Do you feel that God is pleased with you? I do hope so, though I know that at times I myself have not been sure about that, and it is an area with which many people struggle. We are in the season of epiphany – the season of revelation, which is what epiphany means. Our readings for the next few weeks reveal something of who Jesus is. But in doing so, they also reveal something of who we are and who we have the capacity to become.
Today a very few of us (in line with current health guidelines) gather to baptise Charlotte. And we do so in the face of perhaps the greatest global crisis we shall see in a lifetime. Yet, in some ways, what better time to baptise someone! What better time to remember the great themes of baptism, water, life and light...
I want to talk about being locked shut and about being breathed open. And I want to explore what it might mean, as Jackie will do today (as she comes to baptism as an adult), to begin again.
‘The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of the Jews’. Those early disciples were a pretty terrified bunch. Even as the possibility that Jesus could be alive was dawning on them, they remained uncertain, afraid of being arrested and killed. It seems to me likely that they met secretly for a long time. The texts of the New Testament compress what was probably a lengthy process, into the shorter units of symbolic time. But whether these things happened over a few hours and days, or many years hardly matters. What matters is that a change occurred and a new beginning became possible...
One of the wonderful things about many Jewish people I have met is their capacity to wrestle with our human experience and ideas of God. They just do not settle for simplistic answers, especially when it is comes to the really big human questions of hope and suffering, life and death. Indeed there is a famous saying: ‘ask two Jews, get three opinions.’ Now, of course, this, can occasionally lead to a certain stubbornness and unnecessary conflict. It points us however to the very heart of biblical religion, especially as we find it in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the God of the biblical tradition is very much a God with whom to wrestle. We see this, not least, in the book of Hosea, from which we hear again today. Indeed, the God whom Hosea reveals is very much a God wrestling with God’s own compassion, very much as a parent wrestles with their own hurts and hopes for their child. This is the deepest, most mysterious, heart of love, and it is into this kind of love we baptise Margaret Rose today…
"No one will snatch them out of my hand"
- what a wonderful promise - and how appropriate as we come to baptise Eliza today. No one is ever going to be able to snatch this little one out of the hand of God. This is true for all of us, yet I wonder how often we pause to think about it and to register just how safe and held we truly are...
When does a Christian become a Christian? That might seem like a silly question, but no. In fact, it helps explain quite a number of differences between those who have called themselves Christian, today and in the past. We can also tell a good deal about a person by their answer to that question, for it contains a variety of assumptions about God and God’s relationship to us as individuals, as people together, and as a world.
When does a Christian become a Christian? For simplicity, let me offer four possibilities. Which option, or combination of options, makes best sense to you?...
by Penny Jones for Advent 2 year B
It gave me great joy yesterday to see everything so green after the rain. I am sure we are all taking delight in the clean fresh scent and the signs of new life. It would not be too fanciful I think to say that our bit of the world has been ‘baptised’ over the last few days.
The great medieval Christian mystic Hildegaard of Bingen coined a particular word for such ‘greening ‘ of the earth. She called it ‘veriditas’, from the Latin word for green. For her it best described the first shoots of green leaves poking through the white snow after a long winter in her native Europe. It was the sign of new life. And so too for us, as rain restores life to our parched land we see fresh potential for life in the renewed greenness of our land.
When we think about baptism and the ministry of John the Baptist which we recall today, veriditas, the ‘greening’, is a good picture to have in our minds. It is a picture that works at many levels. It describes the ‘greening’ of the outer world, the created order on which we rely for daily life. It describes the ‘greening’ of our inner world, the work of God in our individual souls. And it describes as well the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within our society and wider political systems...
Jon Inkpin for River Sunday, 28 September 2014
What is the name of your river? This is among the first questions Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand will ask anyone they meet. For mihi – greeting and introduction – is very important in Maori culture and establishing relationship requires that people know where each otber comes from and what has shaped them. So what is the name of your river? Maybe, like me, several rivers have shaped you. However most, if not all of us, I suspect, have been shaped by one or more particular river. For, even in our modern world, rivers are fundamental to human existence and community...
Lent 3A, Sunday 23 March 2014 by Penny Jones
The marvellous Celtic poet and mystic John O'Donohue described faith as 'the absolutely irresistible longing for God'. This is why Jesus in today's gospel describes himself as 'living water'. For every human being on this watery blue planet of ours has an irresistible longing for water. We literally cannot live without it. Indeed almost all of our bodies is made up of water. The longing and thirst for water is more desperate than the longing for food, or sex or companionship or home. Thirst is an elemental, irresistible longing. We need water. And not just physical water.
Moses led the people out into the wilderness and they became thirsty. There was no water for them to drink. So of course they complained. In that barren place they experienced their need, their dependence on God. And through Moses, God satisﬁed their physical need, striking water from the rock so that they could drink.
The experience of wilderness, of longing and thirst is essential to our mature spiritual growth...
Epiphany 1A, Sunday 12 January 2013 – The Revd Dr Jonathan Inkpin
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but cruel words can’t hurt me.’ Ever heard that? Ever said that? It is intended to help those who are bullied and abused. Yet it is not true. Sticks and stones may indeed break our bones, but cruel words may actually hurt far worse. They can even threaten our very integrity as a person. Yet, fortunately, praise God, that is not the whole story, as our Gospel reading dramatically reveals today.
Years ago, when I worked in a hostel for ex-offenders, we had a very pitiable young man join us. Let’s call him Billy. He had just come out of an institution for juvenile offenders and had a record of all kinds of petty crime. He had been a bit of a nuisance and a menace to many others. His biggest menace however was to himself. For Billy was a highly addicted glue sniffer: a habit which not only increased his offending but, more significantly, destroyed his gifts and personal integrity. Which is at the heart of the crying shame of most criminals: not simply that they imperil and destroy the gifts and integrity of others, but that, above all, they imperil and destroy themselves and their huge potential for love...