Tuesday, June 30, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 30 June 2015

'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's; and unto God what is God's.' 
Mark 12. 17

We fret if we are late with some trivial bill or how we will pay some new tax. Do we have even a fraction of the same concern for what it is that we owe to the God who created us and sustains us?

Monday, June 29, 2015

haiku: lake at evening

lake at evening 
 ~a carpet of water-lily
        swallows darting

prayer diary Monday 29 June 2015 St Peter

'Get thee behind me Satan!' 
Matthew 16.23

These words of our Lord to St Peter demonstrate that even the holiest can become an unwitting agent of the powers of darkness. Be alert, therefore, for as St Peter himself later warned us 'your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring line, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.'

Sunday, June 28, 2015

a parent's love

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

One would hardly be human, I think, if one did not both sympathise and empathise at the plight of Jairus with which our Gospel reading begins today: his young daughter, only 12 years old, is seriously ill and at the point of death. On the cusp of woman-hood, instead of thinking about who she might marry in a few years, and the grandchildren she might bear to fill her life and his life with joy, instead is seems as if instead he will be planning her funeral, and that within only a few hours. But then he hears that Jesus is nearby. As a leader of the synagogue he most likely had no time for this wandering rabbi usually, thinking him a fraud stirring up the people with false claims to be the Messiah of God, blasphemously even claiming to have the power to forgive sins, a power limited only to God himself, and to be the Son of God, making himself equal with God … someone to be shunned for the most part, shamed if one could by catching him out with a trick question, or even stoned if it could be done without arousing the fury of the simple peasant folk who believed in him … but his is no ordinary time. His little girl is dying. And he runs to the person he has heard has healed so many.

He finds him in the crowds by the lake, pleads with him to save his daughter, and to his great relief Jesus agrees to come. Straight away they set off for his house. They are briefly delayed by a woman and, while they are speaking with her, word comes that they are too late – the child is dead. But Jesus tells Jairus not to fear, only believe. And they go to the house, where the women are already filling the air with their wails of grief and Jesus brings the child back to life and restores her to her parents.

It is not difficult I think to imagine the joy Jairus and his wife felt that day. The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare. So even as if is impossible not to feel for those parents when their child dies, it is equally impossible not to rejoice with them when she is restored to them, even though we know that this is an event that took place many centuries ago, and that Jairus and his daughter have long returned to the dust from which they came. Because everyone, whether they are a parent themselves or not, understands how a mother and father loves their child, and how devastating it is for them to lose one.

Our Lord clearly understood the pain of Jairus and his wife; hence his compassionate intervention. But it raises the question, does it not, of why has created a world that has pain, and suffering, and death in it? That is not an easy question to answer. The reaction of Jesus to such things make it obvious that God is not indifferent to our suffering; indeed, it causes him great distress. Remember how he wept at the tomb of Lazarus? So even if it is something that is difficult for us to understand, we have to trust that in the context of God's overall plan for the universe, our suffering serves some purpose, even if we do not always see why.

But knowing that death may take someone at any moment means, I think, that a parents love must express itself more than doing all it can to protect their children from all that they may suffer in this life. Because they time will come when they will not be able to. Even if they live into ripe old age, the time will come when the child they brought into this world will leave it. And then all that will matter will be did the parents do all they could to prepare the child they loved to enter into eternal life? Parents worry so much about getting their children safely through this life; is it not of at least equal importance that they should worry about getting them safely into the next? In fact, is what eternal not of greater importance than what will pass?

For in a sense, all parents face the pain of Jairus, for they bring their children into this world knowing that their children will one day die. They hope they will live long and fruitful lives; and if the parent is an atheist that is the best they can hope for. But the Christian parent hopes for so much more for their child. And it is their duty to do their best to see that their child may achieve that hope by raising them in the faith, and the example they give them of their own Christian living. Even those whose children are now adults may speak to them with a parent's loving concern and remind them of the need to live out the faith. Because a mother or a father never ceases loving their child, wanting the best for them, and hoping that at the end of this life they may enter into their eternal home in heaven. Amen

Examin Sunday 27 June 2015

The modern world puts great emphasis on the rights of the individual. It places rather less emphasis on the responsibilities that we each may have. Therefore, for example, many may think only of how they are entitled to receive of the good things of God's creation, and hardly at all of the responsibility they have to treat that creation with care and the duty they have to pass it on to the next generation undamaged. Consider what areas there are in your life where you place what you consider your rights above your responsibilities; and think how you might make changes

Saturday, June 27, 2015

prayer diary Saturday 27 June 2015

He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. 
Matthew 8.15

The immediate reaction of Peter’s mother-in-law to being healed was to serve the Lord Jesus. He reaches out to you also; will you take his hand and serve him?

