Monday, 13 January 2014

on being loved by God

This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased - Matthew 3.17

'This is the assurance Jesus takes with him every day, that he is loved beyond measure by his Father. In that confidence he can do anything – and does. If only we had the courage to hear that affirmation for ourselves as well. So quickly we are down on ourselves, believing that we weren’t there when the gifts were handed out, that we fail because in fact we are failures, that God has other favoured ones. But God has created every one of us loved. His word to us is the same as to Jesus – you are beloved; believe that and let it soak into your life every day. If you are struggling, remember and be strengthened. If you are flying, remember and celebrate. But never forget (says God), I’m thrilled with you.'  – John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford

‘Dear Child of God, in our world it is often hard to remember that God loves you just as you are. God loves you not because you are good. No, God loves you period. God loves us not because we are loveable. No, we are loveable precisely because God loves us. It is marvellous when you come to understand that you are accepted for who you are, apart from any achievement. It is so liberating.’ – Desmond Tutu

‘In one of our communities, there is a man called Pierre who has a [learning disability]. One day someone asked him, “Do you like praying?” He answered, “Yes.” He was asked what he did when he prayed. He answered, “I listen.” “And what does God say to you?” “He says, ‘You are my beloved son.’” – Jean Vanier, L'Arche

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

a prayer for vauxhall

Loving God,
We bring before you this bright and brilliant corner of London called Vauxhall.
Amidst the rumble of trains
and the belching tail pipes of traffic
lives a glorious and vibrant collection of people made in your image.
We thank you that they have come to call Vauxhall home,
and made their place in communities that are rich in diversity, culture and humanity.

We pray for all who work to bring our communities together,
who foster the love of neighbours,
and help hands stretch out in friendship, compassion and care.
We remember all those who today feel set aside and unheard.
May they soon find their place of welcome.

We pray for those for whom Vauxhall is a place of acceptance and self-expression
in the face of prejudice and intolerance.
We thank you for the flamboyant, the flirtatious and the fabulous.
We pray for pleasure-seekers of all shapes and sizes, restless in their quest for satisfaction.
May they soon find the rest they seek in your loving arms.

We pray for those for whom Vauxhall is a place of transience.
For people with no permanent home
who rest their heads in our parks,
and quench their thirst on our street corners.
We give thanks for the work of Graham House and The Big Issue,
and pray for staff, residents and vendors.

For squeals of pleasure in our playgrounds,
and noisy disputes on the playing fields.
For nattering tongues and clattering teacups in our cafes,
and barely coherent debate down the pub;
for the brilliance of community hall bingo on a wet Wednesday afternoon,
we give you thanks O Lord.

We pray for tired teachers in their classrooms,
and the throbbing feet of Police and Community Officers patrolling their beats;
for tender hands dressing wounds,
and ears that listen without prejudice
to tales of emotional pain and mental scars.

Come Holy Spirit Come,
bring unity and peace
to the cacophony of urban life
that we call Vauxhall.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

on giving things up for Lent

Lent offers a precious opportunity to reflect on our attitude to ‘things’ – both those we have, and those we lack. In 1 Timothy 6.6-19, Paul is warning Timothy to beware of greed in all its forms: the greed that manifests itself as a ‘morbid craving’ for controversy (v.4), or as a love of money which is ‘a root of all kinds of evil’ (v.10). Even the pursuit of godliness can become a twisted form of greed (v.5). The way forward, says Paul, is to pursue godliness with contentment (v.6), a quality conspicuously missing from our grasping human behaviour.

How content are we with what we have? Whether or not we choose to give something up, this season offers us an opportunity – with the guidance of the Holy Spirit – to examine our own tendency to greed and acquisitiveness, and to seek God’s healing and transformation.

Barbara Mosse, in Reflections for Daily Prayer 2013 (Church House Publishing)

something for desert days

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Isaiah 35.1-7

Sunday, 6 January 2013

on epiphany for children

To be read aloud, sitting around the crib. Encourage children to join in with the refrain:

Today some new visitors are going to arrive at the crib scene in Bethlehem. But before we meet them let us remind ourselves about who is already here. 

Right at the centre of the scene is the baby Jesus. He is very small, and very beautiful. Anyone who has had a baby in the family will know how the faces of visitors light up with joy. And this special baby brings particular joy. He loves everyone back. And that is something to make us all very happy.

Next to Jesus is Mary. She is the next most important person here. Mary is centre stage. And that is amazing because some people think that men are more important than women. But in Jesus’ story, women have a very special place. Jesus loves them just as much as he does men, because Jesus loves everybody.

