and to convince them with miracles. He saw their hardness of heart and their lack of faith and told them that he could not work among them in the way he had worked among people elsewhere whose minds were more open. He drew the comparison with Elijah, who found faith only among people who lived away from his home country and with Elisha who healed a Syrian rather than people in Israel. In the same way, it was hardness of heart and closed minds that prevented God from working among his chosen people.
Sometimes, in the same way, we can close our eyes, our ears and our minds rather than hear what we do not want to hear. Perhaps we want God to make his presence more obvious by granting us what we expect and telling us what we want to hear. We prefer to be told that we are fine as we are. Often we do need that reassurance and God has a way of bringing peace to our hearts and stilling our anxious minds. At the same time, God’s message is something challenging and not always cosy. Sometimes we need to hear uncomfortable truths, sometimes we need to change and to grow into the people God is calling us to be. But as with Marmite, we can either find joy in this or we can turn away and close our minds.
We are God’s chosen people and his good news is meant for us, but not for us alone. Those beyond the boundary of Israel were to hear that same gospel and to be invited in. In the same way, the message of life and of healing and hope is also for people beyond the walls of the Church. Not all will listen and not all will respond. Some may even be hostile, but like the prophet Jeremiah we are God’s instruments for showing his truth and his love to the world around us.
Jesus is not a soft touch. As his disciples discovered and as anyone who follows him today will find, the gospel is not always comfortable. In its message we find an uncompromising truth, but also discover the true nature of love. St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians paints a beautiful picture of this love of God that we see so clearly in Jesus. Love is not just about our own feelings or about romance. It is about patience and kindness, about lack of envy and refusal to delight in the misfortunes of others, even the people we don’t like. Love is not an easy path to walk, but it is the way that leads to God. Our Lord accompanies us along that path and gives us the strength to live as he has shown us.
So Jesus lives by the truth and he shows us the true nature of love. We find in the gospel that this is a bit like Marmite, because for much of the time it is so much easier to live by the values of this world. When we choose love then we see with the eyes of Jesus and are citizens of God’s kingdom. Let us pray:
Father, may your Holy Spirit inspire and strengthen us to listen to your Son and to follow in his ways. As we walk his path of love, may we be brought to its fulfilment in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
EventsTwo of our readings today include Weddings.
In our first reading we talk about a wedding between Israel and God.
As Israel returns from exile in Babylon, God forgives and forgets the past and calls Israel his bride “for the lord takes delight in you and your land will have its wedding. The relationship between God and Israel has been changed.
And in our Gospel reading from John, we talk of the wedding at Cana in Galilee
This is a wedding that both Jesus and his mother have been invited along with Jesus’s disciples.
The main story though, is on Jesus and his Changing of water into wine. Not just a few bottles but six large stone water jars, each holding about 30 gallons, in my reckoning that’s equivalent to about 900 bottles of wine. (What a party! ).
Of course the real reason that this wedding at canna makes it into John’s gospel is not for the wine and the party, but because it was the first miracle performed by Jesus, he performs his first of many more miracles to come, and his disciples had witnessed it. He had revealed his glory, this event would Change how they saw Jesus, and he would now begin his campaign a campaign that would eventually take him to the cross.. And we know now just how much this has changed the world we live in.
Both the Weddings in the readings are about change, they are about new beginnings.
Change is usually for the best, but it is not always easy. Ask any parent when their first child is born whether change is easy, their lives are turned upside down with sleepless nights, feeding, continuous nappies to change, and all the other situations that happen when a new baby enters into their lives. But ask them if they would change what they now have for what they had before and I am sure that most if not all of them would say no.
The marriage of two people is perhaps the most intimate of personal relationships we can have, these two people are changed a change that will mature, as time goes by, ever deepening and more fulfilling. This change is mentioned in Genesis “Therefore a Man leaves his Father and Mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (G2:24). Two joined together in wedlock becoming one flesh. Two become one (I am sure there is a song dying to come out here) ,Even the relationship between mother and child cannot equal it.
And so if we can see such positivity in change why is their always a temptation to try and resist it?
Some years ago Aldi supermarkets ran an advert campaign (other supermarkets are available) they showed you a leading brand and then an Aldi cheaper equivalent and the caption would be “I like this one but I also like this one, I like change” showing that the cheaper one was just as good as the leading brand was. ( I think the most memorable of the is set of adverts was the old lady holding up a branded box and non-branded box of teabags and saying my Husband likes these and he also likes these but I don’t like tea, I like Gin.)
Now I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to food brands I like my cornflakes with the rooster on the packet, my rice crispies need snap, crackle and pop,and my cans of beens need to be endorsed by a million housewives every day. I was not keen on the Aldi equivalents and the same went for soup, butter, bread etc.etc.
My children a lot younger then, were quick to pick up on this and they would start picking up various brands whilst in the supermarkets, and would find it hilarious to try and mimic me by saying” I like this one but I don’t like this one, I don’t like change” this is still a standing joke in our house to this day.
All a bit of fun, but actually I suppose like many I was to a degree opposed to change, I liked things the way they were.
And we can see this in society today all the time. And I don’t just mean the old man that must have his breakfast at 7:30 every morning, or the neighbour who gets upset that the local post office is closing at 5:30 instead of 6:00pm. I would imagine you all know people that are set in their ways and resist even these minor changes.
But these are not the sort of changes we should be concerned about.
We resist changes being made in our own interests, like the changes we are asked to make in order to try and slow down the spread of corona virus.