Friday, June 26, 2015

prayer diary Friday 26 June 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial)

‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched the leper, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 
Matthew 8. 2,3

Even as he cleansed the leper of his physical infirmity, Christ can heal the infirmities of our souls. Will you not also kneel before him and cry out 'Lord, make me clean?’

Thursday, June 25, 2015

haiku: sparkling lake

sparkling lake
   ~swans at rest,
         cygnets in the rushes

prayer diary Thursday 25 June 2015

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 7.21

Christ says salvation is dependent on obedience to God's will. Is it not foolish, therefore, to think that we may live as we please and yet enter into eternal life?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 24 June 2015 The birth of St John the Baptist

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. 
 Luke 1.80

St John the Baptist was called by God to a specific task; a task he accepted and prepared himself for. We also are all called by God; it is up to each of us whether we answer that call and whether we do what is needed to be able to answer it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 23 June 2015

'Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.' 
Matthew 7.13

It is not easy to lead the Christian life. But we ought do so joyfully; for it alone is the way to eternal life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

phone resurrection!

I posted about my mobile phone's sad encounter with the family washing machine here. Alas, a day on the radiator and a week in the hot-tank in the airing cupboard didn't do the trick. The phone did indeed work, but the screen was dead which made it functionally useless.

However, not long after putting the post up on the blog a facebook friend suggested putting it in a bag of rice. A couple of days later, as I was explaining to a parishioner why I needed  her mobile phone number again said to put it in a bag of rice. And on a tv programme I was watching a mobile phone that one of the characters dropped in water was restored to full electronic health by - you guessed it - putting it in a bag of rice.

So I thought I might try putting my phone in rice. Not sure where I got the idea from. It sort of just came to me.

After a few days I put the battery back in. The screen still didn't work, but there seemed to signs of life in a corner of it. Back into the bag. Tried it again a couple of days ago. This time a whole strip of life along one side of the screen. No images or data, but still a definite improvement. And then, an hour or so again, I tried again. Perfect. As good as it was before total immersion treatment. All data - phone numbers and photos - back.

Ah yes - rice is nice!

So now, of course, the thing to do is to get an actual phone-book and write down all these numbers that I almost lost ... the thing I told myself I would do the last couple of times my phone died and I lost everything on it. 

I wonder if I will?

haiku: fuschia in bloom

fuschia in bloom
    ~overhanging the stone wall
          to touch campanula

prayer diary Monday 22 June 2015

‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.' 
Matthew 7.1

Christ told us not to judge; and indeed we must not for God alone is judge. But that does not mean we are not to teach our brethren sound doctrine, nor point out to them when their lives are not in accord with that teaching. For that we are taught to do elsewhere in Sacred Scripture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

why be afraid?

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I always find this morning's reading a little strange. Not because the wind and the waves obey Jesus. I expect that; he is the second person of the Holy Trinity, God himself made man. The surprise would be if he could not control the elements, not that he can. No, for me the strangeness comes from his words to his disciples – why are you afraid? Have you no faith?

Now, consider: there they are out on the Lake. And if you have never seen the sea of Galilee, I can assure that it is an enormous body of water. If you are out in the middle of it, you are a long way away from the shore. I know that I would be afraid if I was out on it and a violent storm blew up. And many of Jesus' companions were fishermen, used to working the lake. If they are afraid, one can presume that things must be quite serious.

And yet Jesus rebukes their fear, saying they lack faith. In what way are they lacking in faith? A storm has blown up, a deadly storm, and they call upon the Lord for help. And their faith in him is justified, for he indeed saves them. So, if they were lacking in faith in some way, it would seem that it was not that they did not trust in the Lord.

Perhaps he chastises their lack of faith because they fear death? And he does not wish them to. For all must face death at some point; if we put our faith in what God has promised us, then we know that eternal life awaits us after this life, so death is nothing to fear. And, of course, Christ knew that all these men would after he had Ascended to the place from whence he came would be entrusted with spreading the good news to the world of how God had loved us so much that he became man, suffered and died for us, and rose again from the dead. And that they would face death for telling that truth to the world – death, torture, imprisonment, rejection, mockery, and many other hardships. So of all men, he did not want these to fear death.

And perhaps he meant more than that they should not be afraid of dying. For did not our Lord not tell these men elsewhere in the Gospels that they should not be afraid of those who could kill the body, but after that could do no more? But rather they should he who could kill both body and soul in heaven? Meaning, of course, that we should not fear death; for the only thing to fear is that we should not enter into eternal life. A storm at sea or the sword of one who hates the faith is of little concern when compared with the far worse harm we can do to ourselves if we are not obedient to God's will and because of that we lose out in eternity in heaven.

