31 October 2011

Helpful post about St Paul's

+Nick Baines has some wise words about the situation at St Paul's. He makes the point that the C of E is not the RC church. ++Rowan is not a Pope. Dioceses are our unit of authority, and even then, Cathedrals are different. This is a complex matter and +Nick explains it more eloquently than I can. Take a look here.

29 October 2011

Sermon for Simon and Jude, Westcott Chapel, 28-10-11

A few people have asked to have a copy of this and I figured the easiest way to get it around was to put it
up here. It's written for the voice, hence the short lines and odd punctuation. I make no apologies for this.

May I speak in the name of the Father, 
The Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I don’t know about you,
But I find names fascinating. 
I find it extraordinary that a name can carry so much meaning And yet so little meaning...
Both at the same time.

Let me explain...

When names stand alone for us,
When they so clearly refer to a particular person, 
They seem to embody the person they represent.

For example,
If someone mentions the name ‘Eleanor’,
There’s only one person who springs to mind for me. 
And there will be names for each of you,
which do the same thing.

People we know well
seem to inhabit their name,
It would seem wrong to call them anything else.
But sometimes the world gets a bit complicated...

Last weekend,
Late on Sunday,
After working my way through a stack of Luther reading, 
I diligently sent some questions raised by the reading,
as requested by the lecturer...
...Beth Phillips.

Now I said it was late in the day,
I think it was actually early in the next day,
And I did send my considerations and questions to Beth.
But a month or so ago,
The world of Westcott names changed,
And my brain, along with my email client,
Has not managed to adjust to the new world order... 
Beth Phillips (student) and Beth Phillips (Staff member).
Needless to say, confusion ensued.
And I feel I should offer apologies to Beth and to Beth, 
From the entire community.
It’s going to take a while for us to work this one out!

As we reflect on our Gospel reading today
We might imagine that having recruited his band of 12, 
Jesus might be having a bit of name confusion.
We are given a list of the names of Jesus’ chosen 12. 
His disciples.
But life must have been as confusing for Jesus and the disciples 
As it is for the Westcott community today.

We have Simon (who he named Peter)
And Simon (the zealot or the Cananaen)
Then at the end of the list, we have two Judases.
One connected to James,
Who we end up calling Jude...
so he doesn’t get confused with his notorious namesake. 
And the infamous Judas Iscariot.
I wonder if Jesus ever thought about swapping some of the disciples for more originally named replacements...
It would have made life easier.

Instead, Jesus and the writers of the Gospels... 
...add on distinguishing nicknames
or names of relatives.
To help us to know who is who.
Simon and Jude,
Who we celebrate today,
Are most definitely lesser-known amongst the disciples.
If their roll-call in Luke’s gospel is in order of favour or importance, 
We can definitely say that Simon and Jude are not ‘A list’ disciples.

In all of the gospel accounts,
Jude gets only one line of dialogue
Which we find in John’s Last Supper account.
His one moment in the limelight
comes and goes in the blink of an eye,
as he asks for Jesus to clarify an obscure pronouncement he’s just made about what’s going to happen next.

As you’d expect from disciples numbers 10 and 11,
With only Judas Iscariot in a lower position,
We don’t actually know very much about either Simon or Jude.
According to tradition,
Simon and Jude travelled widely in the days of the early church.
They are reported to have joined forces in Persia and Armenia,
and they were both martyred,
and you can pick your location depending on the tradition you prefer. 
The most gruesome account has Simon martyred by being sawn in half.

So here we are,
Celebrating the largely unknown lives of a couple of D list disciples, 
Who don’t really feature as individuals in the bible,
And who led apostolic lives that we don’t know much about.

It seems odd doesn’t it?!

But the thing that struck me as I prepared for today, 
Was that I identify with these two,
And I wonder if you do too.
Despite coming well down the list,
Jesus knows who Simon and Jude are.
Even if we don’t.

Jesus has chosen them to do his work.
He could have chosen others instead. 
He did choose others who had higher profiles, 
But he also chose Simon and Jude, 
And even though the Gospel writers record them at the bottom of the list, 
They’re still on the list.