We watch on as our planet faces one of the biggest environmental crises in its history. But we refuse to see or accept any need for change foolishly believing it will sort itself out.
Even as global warming becomes blatantly obvious we continue to turn a blind eye. “there’s no need to change, nature has a way of sorting things”
We fail to see the need for change as thousands of animal species face extinction or have their habitats destroyed to provide for our ever demanding consumption.
We are not prepared to share our wealth and way of life in order that others may be brought out of hunger and poverty.
Governments continuously need to change, countries continuously need to change, we continuously need to change and our attitudes to these ongoing topics need to change
It is the rule of life, the cells in our bodies are constantly changing and renewing, the seasons must change
Change is not all bad, change can be good, Change is good. Like a good marriage there will be ups and downs. As we make these changes not everything will always run smoothly,
Change is by no means easy and we could be in for rough times but eventually it is usually for the best. Maybe our generation will not live to see the benefits, but future generations, our Grandchildren, possibly even our own children will.
Since the beginning of time we have been changing and adapting. The Bible repeatedly tells of change,
just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated an event that changed our very relationship with God; we welcomed God in human form as a fragile baby. The word became flesh.
Today as we celebrate Mass, Bread and wine will be transformed (changed) into the most precious body and blood of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. And we eagerly and reverently approach his alter of to consume that precious body and drink that precious blood as we strive to be “changed” to become more like Jesus, to become better Christians.
In a few more weeks we will enter into lent when we will prepare ourselves throughout the Lenten period, yet again preparing for a life changing event, and we shall live out this event as we enter into holy week. That small helpless babe we welcomed into the world is now going to once again, change our futures, he will go to the cross totally innocent and without sin of his own, but he will take with him all the sins of humankind and he will pay (for us) the ultimate price.
But we as Christians know that his death was not the end, conquering death he will arise again victorious changing deaths grip over us forever, death will no longer have any claim on those of us who have believed in Jesus.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
However hard it may be to embrace the changes we will need to make over the coming years, we must all think of the future generations, and we must remember the changes made for us by God the Father, Son and spirit.
And most of all we must continue to trust God and his mercy and know that his love for us will be the one thing we can rely on that will never change.
A happy and safe new year to you all.
Thursday 6th Jan Communion at 10.00am.
Sunday 9th Jan Parish Mass at 9.30am.
The coffee mornings will resume after the Christmas break in the Church Mice cafe (in the Narthex) from 10.00am on Tues 11th January and every Tuesday thereafter.
Sermon: Second Sunday after the Nativity
"The Word was made flesh and he lived among us”.
In the year when I left the College of the Resurrection and was ordained deacon – 1995 – there was a song in the charts by Joan Osborne. It seems like yesterday, but it’s more or less 26 years ago. The song was called: “What if God was one of us?” It asks a few hypothetical questions, like how we would address him, what we would ask him and what he would look like. There’s no harm in pondering these things and maybe some of our answers might shed light on how we see God and how we understand our relationship with God.
But surely the most comprehensive and majestic answer to that question, “What if God was one of us?” is found in the prologue of St John’s gospel which we have heard just now. Those two words, “What if?” are answered by the awe-inspiring message that the power and the majesty of God has appeared in our world first of all in the form of a tiny child. Through him he light of God shines in the darkness of our lives and nothing can overcome that light. The pure truth that overwrites all the deception that surrounds us is there for us to hear. Perhaps most amazingly of all, the presence of God in our world in the form of Jesus gives us the grace to become what we are intended to be: God’s sons and daughters; brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the song goes: “What if God was one of us, just a stranger on the bus?” Well, for the people who were first expecting the Messiah, it seems that he was treated as a stranger. The gospel tells us: “He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his people would not accept him.” Perhaps their idea of what God is like was too conditioned by their own prejudices and standards. The Messiah would never have grown up in a minor town like Nazareth. He would not have had ordinary parents. He would not have called fishermen to be his followers. Nor would he have lingered in the company of tax collectors, publicans and prostitutes. God would want to limit himself to respectable people like them and us.
Is it really much different today? People expect to be impressed. They want their opinions and their outlook to be confirmed. All too often we don’t want to be challenged or to be taken out of our comfort zone. From childhood upwards, Jesus breaks the mould and whilst some welcomed his message, many turned away or were hostile. He did not come to impress or to overpower us, but to live alongside us and to show us what God is really like. Although he performed miracles, these were not done for effect, but to reveal the healing, forgiveness and compassion of the God who is our Creator.
Even in the manger in Bethlehem, Jesus revealed himself in poverty. He showed his love by embracing our humanity in all its limitations, its weakness and its woundedness. He showed us that he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself a servant: the Servant King. As St John Henry Newman put it:
“He had once meant to come on earth in heavenly glory, but we sinned: and then he could not safely visit us, except with shrouded radiance, and a besmirched majesty, for he was God. So he came himself in weakness, not in power.”
So we don’t need to ask, “What if God was one of us?” He is one with us in Christ Jesus. If God had come among us in power and might, his glory and light would have overcome us. We are not yet ready for that. But the light that was there at the beginning of creation shines in such as way that we can receive it. That light leads us on through the darkness that is within us and around us. The truth of God gently leads us away from falsehood and enables us to hear and accept the message of eternal life. In all our weakness and wrongdoing, the compassion of God comes to meet us and lifts us up to see salvation.
Let us pray:
Loving Father, your Son Jesus was born to save a fallen world. Rescue us from the ways that lead us into ignorance and harm and help us to walk the path of life in the company of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I am a rather old Saint.