And that is what our Lord says to us this morning. Life is fragile. We all, in one sense or another, travel in a small boat on a stormy sea, not knowing if we will perish in a moment, or survive a while longer, waiting for the next storm or something else that will sink our craft. But we need not fear. If we have spent our time loving God, and showing that love through obedience to his will, throwing ourselves upon his mercy and confessing our sins when we fail, strengthening our souls by feeding on the Holy Food he has graced us with by partaking frequently and worthily in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood, then we need not fear any storm. For we will know that when the day comes when our boat is finally overwhelmed, it is not death that awaits us, but life eternal. Amen

Examin Saturday 20 June 2015

The eleventh degree of humility is, that when a monk speaketh, he do so gently and without laughter, humbly, gravely, with few and reasonable words, and that he be not noisy in his speech, as it is written: “A wise man is known by the fewness of his words.”
The Rule of St Benedict, Chapter 7

There are many ways in which we may sin through our speech. Idle talk, gossip, coarse language – not to mention taking the Lord's name in vain. We may also sin by lies, especially slander which takes away a person's good name; and indeed, even the truth about the wrongdoings done by another, told for no good purpose, such as correcting an evil or preventing harm to another, can be sinful. And did our Lord himself not condemn the violence of angry talk? So be careful of what you say; often it is better to say nothing at all than to say the wrong thing and thereby sin.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

haiku: mid-summer woods

mid-summer woods
 ~ a bank of ferns
       foxgloves rising

prayer diary Saturday 20 June 2015

The day will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.' 
Matthew 9.15

Fasting, along with many traditional penitential practices, have gone somewhat out of favour. Yet we know from Sacred Scripture that they were recommended by Christ himself. Should not then we, who call ourselves his followers, follow his teaching as much concerning this as we do with all other matters?

Friday, June 19, 2015

prayer diary Friday 19 June 2015 (day of discipline & self-denial)

'For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.' 
Matthew 9. 13

And we know, of course, that Christ came to call all people to himself; for all indeed are sinners. But woe onto those who think they are without sin; for in that way they reject Christ's mercy and his promise of eternal life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 18 June 2015

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic 'take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' 
Matthew 9. 2

We all remember that Jesus told the man to take up his mat and walk; how many remember that he did so that he might display to the world he had the authority to forgive sins? For that was why he came, to save us from our sins. Do not deceive yourself, and thereby reject Christ, by believing you have no sins to be forgiven of.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

portrait bust of a young woman in an antique style

She had a gentle face,
one of delicate beauty;
she was much loved once
by the one who had the artist
create this memory of her
in glowing clear Carrara.

Was it a father, thanking heaven
for a daughter good and kind,
wishing to set her serene gaze
ever in his study for him to look upon
no matter how far life might take
her from him? 
                         Or a husband,
overjoyed that those lips might
smile upon him, and even
in private moments grant him kisses,
or part in a sigh, deep in the night
in the quiet of their nuptial bed?

Or some other? For someone 
found a worker in marble 
to forever place her hair
in coils like those of ancient Rome, 
and her slender shoulders expose
in a simple dress whose folds
would only begin to suggest
at the slight curving of her breast
before his work was done.

She is long passed now, 
and her name is known only 
on this earth of ours
to that other stone 
above her place of rest.
But she had a gentle face
that promised a nature sweet
and spoke of a soul with grace
and I pray she rests in peace.

Perhaps this was why 
he who loved her
caused an enduring memory
of her to be carved in stone?
That when he was years dead,
others might gaze upon her
and pause to say a prayer;
perhaps his love looked past her beauty
and cared for her soul as well.

prayer diary Wednesday 17 June 2015

Thomas answered him 'My Lord and my God.' 
John 20.28

the phrase 'doubting Thomas' has entered indelibly into common parlance. Yet this is the same man who was the first to clearly and unambiguously recognise and declare the divinity of Christ. We who walk the path he first trod should daily give thanks for his inspired witness to the truth of whom Christ is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

poem: molehills

The chap's up in the pulpit
chiding the pews below
- saying God is watching
all we think or say or do.

Now, I'm only here because
I like to hear a hymn
sung well; and he rather spoils it
by being quite so grim.

Is it really a great matter
if I rarely say a prayer?
Or seldom read the Holy Book
and break without a care

the laws set out therein,
but only in a minor way,
as long as into graver sin
I am careful not to stray?

Should I really take on faith
that they'll harden up my heart
and lead me daily deeper
from things of light to dark?

