Rector's ramblings: July 2015

August 2nd 2015

    We get 4 Sundays at this time of year where the readings set are all from John 6 – Jesus the Bread of Life. A bit tough on the preacher.

    When the census is done, it is often interesting to see how many people say that they believe in God. I often wonder ‘Who is the God you believe in? What sort of God?’ It’s an important question for all of us because the picture/the image of God we carry with us affects how we live our lives.

   Is God someone who set the world going and leaves us to it? Is God someone who should stop bad things happening but otherwise leave us alone and not interfere with our lives? Is he a superpower who should blast the baddies? Is he intimately and lovingly involved with his creation? Is he humble or proud? Is he hidden or obvious? Is he shy? What is our image of God?

    Whatever image we have of him, it can only ever be partial. If our small minds could totally encompass and understand God, then he wouldn’t be God at all. Faith is a journey on which we need our picture of God and his call on our lives to be open to correction, enhancement and new insights.

   In the world of science, it’s similar. Scientists have a name for gravity and light for example and have models to predict how they work. Yet what these forces are remains a mystery. Scientists constantly question old assumptions, create new theories which are either disproved or accepted but then challenged in turn. It might be disturbing to think it might be the same in our journey of faith.

  As I read the Bible, it seems that God was gradually revealing himself to the human race – developing our understanding of Him. Revealing himself gradually so that we could understand. So, the Israelites journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land was a whole journey of discovery opening up more if what God was like; there are arguments about whether he is an exclusive or inclusive God; what was the sacrifice he sought and so on.

  In John 6, Jesus is leading the people of his day on a journey – a careful journey urging them to move on in their understanding. The chapter starts with the feeding of the 5000: that miraculous picnic where all were fed and there were leftovers from just 5 loaves and 2 fish. The people then wanted to make Jesus king by force – a complete misunderstanding of who Jesus was. So, Jesus went off alone to pray leaving his disciples somewhat confused.

  They decide to go home and get into the boat to cross Lake Galilee back to Capernaum; a storm blows up and Jesus walks on the water towards them. Jesus, like God, can command the elements. Jesus moving them on in revealing who he truly was.

  The crowds seem to have stayed in the picnic area, but in the morning realize that Jesus and his disciples have gone. Happily some boats arrive and they pile in, cross the Lake to search Jesus out. They want more of this Jesus and his picnics.

   “When did you get here?” they ask Jesus who doesn’t answer the question. How you hear Jesus answer depends on what tone of voice you think he’s speaking in. Is his tone impatient at how thick these people are? Or gentle as he seeks to lead them on? Is he impatient with us or gentle where we are being dim witted?

    Anyway, he points out that they are interested in the food and the fact that they had had enough food to fill them to bursting. It’s understandable that this was their viewpoint. These were poor people, not always sure where the next meal was coming from. There were no supermarkets full of food and no freezers to keep food fresh. Bread had to be baked every day – the grain had to be planted, grown and milled. Fish had to be caught and gutted. Food was hard work. Of course they were interested in someone who could provide food like this. Perhaps no different than us hoping that following Jesus will exempt us from life’s difficulties and unpleasantness.

  Jesus tries to move them on to focus not on food that spoils but on the food that endures to eternal life. ‘What must we do to do the work that God requires?’ they ask. They would have been used to the idea that their scriptures were nourishing of heart and mind – that they were the word of God and so bread for heart and mind. They could probably get as far in their thinking as the idea that the word of God is nourishing, but Jesus wants them to know that he is the true Word of God.

   I wonder where we have got so far in our understanding and Jesus is longing for us to take the next step?

   They do then ask a very dumb question, all things considered. “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” This is just after Jesus has fed 5000+ people from a small boy’s picnic! They are still hung up on physical food.

   Jesus patiently seeks to show himself, the word made flesh, giving himself to them. Jesus who longs to be present as friend, to free them from all that hinders, imprisons, oppresses; to set them free into real life. Those who eat of this bread that is Jesus will never hunger or thirst.

