September’s Message From the Vicar
A world turned upside down…. Revd Nigel explores
I wonder how many people think of church or their Christian faith as something that should be turning the world upside down?
In October of this year St Edmund’s will be hosting a series of art installations, workshops, talks and exploration sessions to help us engage with the beatitudes, a collection of Jesus’ teachings that, on first reading, appear to make little sense.
For instance, the first beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Heaven features a great deal in Jesus’ teachings, but heaven on earth… think of the Lord’s prayer, “your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
I have “borrowed” the following from the project blog:
“The Beatitudes contain several references to this thing called ‘the Kingdom of heaven’. We often skip past them, because we make the assumption that this just means ‘heaven’. In this reading, we assume that Jesus is suggesting that people who have it tough in the here-and-now will be rewarded in heaven (for example Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.)
There are huge problems with this reading. Firstly, it simply does not fit well with the wider things that Jesus says and does. Secondly, it is a fatalistic reading, suggesting that the we should just suck it up in this life because the real problem Jesus wanted to solve was what happens to the chosen few after they are dead. The words ‘Kingdom of heaven’, read in this way can easily become words of condemnation and separation, describing something ‘other’; something distant and removed. Something very hard to enter, which at best, we might scrape in to on a technicality. Something that in order to serve, we need to be super-holy. (And I am not.)
This kind of Kingdom is a construct of our culture in every bit the same way as the Disney castle above. It is built from plastic bricks shaped by theological boxes that allow the revolution of Jesus to happily co-exist with a culture that can set the Beatitudes on one side as impractical.
I remember a moment however when I began to catch a glimpse of a different meaning of the ‘Kingdom of heaven – of a Kingdom that grows inside us, like an infectious bubble of blessing. Something that is here now, but also still to come. Something that I participate in, but is beyond my understanding. Something that welcomes the weak, the weary, and the childlike. And is glimpsed, almost as a mirage, in our communing and loving and laughing together.”
A big thank you to Si Smith and Chris Goan for this. Guest writer and CAC (Center for Action and Contemplation) faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring Jesus as a wisdom teacher on the blog too, it is well worth reading.
A “hero” of mine, Archbishop Oscar Romero, “was murdered whilst peaching in his own cathedral in 1980 because of his opposition to the brutal regime in El Salvador. His theology was all the more dangerous as it often sounded similar to the Communism that was the regime’s greatest fear. As CS Lewis once said, Communism is after all a ‘Christian heresy’. The ‘Liberation Theology’ preached by Archbishop Romero was something he was prepared to die for.
Before he died, Romero wrote a prayer/poem, “A Future not our own”, dealing directly with his idea of what this thing called ‘The Kingdom of heaven’ was all about.
As we enter September, what is for many a new term, a new school year, a new start, may we all have the “opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.”
Blessings Reverend Nigel
The Sermon on the Mount (which includes the beatitudes) can be found in the New Testament part of the bible in Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7.
A future not our own
A prayer / poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero (murdered, 24 March 1980)
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing 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 God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Prayer for change
The Prayer for Change is printed simultaneously in the magazines of St Andrew’s URC, Lidgett Park Methodist Church and St Edmund’s.
The Harvest Laws (from The Trampled Vineyard)
What we hear in the harvest laws in Leviticus is the spirit of love so evident to us later in Jesus. This is what makes them relevant to our time, when harvests come all year round, from many lands.
“When strangers settle with you in your land,
you shall not oppress them.
They shall be treated as natives born among you,
and you shall love them as people like yourselves,
because you were aliens in Egypt.
I AM THE LORD.” Leviticus 19: 33-34
“When you reap the harvest of your land,
you shall not reap into the edges of your field;
neither shall you glean the loose ears of your crop;
you shall not completely strip your vineyard
nor gather the fallen grapes.
You shall leave them
for the poor and the foreigner.
I AM THE LORD.” Leviticus 19: 9-10
The earth is fruitful
May we be generous.
The earth is fragile
May we be gentle.
The earth is fractured
May we be just.
Harvest in us joy and generosity
As we together share in thanks and giving.
Christian Aid Prayer.
A prayer for Rachel
Rachel, our Church Missionary Society Link, asks us to pray for her
“Please take time to pray for me as I continue to put my call into action.
- That the new bishop will be able to take over soon and smoothly
- For new staff at Murree Christian School
- For wisdom as she prepares the training for the new term in August, deciding priorities and what will be the most effective methods of training
- For the teachers as all try and work together for the children’s education.”
A Morning prayer
Lord as I rise today, I thank you for Blessing me to see another wonderful day.
I understand Lord that I did not wake up by my power, or by my alarm clock.
It is by your Grace, I have been given another day in this world.
I am thankful that no matter what I face, you will never give me more than I can handle.
And you will never leave me or forsake me
Please help me to strengthen my faith
So I can walk in your light and feel the warmth of your love
In your name I humbly pray.
Sermons are not about one person telling everyone else what they should believe or do. Rather, they are a time to reflect together on the scriptures and our lives and see what God may be saying to us through them. Sermons are like meals. Most meals just help us to keep alive and every now and then we are treated to a feast. Well most sermons are about feeding us spiritually. Every now and then, one of them will really speak to us – move us, challenge us, inspire us, or help us to see things in a new light. Hopefully you will find something helpful in a sermon that you hear at St. Edmund’s.
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