I think he's making mountains
of the molehills I enjoy
when he says that such little things
will my eternal life destroy.

Why I read it in the paper,
I heard it on the news
the things he's calling 'evil'
are the modern 'goods.'

So why should I worry
about what he has to say?
It isn't going to save my soul
-it'll only spoil my play.

So the preacher in the pulpit
can rant on 'til the end;
I will live just as I please
and after go to heaven.

prayer diary Tuesday 16 June 2015

And Jesus said to them 'why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.' 
Matthew 8. 26

Death comes to us all. But for those who put their faith in Christ, there is nothing to fear in this world.

Monday, June 15, 2015

haiku: busy road

busy road
~ a gap in traffic 
       birdsong crossing

prayer diary Monday 15 June 2015

'Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.' 
Matthew 8. 20

The material things of this world matter little. All that matters is following Christ.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

of mountains and molehills

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

'The kingdom of God ... is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.'

Things that at first can seem small and unimportant can often to turn out to be of far greater significance that was first thought. Our Lord is speaking here of small things growing into things great and wonderful. But small things neglected can also turn into things dangerous and disastrous. The molehill can grow into an actual mountain … that turns out to be a volcano that destroys all around it!

For example, I remember, when I was working in Revenue, one audit like that.) A very small company*, whose history on our files showed a very low level of business turnover, had submitted a claim for a huge amount of VAT. Not surprisingly, my bosses were curious to know what was going on; the claim was put on hold and I was dispatched. The accountant was not pleased to see me – did I not understand that this was an important tech start up business with many companies, of which this one was very small and quite insignificant? When I pointed out the huge claim this 'insignificant' company was making, he was quite dismissive of my concerns. It was a holding company which had made a very large purchase on behalf of the group.

A very usual arrangement in big business. So would I please stop wasting everybody's time and just certify the repayment?

Very politely I explained that I had been sent to audit the company and audit it I must. So with no great grace I was provided with a desk and the books. And indeed it was a small company, the books were very slight, and I was able to go through them in about five minutes. I asked to see the accountant again. He had left the office, but his secretary came to see me. I explained that the books were in order. There was one slight problem - the receipt for the purchase on file was a photocopy. And on a claim of this size, I really had to see the original. She said she'd pass the message on.

I left expecting to go back in a couple of days, spend two or three minutes examining the invoice, and that would be the end of the matter. It didn't happen that way. I received many irate letters and phone-calls demanding repayment over the course of many months, but an invitation to come and see the original invoice never came. Apparently he thought I was being most unreasonable.

Finally one Friday I got a phone-call from someone else – his boss. He was not pleased with me. Apparently I was putting the entire company at risk; a huge amount of their money was tied up in the repayment I was refusing to certify; and the company’s cash flow was in a very bad state indeed as a result. I explained about the invoice. There was silence at the end of the phone. 
'Hello?' I said. 
'All you need to give us our money is an invoice?' he said. 
'Yes indeed.' 'Can you be in our office on Monday morning?' 
'I most certainly can.' 
'It'll be there.' 

And it was. While I was there, I asked about the accountant I had been dealing with. I was informed he was no longer with the company.

Truthfully, I can not say why the accountant did not simply give me the document when I asked for it and continued to refuse to hand it over for all those months. It would have been a simple matter to do so. Was it arrogance – he was a big-shot accountant with a massive company and he wasn't going to take instructions from a lowly civil servant? Was it pride – having refused to hand it over at the beginning of the affair, he couldn't bring himself to admit he was wrong and yield to my request?  Perhaps he had so many other matters on his plate that seemed so much more important than this … and he didn't realise what it was growing into until it was too late? Maybe he was playing some kind of a game with his company – deliberately pretending there was a huge issue with Revenue, which he was planning to 'resolve' and emerge as the saviour of the company. Whatever his reasons, it clearly never occurred to him that his boss would decide to take matters into their own hands … and would very unimpressed that his behaviour had turned a molehill into a mountain that had nearly brought down the  company.

How many I wonder behave in a similar fashion when it comes to their spiritual life? They neglect what they think of as small things … and before they know it, the molehill has become a mountain that threatens to bury their immortal soul. Perhaps it is being careless with their prayer life; perhaps they think themselves too busy too find even a few minutes of a Sunday to keep holy the Lord's Day by attending Divine Services? Or worse, perhaps they do attend, but partake of the Blessed Sacrament unworthily, which, as St Paul tells us and the Articles of Religion remind us, is to eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves? Perhaps it is small transgressions of God's laws hardening their hearts and leading to ever greater ones? Always blissfully unaware of how the molehill is growing.

