God is in this place

Wow, so, it’s aaaaaaages since I last blogged! So much has been going on since then, including the amazing experience of ordination, the challenging experience of bringing a Border Collie puppy into the Nomad family, and the exciting experience of being joined by a new Superintendent and together developing a new two-person ministry team in Saltash Circuit. However, I’m not going to blog about those things right now (I really do hope to come back to them sooner rather than later!), but rather I want to blog about the worship I led on Sunday evening, which a couple of folk not there have asked about. One of the things my new Super and I promised each other when we met up over a drink in an Exeter pub a few months ago (appropriately enough the pub has a pulpit in it!) was that we would challenge each other to be creative in the worship we lead. So on Sunday, knowing he and/or his wife might be in the congregation (they both were), I took that challenge head on.

(NB – I’ve used Spotify embed codes to put music in this post. I’m not sure if it’s workable for everyone. Please do feed back to me whether you have problems accessing the music or not – I know the videos work!) Continue reading

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Unforgettable Fire

So, in a week and a half I will be heading off on retreat, and in 17 days I will be Received into Full Connexion and Ordained (Conference willing, as always in Methodism!) along with a number of friends and colleagues. Many of my fellow ordinands have been commenting recently about the joy of their testimony services and the amazing send off it has given them as they prepare for ordination. My testimony service was a while ago now, as in Cornwall it was done as part of District Synod. Yet I too have been buzzing with excitement and joy after a service I felt to be a very powerful precursor to the experience of ordination. Continue reading

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Methodical Reasoning

The following post first appeared in the Methodist Recorder on 24th April 2014, as part of their “Methodism’s for Me” series. My thanks to them both for commissioning the article in the first place and then reckoning it was good enough to publish.

As a probationer in the Methodist Church going forward for ordination this summer I’ve had to reflect deeply on why I am happy to call myself Methodist. This is especially the case when you consider I grew up in a different tradition to Methodism. I’m what you might call an “accidental Methodist” – I ended up worshipping in a Methodist Church through circumstance rather than deliberate choice. Yet it is in this church that God called me as a presbyter, and so I have spent time working out why it is I’m happy to follow this call in this denomination rather than any other. My answer can be broken down into two key areas: Continue reading

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Call and Response

Wow, I haven’t blogged in so long! Maybe I need to undertake a repeat of last year’s (failed) Easter exercise. Anyway, it has been a busy (overly busy, perhaps) time since I last blogged, and part of that busy-ness has been because of the process of walking towards ordination. The process of discerning one’s call to ordination in Methodism goes on for the whole of Probation. In March I met with the District Probationers Committee who unanimously recommended me for ordination, and then yesterday the Presbyteral Session of District Synod unanimously agreed to that recommendation, meaning that I will be Received into Full Connexion and Ordained on 29th June. Because of this, I was required to give testimony (a talk on some of my call to ordained ministry in the Church) at Synod Worship yesterday afternoon. What follows is the script I used (and kept to as best as I could!) Continue reading

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A light in the darkness

The following is my sermon for Midnight Mass at St Michael’s Parish Church, Landrake. As you will see, I concentrate on the reading from St John’s Gospel:

Loving Lord, as we meditate on your Word may you be once again born in our hearts that we might shine as your light in the world. Amen.
 
John starts
his Gospel
with poetry.
I’d like to start
tonight
with
a story.
 
It’s not my story,
I didn’t make it up,
I’ve stolen it
from a TV programme*,
and I’ve no idea
where the writers
got it from,
but nonetheless
I associate
this story
with Christmas
because
it comes
from a Christmas episode.
 
It begins
with a man.
And this fella’s walking along the street
when he falls down a hole.
The walls are steep
and he can’t get out.
 
After a little while
a doctor walks by.
“Hey, you”
the fella shouts up,
“Can you help me out?”
The doctor writes a prescription,
throws it down the hole,
and walks on.
A while later
a priest walks by.
“Hey, Father,
can you help me out?”
The priest writes a prayer out,
throws it down the hole,
and walks on.
 
Sometime later
a friend walks by.
“Hey, Joe,
I fell down this hole,
can you help me out?”
At which point
Joe jumps down in the hole too.
“What you doing?”
the man asks,
“Now we’re both in the hole!”
“Yeh,”
replies Joe,
“But I’ve been down here before
and I know the way out.”
 
Most of us,
at some point
or other,
find ourselves
in a hole.
The kind of hole
may vary:
its depth,
the angle of its sides,
its width or narrowness,
may be unique.
Nonetheless,
we find ourselves
in holes,
sitting in darkness
of some kind
or another.
 
The story of salvation
laid out
in the Jewish
and Christian
scriptures
up to the point of the nativity
is the story
of God
doing what you’d expect
a friend
to do:
sending help.
Moses,
David,
Isaiah,
Jeremiah,
and many others,
men and women,
whom God sends
to help his people
see the light.
 
But in Christ,
God does the unexpected.
In the birth
of Jesus
God jumps down
into the hole itself.
God refuses
to remain
remote.
 
In the birth of a baby
God enters
into
the messiness of the world.
An unmarried mother,
a fiancé who refuses to call off the wedding,
farm workers kept apart from their own people
by the rules,
and foreigners from well outside the faith community:
it is these who,
in the stories
told
of that amazing birth,
play a vital part.
It is these
who show
the darkness
into which
the flickering,
glorious
light
comes shining.
 
And the world God
enters into
in Christ
is still dark.
We still
find ourselves
in holes.
Maybe you can see it
in your own life.
If not
you can certainly see it
on the news.
 
Yet,
while the darkness remains,
while those steep sides
seem as unclimbable as ever,
the light remains also.
The darkness
has never,
will never,
overcome it.
 