  Teresa of Avila says “God alone is enough” St John of the Cross “The absolute love of God protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things” I find myself longing for this bread, to know truly that God alone is enough. Jesus has a long way to go with me yet.

  We can get more interested in asking Jesus for things (I’m not saying we can’t speak to him in this way) than in seeking him for himself. Will we allow Jesus to take us on a journey of discovery? A journey of discovering ever more about Him? Changing the image we may hold to a truer picture of his beauty?

   Could we ask at least to plant in us a greater hunger and thirst for him?


July 26th 2015

One of the Bible readings set for this Sunday in the church's calendar was from Ephesians 3. It is a prayer by St Paul for the church in Ephesus, and it reads:

" I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen"

What a lovely prayer and it's one I pray for you and for myself. Just think - if we all knew how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ for us, how different we would be. Secure in being loved, we would be freer to look out for others and show them something of Christ's love. The world would look rather different!

July 24th 2015

  ‘Where has the past 25 years gone?’ That’s the question I asked myself as we celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination. It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since I was the youngest at clergy gatherings and the most recently ordained. Now I find I’m one of the older ones and the longest ordained!

  I still see this role as one of great privilege. My greatest joy is when I see people coming to faith in Jesus Christ for the first time and when I see people moving on and learning more abut him, and so going deeper in their faith and trust in him. It’s so wonderful to recognize God’s hand at work to comfort, support and guide – just as it always has been.

  It is though a very odd ‘job’. I might go from rejoicing with a couple on the birth of a new baby to being with someone who is dying; from working with children in the local school to being custodian of an historic building with all that that involves; from being in the quietness of prayer to the busyness of the day. And that’s to mention just a few aspects.

  The costly side for me has been to move home. I don’t find uprooting easy, and then it takes me a long time to settle into a new environment. As a single person, I find it tricky to move to a new area where I know no-one. The path I’ve taken meant leaving my home is Sussex for college in Bristol, then transferring to Lowestoft, to parishes in rural Norfolk and then here.


The Changes?

  There have been enormous changes in these 25 years as we all know. When I was ordained deacon in 1990, as a woman, I could not go on to be priested. As a deacon, you cannot celebrate communion or pronounce a blessing or absolution. So I never expected to be in charge of a parish, let alone be an area dean as well. In the end, I was amongst the first ‘batch’ of women to be ordained priest in Norwich Cathedral.

  The life of clergy has changed enormously – we are spread more thinly across parishes. The tide of paperwork, policies, Health and Safety etc. rises steadily. But the basics are the same time, I still seek to honour my calling to have the cure (care) of souls, with all that that means.

   Things have changed because society has changed. 25 years ago, we had answerphone but no broadband, no e-mail, no mobiles, no laser printers. Things moved more slowly and I was able to talk to more people face to face. I even wrote real letters then. On the other hand I couldn’t do what I do now without e-mail. Life is definitely quicker and more urgent somehow.

  The pressure to work and be at work means that it harder to keep in touch with people that we meet. For example women used to be at home for about the first 5 years of their children’s life, but now that is increasingly rare. So many more work shift patterns. It all means it’s harder to do what I used to do – a lot of visiting – because there’s no-one at home.

  There are other changes but I’m still excited and delighted by Jesus Christ. There is lots of exciting thinking going on. In my own thinking over the years, I’ve come to realize how much we all matter to Jesus. That is a very humbling thought. I’ve come to realize how humbly and persistently Jesus seeks us out and longs for us to love him back and follow him. Following him isn’t always easy – it hasn’t been for me. But nothing else can hold a candle to what following him means.

Rector's ramblings
Webpage icon Rambling thoughts 2014
Webpage icon Rambling thoughts January- June 2015
Webpage icon Rector's ramblings: December 2015
Webpage icon Rector's ramblings: Spring 2016
Webpage icon EU referendum result
Webpage icon Rector's ramblings: post referendum
Webpage icon Rector's Ramblings: The Holidays 2016
Webpage icon Rector's ramblings: What is your world view?
Printer Printable Version