So do not neglect the small things, my friends, especially the small seed of faith that God has planted within you. Tend it so that it may become the great mustard bush with branches large and strong – a support to you in this life … and a strength that leads you to life eternal. Amen

* (Even though this was a long time ago and the company in question is no longer in operation, details have been changed to prevent the possibility of its being recognised.

haiku: morning prayer

morning prayer
~in the grey light
     a heron in flight

Examin Sunday 14 June 2015

The seventh degree of humility is that he consider himself lower and of less account than anyone else, and this not only in verbal protestation but also with the most heartfelt inner conviction, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet, "But I am a worm and no man, the scorn of men and the outcast of the people" (Ps. 21[22]:7). "After being exalted, I have been humbled and covered with confusion" (Pa. 87:16). And again, "It is good for me that You have humbled me, that I may learn Your commandments" (Ps. 118[119]:71).

from the Rule of St Benedict, Ch 7

The Church teaches us that as children of God that we are of infinite worth; why then should we think little of ourselves, or the least of all men? 

Because our worth comes through God's grace not through our own merits. Humility gives us clarity of thought, a realistic vision of ourselves. Without God's help we are indeed nothing; and there is danger in thinking of ourselves as wonderful, marvelous creatures, because of the risk of becoming arrogant and thinking that it is through our won efforts we are so great. And to think that way is to risk losing all. 

So better to be genuinely humble, knowing that God will graciously reward our humility, than have a deluded arrogance, which will rob of us of our birthright as children of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

haiku: summer evening

summer evening
   ~ a garden wilderness
             roses blood red

Prayer diary Saturday 13 June 2015

'Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.' 
Matthew 5. 37

There are, of course, times when it is necessary to take an oath. But in general, an honourable man adds nothing by calling on God when he gives his word; and a dishonourable one mocks God by the dishonest invocation of his name.

Friday, June 12, 2015

haiku: June dusk

June dusk
 ~ bare concrete wall
       a clump of campanula

Thursday, June 11, 2015

meeting the train

The tourist train
made the man
in the van
reverse the lane.

Not the kind
on tracks and ties;
a thing in disguise
as an engine.

Carriage pulling
couldn't go back
without a wreck,
so van yielding.

Making driver exclaim
'I never expected a train!'

haiku:sunshine after cloud-burst

sunshine after cloud-burst
~ on the wet tarmac
   a light white mist whirls

Prayer diary Thursday 11 June 2015 (St Barnabas)

'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.' 
John 15. 12,13

Christ died for our sins. We therefore, if we are to be like him, must be willing to lay down our own lives in order to lead others to him and away from their sins.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

haiku: beneath the pew

beneath the pew
   a red admiral
      ~unable to fly

Prayer diary Tuesday 9 June 2015 (St Columba of Iona)

'Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.' 
John 12.25

This life and the things of it will pass. Do not get so caught up in what is temporary that by doing so you miss out on what is eternal.

Monday, June 8, 2015

haiku: wine and bread

wine and bread
  ~soon we stand
       God with us

Prayer diary Monday 8 June 2015

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' 
Matthew 5.10

This verse from the Beatitudes may seem like a reminder from a by-gone age. Yet more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all those that went before; and today thousands more die for the faith each year. The faithful witness unto death is as real today as it ever was. Is it something that you would be willing to do?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

earthquakes and mothers

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

By way of a rather odd coincidence, I had my first experience of an earthquake on the same day I had my first direct encounter with that peculiarly American brand of humour called the 'your momma' joke. It was not long after Navy boot camp and I was at training school in a place called Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. A small group of classmates and I, fellow sailors, had gone for lunch in the chow-hall.

Now the chow hall was a rather odd building – think extremely large, concrete warehouse with a relatively low ceiling, and you'll get the picture. The best that might be said of it that it was functional if not beautiful. So there we were, half a dozen or so young sailors, resplendent in our white uniforms, eating our lunch of good, all American food such as cheese burgers and fries, when the floor beneath us began to vibrate. The table trembled along with it. The water in our glasses jumped gently up and down, not slopping out of the glasses, but not sitting still either the way water in a glass is supposed to do. And then it stopped. We all stared at each other.

'What was that?' someone wondered. Big Jake, a mountain of a man, shrugged.
'That weren't anything. Just a truck passing.' He took a bite of his burger. We all gazed at him in astonishment. In vain we tried to explain to him that the vast and bunker-like qualities of the chow-hall would make it impervious to the passing of even the largest truck. We also pointed out that the chow-hall was located at least half a mile from the nearest main road; there were simply no trucks to pass.