That mysterious,
glorious
light
that first shone out
as the eternal, almighty, self-sufficient
God
entered the world
as a baby,
“little, weak and helpless”,
is still
with us.
No matter
how deep
the hole is,
no matter
if our eyes are so
closed in pain
that
we cannot
notice its
presence,
still the light
comes to us.
 
It comes to us
in the cry of a newly born baby,
the cry of anguish upon a cross,
and the speaking of a name by an empty tomb.
It comes to us in bread and wine,
the helping hand of a stranger,
the quiet whisper of a friend
who may not understand
what we’re going through
but will not desert us to face it alone.
 
The Word became flesh,
made his home among us,
and walks with us still,
his light and glory
available
to all who walk
in darkness,
that we might walk through
the darkness
knowing we are not alone.
For Immanuel,
God is with us,
both this night
and forever!
Amen.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, whether it is a time of high joy or deep sorrow, may you travel with the blessing of the Light that lights the world.

Shalom,

The Nomad

*This story appears in “Noel”, the Christmas episode in the second season of The West Wing, and is told to Josh Lyman, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff who has just been diagnosed with PTSD after being shot, by his boss and mentor, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
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Pink Prose

What follows is my sermon from presiding and preaching at an Advent Eucharist in Landrake Methodist Chapel today. If I had one, I would have worn a pink stole. Alas, this was not possible, but there is pink on the cardigan I’m wearing. The readings: Isaiah 35.1-10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11.

Coming Lord, draw near to us, as we meditate upon your Word, that we might once again be lit by the advent of your Light within us. Amen.
 
It’s near,
It’s oh, so near!
 
In some traditions
of the Church
today is a day
for wearing
the pink
of rejoicing
and joyfulness
rather than Advent’s
more usual purple
of preparation
and penitence.
 
For a corner has been turned,
and the end of this season
of looking forward
to what has been
and remembering
what is to come
is now in sight.
 
There are now
less doors closed
than open
on Advent calendars.
We have reached the top of the hill
and on the clouds of the horizon
is a soft, pink glow,
telling us of a sun
about to rise
in the East.
 
So, strengthen your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is near.
 
It’s near,
but it’s not yet here.
 
Now is the time
when patience is needed.
Now is the time
when it is tempting,
oh, so tempting,
to give in,
to break those last few doors open
and eat all the chocolates,
or make all the Lego models
(in my case,
anyway).
This is the time
when it’s tempting
to run rejoicing down the hill,
and waste all our strength
on the journey
rather than
on the joyful celebration
to come!
 
In a time
of constant
“Now,
now,
now,”
we are called
to observe
a time of waiting.
 
The light
will
come,
both as a flickering candle
of life
in a dark and humble
outhouse,
and in the blazing glory
of a golden sun.
 
But
not yet.
 
And just as we have to wait
before the rejoicing of Christmas,
as we have to wait
for the pleasure of giving gifts
in remembrance
of God’s giving
of Godself
in Christ,
so we are waiting
for that other coming,
that second coming,
in which Christ’s light
will blaze
through the world,
a world transformed
into a place
of opened eyes,
and of unstopped ears,
of the lame leaping,
and of the speechless singing,
of waters breaking forth in the wilderness
and of streams appearing in the desert.
 
So strengthen your hearts, for the Lord is near.
 
And strengthen them
also
for in waiting
there is work.
 
The disciples of the man
who came from God,
the one called John,
ask Jesus,
the man
who is at one with God,
“Are you he who is to come?”
 
And Jesus’ answer?
Look around you.
 
Can we,
who are called to be
Christ
in the world,
answer similarly?
 
Where are
the blind
who have received sight,
the lame
who now walk,
the lepers
who have been cleansed,
the deaf
who now hear,
the dead
who are now alive,
the poor
to whom the good news has been brought?
 
Are we those people?
If we are,
do we witness
in our words,
our actions,
our whole lives,
to the joyful transformative power
of God
at work?
 
Are we the agents of God?
If we are,
do we point
to what it is
we are doing,
the transformative effect
God is having through us,
rejoicing,
not for our sake
or our glory,
but for the sake of the Kingdom
and the glory of God?
 
So strengthen your hearts, for the Lord is near.
 
And strengthen them
because
in the waiting,
and
in the working,
in the remembering
and
in the looking forward,
between what was,
and
what will be,
there too is God.
 
Whatever the challenges of life,
whether it is
sorrow
when we are asked for joy,
or anxiety
when we are asked for patience,
or tiredness
when we are asked for effort,
God reaches out to us,
and offers us strength.
 
God’s reaching out to us in Christ,
is not simply something we look back to,
or something we look forward to,
but something now.
 
Whether it is through
the breaking of bread,
the speaking of an encouraging word,
or the reaching out of a helping hand,
God reaches out
to us,
even when he seems far off.
 
We wait,
and we work.
We look forward to what has been
and we remember what is to come.
 
And we do so joyfully rejoicing
for as we strengthen our hearts
it is God’s own strength we may rely on,
as God draws near to us.
 
Amen.
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Gaudete!

Following on from the Jewish understanding that the day starts in the evening some Christian traditions consider the evening services to be the first of the following day – hence Midnight Mass is the first service of Christmas, not the last of Christmas Eve and therefore the last of Advent. Since the sun has long set on Saturday we might now say that Gaudete Sunday is upon us, the third Sunday in Advent, the Sunday in Advent it is traditional in some places and faith communities to have pink vestments and church textiles, and to light a pink candle. Sadly I don’t have a pink stole to wear tomorrow, but I will be wearing a cardigan with pink on – and I have changed the background of the blog to pink too! Gaudete is Latin for rejoice, and on this day is linked to the Advent them of joy. To mark it, here’s synth-pop duo Erasure’s current version of the ancient Christmas carol “Gaudete, gaudete! Christus et natus”:

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