So as we push through the remainder of this busy term at Westcott House,
Maybe we ought to be cheered by our celebration of these two inconspicuous Saints.
They didn’t seek the limelight.
They didn’t say much of great importance,
or we might expect it to have been reported in the gospels 
They got on with spreading the news of Jesus
It was enough for them that they were known by Jesus,
That they had been chosen by Jesus.

So when we start to obsess...
about the quality of the supervision essay we turned out in the wee small hours of the night,
Or we start to worry...
that we aren’t getting to grips with whichever theologian is causing us grief this week,
We ought to remember Simon and Jude.
We ought to remember that we are called just as they were. 
Whether we like it or not,
Whether we revel in the limelight, or run from it,

Names are a wonderful, 
if sometimes confusing thing, 
But Jesus knows each of our names,
He knows us as we are,
No crossed lines.
No misdirected mail.
He has deliberately chosen each of us
to make him known in our lives and in our vocations.
So as we consider our vocation and our formation for ministry, 
we thank God for all those who have gone before us,
for the many examples of faithful discipleship in our tradition, 
And particularly, today, for Simon and Jude.

21 October 2011

What a week!

Our tutor group has taken its turn to lead the worship in the community for the week. In our tutor group, there is a comparatively large number of new students in relation to continuing students. So this week has been a massive learning curve for many, and a busy week for all. Yesterday was a taste of my sundays for the rest of time; I started the day by arriving in college at 6:45 to set up for morning prayers which I led. In the afternoon I helped to rehearse the music group in an Iona based setting for the Eucharist. Then I rehearsed the congregation. Then we did the service. Then I officiated at compline. Then I went to bed! At least I didn't have a sermon to preach too. Oh yes, and we had a festal Eucharist for St Luke to deal with too. Don't get me wrong. It's been a really fulfilling week too. It's been odd to be the experienced practitioners helping out the new students, and it's been nice to see them grow in confidence over the space of just a few days. One really positive aspect of the term so far has been my (and DrLanky's) involvement in trying to do some children's church activities in the community. You can read more here, as DrLanky has started a blog to log her thoughts. We've wondered for ages about how best to involve children in the church, and the experimentation has begun.

16 October 2011

I should be reading Augustine...

...but I feel the need to write a blog post instead.

Blackburn Synod in Women Bishops Shocker
I was surprised to see the voting figures from Saturday's Diocesan Synod in my home diocese of Blackburn. As a diocese with a reputation for being conservative in this area, it was widely expected to be one of the few which voted against the legislation. In reality, the motion was passed in both the houses of laity and clergy. The bishops voted against, but the motion is carried anyway.

Most of the people I know are pleasantly surprised by this news, but there are also those who believe that this is the wrong decision for the church. I respectfully disagree with them, but they have a right to maintain their opinion in the same way I have a right to mine. I'm intrigued to see what happens next with those clergy and parishes who have not joined the ordinariate. Is this the straw that will break the back of the proverbial camel, or will we be able to continue to live in tension? I hope it's the latter.

All about Eve
This morning I was on the rota at my attachment parish to preach. We're in the middle of a series of sermons and house-group meetings on the subject of the women of the bible, and I guess I drew a fairly short straw with Eve. I don't have a very long history of sermon writing, but this was definitely the hardest one yet. With a regular lectionary sermon, you preach from the readings. You can go off-piste, but the idea is that you are inspired by the text. With this one, whilst there were readings chosen for the service, the subject matter was broad. And that's what made it hard. How do you fit 'Eve' in to a 5 minute sermon for 8am and a 8-10 minute sermon for 10am? If you'd like to check it out, you can. The Church of the Good Shepherd is thoroughly modern, and as such you can listen to my 10am version on the website.

All quiet on the curacy front
I'm waiting for word as to when I can formally announce the plans for my curacy, so I can't spill the beans here just yet. I can say that it is pretty much sorted, though. We will be returning to Lancashire at the end of the academic year, and I am delighted with the parish and incumbent suggested by the diocese. Just the small matter of completing a degree in theology now. And on that note, where did I put my Augustine reading?