'So what do you say it was?' said Jake, chewing.
'An earthquake,' said one. The rest of us agreed; it was the only explanation that made sense. Jake laughed.
'This ain't California. There's no earthquakes here. It was a truck.'
His refusal to listen to reason was the cause of much amusement and made him the target of much good-humoured slagging as the meal continued. Jake shrugged it off, but one particularly witty fellow, Chuck, seemed to get under his skin. Jake fixed him with a look and passed a comment about his mother. The man was silenced. The others howled with laughter; several gave Jake high fives.
'Sorry dude,' said Jake with a smirk. 'But you had that coming.' Someone noticed the young Irish man didn't seem to be in on the joke.
'Burke. You're not laughing.'
I shook my head.
'I don't get it.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, Chuck was being funny. Jake just said something about his mother that had nothing to do with what we're talking about; how was that a witty come-back to what Chuck was saying?'
'But, dude, didn't you hear him?'
'Yeah. I still don't see why I should think it was funny. And where I come from a remark like that would get Jake a punch on the nose, big as he is.'

I still don't get 'mother' jokes, even though the days when I think a punch on the nose would be an appropriate response have long passed, of course. That's because mother's are precious; they bear us in their bodies, nurture us when we are young, and care for us fiercely and passionately all their lives. The tie that exists between a mother and her child is a wondrous and sacred thing. All of which makes our Lord's words in today's Gospel rather shocking. A group of his male relatives have heard about what he is doing. And they are alarmed. This is Mary's son and Joseph's son they think; not the Son of God. And they fear for his mental health.

 So they go to get him, bringing his widowed mother with them, no doubt thinking that her presence will bring him back to his senses. Arriving at the house where he is, they find they cannot enter – the house is full and great throngs of people are gathered around it. So they pass a message through the crowd – tell him to come out, they say; his mother and family are here. And Jesus' reply to that message must have been shocking to all who heard it: for he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ 

In a time and place where the bonds of blood and family were even more important then they are today, this response would have stunned those listening. Our Lord, of course, intends no disrespect to his mother; we know of his deep and abiding love for her, so great that even in his agony on the cross he takes care to entrust her to the safekeeping of his beloved disciple, to make sure she will be cared for all her earthly life. And we can be sure that she would have not misunderstood what he was saying, and perhaps be hurt or take offence; for she, of all people, knows exactly who he is. She knows that this is God's Son, as well as her own. She has talked with the angels, met with the Magi, heard the prophesies of St Simeon in the temple, even heard her Son's own words, spoken to her as a boy of 12 as he stood among the doctors of the law, astonishing them with his wisdom, that he must be about his Father's business.

Indeed, perhaps she was the best equipped of all people to understand fully the extraordinary offer that Jesus was making to people, the Son of God inviting ordinary human beings to be his brothers and sisters; had, after all, not God not given her an equally extraordinary invitation when he asked that she should become the Mother of the second person of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, the mother of God?

Of course, she would also have known that day that, just as she could have said 'no' to the message of an angel, so also the men and women listening that day, and all who would hear those words passed down through the ages, could say no to the offer of brotherhood that Christ himself made. For just as the Blessed Virgin Mary had to be obedient to God's will in order to become the Mother of the Christ-child, so too must we be obedient to God's will if we are to be brothers and sisters of Christ.

And note very carefully what Christ said that day – he said that all who did the will of God could enter into that wonderful and special relationship with him; which, of course, means that all those who are disobedient to God's will can not. And the consequences of disobedience are real; we see that in our reading from Genesis this morning, concerning the Fall of our first parents, where they are tempted by the devil and sin. I know that many may think it old-fashioned to speak of things like sin and Satan, but please note that our Lord himself speaks of them very plainly in our Gospel reading today – which means they are things we think of as being old-fashioned notions which can be safely ignored at our peril. 

 But that is not what God wants, that we should reject him and his offer of eternal happiness through disobedience and sin. That is why Christ exhorted us to be obedient; that is why he suffered and died for us; that is why he became man and was born of a woman for us. Heaven is offered to us – what we must do is say yes to it by our obedience to God.

Some of you may wonder who was right concerning the discussion in the chow-hall – Jake who said it was a truck, or the rest of us who felt it must surely have been an earthquake. Well, the next day, on the front page of the the Indianapolis Star, it was reported that the area had indeed been rocked by a minor seismic event at lunchtime the day before – certainly not the 'big one' California has been waiting for for years, but an earthquake nonetheless. 

I sometimes wonder why Jake, despite all the evidence to the contrary, insisted it had been a truck. The answer, perhaps, was that it was just too scary to believe that it might be an earthquake; to think it was a truck was a far more comforting idea. Wrong, but comforting. I pray that none here will find it more comforting to think that God does not mean what he says that he asks obedience of those who would be his brothers and sisters; and instead will be filled with joy instead by the knowledge that he desires us to be part of his family, as close to him as his own blessed Mother, and daily pry to him for the grace to live out the obedience he desires so that we may be with him forever in heaven. Amen

Examin Sunday 7 June 2015

Let a man consider that God is always looking at him from heaven, that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels. This is what the Prophet shows us when he says  ... "You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 138[139]:3) and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 75[76]:11). In order that he may be careful about his wrongful thoughts, therefore, let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart, "Then shall I be spotless before Him, if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 17[18]:24).
from the Rule of St Benedict, Ch 7

We may offend against God in thought as well as in deed. Keep watch over you mind, therefore, and do not let it stray. And remember to ask God's pardon for your wrongful thoughts when you ask it for your deeds.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Prayer diary Friday 12 June 2015

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 
Matthew 5. 27,28

Our Lord makes it clear that we may sin in thought as well as in deed. Guard your thoughts therefore lest you become like the 'whited sepulchers' Christ condemned – appearing pure on the outside, but inside are foul indeed.

Prayer diary Wednesday 10 June 2015

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.' 
Matthew 5.17

Part of Christ's fulfilment of the law was that things such as the ceremonial law, for example things relating to sacrifice in the temple, are now redundant. But as our Lord makes clear again and again in the Gospels the moral law, as is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, remained in effect for all the ages.

prayer diary Saturday 6 June 2015

Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.' 
Mark 12. 43

What seems little in the eyes of the world may be of great value in the eyes of the Lord. Small though it may be, if given with a good heart, it is pleasing to God.

Friday, June 5, 2015

your people shall be my people

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I was truly delighted when Jamie and Wendy chose as one of the readings for their wedding the passage we heard earlier from the Book of Ruth. I know you all heard it read a few minutes ago, but I think it no harm for us to hear it again:

 But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ 

It was not one I had heard read at a wedding before and yet I think it a rather beautiful one for a wedding – even though, of course, the person talking in this passage, Ruth, is not speaking of the love between a husband and wife at all in this passage. I say 'of course' – but that rather presumes that all here know the context in which she is speaking … which is probably not a safe assumption at all. So perhaps some background is needed.

The story begins like this: during a time of famine in the land of Israel, one family from Bethlehem leave and go to the land of Moab, a country that is now part of what we call Jordan. The family consisted of a man called Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two adult sons Mahlon and Chilion. Soon after they arrive, we're not sure exactly how soon, tragedy strikes in their new homeland and Elimelech dies. A severe blow for Naomi, no doubt – not only is she in a strange land, but now she is a widow. But she has her two sons to comfort her and care for her.

For a time all is well with them in their new homeland and they prosper. The two young men marry Moabite women – one called Orpah, the other Ruth. Neither marriage, it seems, is blessed with children, but we may presume that both young men are deeply in love and very happy with their choice of bride, as neither seeks to set her aside and take another wife, as they might have done. Ten years pass and then tragedy strikes again – both Mahlon and Chilion die. We do not know how, but as the text seems to imply the deaths occurred fairly simultaneously, and these are both relatively young men, we may reasonably suspect some kind of accident.

This loss of husband and sons, her only children, is a hard one for Naomi – she will later tell people that they should no longer call her Naomi, but 'Mara' which means 'bitterness' because the Lord has dealt bitterly with her – she had gone to Moab full, a wife and a mother, and she was to leave it empty, husband and sons gone, and without grandchildren also.

Little wonder, then, that Naomi no longer wants to stay in Moab, the place that had taken so much from her. The famine in Israel is over and she decides to return home. Both Orpah and Ruth wish to go with her, but Naomi tells them not to. They have been good daughters-in-law and dealt kindly with her; but they should now return to their own mother's homes, marry new husbands for themselves, and find security for their futures – something that she, a childless widow, can not offer them.

Both Orpah and Ruth protest, not wishing to abandon her, but Noami insists and Orpah at last relents, kisses her mother-in-law goodbye and leaves. But Ruth clings to Naomi; not even seeing Orpah go will persuade her to leave Naomi on her own and she phrases her refusal in the beautiful words we heard earlier 'Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried.'

So, as I said earlier, these loving words that Ruth speaks are not said in relation to married love. But they do, I think, speak profoundly of what it is that happens when a man and woman wed. At marriage, as we are told in Genesis chapter three, the husband and wife become one flesh; and more, this is not some simple human decision, that can be set aside at will, for as our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew chapter 19, what God has joined together, let no one separate – words that we will hear later as part of the marriage service. It is God who joins the couple, God who makes them one flesh.

A profound mystery – and a mystery that Ruth takes to it's logical conclusion by her refusal to abandon Naomi and leave her alone and uncared for in the world. When she married Naomi's son, she became one flesh with him; and thus his mother truly became as a mother to her, with all the responsibilities that come with it.

In wedding speeches we will often hear it said by the father of the groom that they are not losing a son, but gaining a daughter; and the father of the bride that they are not losing a daughter, but gaining a son. These wedding speech words might have been inspired by the example of Ruth as she refuses to abandon Naomi in her loneliest hour and by her words 'your people shall be my people.'

In a few minutes Wendy and Jamie will bind themselves together in the covenant of Holy Matrimony; he, in the words of Adam in Genesis, will become bone of her bone; she will become flesh of his flesh; they will no longer be two, but one. And as they and their families are united this day, I can think of no better way to bless them, and all the days of their marriage echoing the words of Ruth: whatever road you travel, may you travel it together, and find your dwelling there, your home wherever the other is; may Jamie's people be Wendy's people now, and Wendy's Jamie's also; may your love of each other be strengthened by your love for God, even as your love for him strengthens your marriage; may you be faithful to each other as long as there is breath and heartbeat within you; and when you die, may you rest together in peace to rise in glory when our Lord Jesus comes to call all his faithful servants home. Amen

poem: passing

I wanted to write about a moment
I saw swallows flitting past,
how I saw them dart, and dash, and dive, 
and pass by in a flash;

about how they nibbled insects
while they were on the wing
and that their joyful dance on air
had almost make me sing;
about how their grace and beauty
was a wondrous, awe-full thing. 

I was going to write some words
to make that moment last; 
but I didn't have a pen to hand
and so the moment passed.

prayer diary Friday 5 June 2015

Jesus said, ‘David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ' 
Mark 12. 36

Thus Christ himself attests that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired. And if our Lord and Saviour tells us they are the word of God, we must believe it to be so.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

baking my phone

I am currently in the process of baking my mobile phone. The poor wee electronic device has had a hard day. I am not at all sure that it is going to make it.

The sad tale began thus: my phone also serves as my alarm clock and my normal procedure is to stuff it into the pocket of my sweats as I go through the morning routine, getting school lunches made, breakfast started, firing up the computer to check emails and read the paper online. But my two older boys are doing state exams and are being called a little earlier than usual to make sure they've plenty of time to get ready and out the door on time. 

So the phone got left on the bed this morning as, in a breach of routine, I first dashed to their rooms to begin the difficult task of waking teenage boys from their slumber. After that, habit kicked in, and I started getting on with the usual stuff without thinking of the phone. It wasn't until a little later, when I was getting dressed myself that I went looking for it. Not finding it in my sweats pocket, I remembered leaving it on the bed. But this, I found, bare, stripped of sheets. The phone was nowhere to be found.

Naturally, I made inquiries with my wife. 'Ah yes,' she said smiling, 'It was such a lovely sunny day that I decided to get a load of washing on early to take advantage of the good drying weather.'

I won't keep you in suspense. A fast dash to the machine revealed the poor old mobile device spinning forlornly among the suds and sheets. The machine was stopped and the phone retrieved. I stripped it down, removing battery and sim card. The latter went into an even older phone, so that at least I can make calls and receive them. The old phone was dried, swaddled in a tea towel, and put on a heater in my office to dry out. Poor little thing - it's display windows are looking all misty now.

As I said, it is an old phone. It was probably time to replace it anyway. But, of course, I have a lot of phone numbers on it that I'd hate to lose (for some reason my sim - which is even older than the phone - has a very limited capacity). So fingers crossed that it survives.   I reckon it'll be a couple of days before dries out completely and it is safe to put the battery in to see if it still functions. 

So bake on, little phone, bake on.

prayer diary Thursday 4 June 2015

'The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” '
Mark 12. 31

Christ taught that it was those who heard and obeyed his word who loved him. Therefore if love our neighbours we must encourage them to love God in this way, the way he asks to be loved.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 3 June 2015

'God said to Moses “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.’ 
Mark. 12. 26.27

We were all created for eternal life. Therefore, do not neglect in this life to prepare for the next.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

prayer diary Tuesday 2 June 2015

Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’
Mark 17.17

The coin bore the image of Caesar, therefore it was his. We are created in God's image, therefore the image we bear is his and we belong to him.

Monday, June 1, 2015

prayer diary Monday 1 June 2015 The Visitation of the BVM (transferred)

‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?' 
Luke 1. 42,43

Within days of conceiving the Christ-child, our Lady is hailed as the mother of our Lord by St Elizabeth. He was fully God and fully man from the moment of Incarnation.