Next to Mary is Joseph. He is a hard-working craftsman, a carpenter, with rough hands and splinters of wood in his beard. He is not very rich, but he and Mary get by because there is always work for him to do. Jesus welcomes all our skills, whether we are in work or not, because Jesus loves everybody.

Standing around the stable are the shepherds.  They are very happy to see Jesus, even although they are very poor. They are on minimum wage, and their lives can be very hard sometimes. Jesus really loves poor people, because Jesus loves everybody.

Some of the shepherds are married and have children of their own. But this one here doesn’t have a wife. He doesn’t mind that, because he doesn’t really want to get married. He has a special friend that he really likes and feels very close to. And that’s okay too, because Jesus loves everybody.

And now some visitors are arriving - some wise men from the East. Their names are Peregrine, Tarquin and Quentin, because they are very posh. But that’s okay, because Jesus loves everybody.

They are also very very rich. Sometimes it is hard for rich people to love Jesus because they love their money more than him, and worry a lot about losing it. But not these three. They are very generous and bring wonderful and lavish gifts to give to the baby Jesus. Who loves them back, not because they are rich, but because Jesus loves everybody.

Joseph notices that the visitors’ have skin that is a different colour from his own. You don’t see many people who look like that in Bethlehem, he thinks. But skin colour doesn’t matter to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus loves everybody.

The wise men are very clever. They’ve studied hard and read lots of books, and have diplomas in this and doctorates in that. They might be tempted to feel very pleased with themselves. But they come and kneel humbly before the baby Jesus. They are wise because they know that one day, when he grows up, Jesus will have lots to teach them. And, of course, Jesus loves clever people just as much as those who find school hard. Because Jesus loves everybody.

Today is Epiphany, when we remember that God’s love is shown to us in Jesus. And all the people that come to see Jesus, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, ordinary and extraordinary, and with all their other differences, remind us that Jesus wants all of us to be his friend because Jesus loves everybody.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Lambeth clergy issue joint statement on General Synod's vote against women bishops

You will probably have heard on the news this week that the governing body of the Church of England – the General Synod – has rejected the legislation to enable women to be bishops.

While the church’s bishops and priests voted overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops, the vote was lost when put to representatives of the laity (the non-ordained members of synod). It did not achieve the two-thirds majority required, although it only lost by six votes. This was a shock and surprise as, two years ago, Synod had already agreed that women could become bishops. This week’s legislation was really about how it would be implemented. The failure to pass it has halted the whole process.

There are a disproportionate number of lay representatives in General Synod who are from very conservative and fundamentalist churches and do not accurately reflect the tolerance and diversity cherished by most of us in the Church of England.

The “no” vote casts the Church of England in a very bad light. It makes us appear exclusive, anti-women and completely out of touch with the 21st century.

How then should we respond?

Firstly, be aware that many of us feel dismayed and angry by this result. It does not reflect our views or our understanding of what God wants for the church. Please pray that the wounds and hurt which many people are feeling – particularly women priests - will know God’s healing touch. And we also pray for the small minority who are so fearful of change, that they fight to stand in the way of our collective journey towards wholeness.

Secondly, let us not forget that we are a wounded people. We were wounded before and we are wounded now. This is the gospel, that in spite of our failings and shortcomings we are loved and cherished by God. That in Christ Jesus, as St Paul says, there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. Now there may not be many slaves or Greeks in Lambeth these days, but we understand Paul to mean that the church should embrace and represent humanity in all its diversity, regardless of your gender, your colour of skin, your physical or mental abilities, or your sexual orientation.

Each of us is invited to be fully a part of God’s family, and we respond with hope, confident that the grief of Holy Saturday will give way to the resurrection joy of Easter morning. We will continue to campaign for women bishops – and there will be another attempt at legislation in due course. We don’t yet know when.

In the meantime, let us work towards our congregation being the role-model for a generous, diverse and inclusive people of God, not merely learning to live with our differences but celebrating and cherishing them.

Revd Angus Aagaard, Team Rector, North Lambeth Parish
Revd Rosemary Fletcher, Methodist Superintendent Minister, Lambeth Mission St Mary
Revd Alison Kennedy, Team Vicar, St Peter’s Vauxhall
Revd Fraser Dyer, Priest-in-Charge, St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth
Revd Olufunke Ogbede, Honorary Curate, St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth
Revd Robert Stanier, Youth Minister, North Lambeth Parish & South Lambeth, St Anne and All Saints
Revd David Longe, Assistant Curate, St Anselm’s Kennington
Deacon Marilyn Slowe, Lambeth Mission St Mary
Revd Louise Seear, Assistant Curate, St Peter’s Vauxhall
Elizabeth Whyte, Pastoral Assistant, North Lambeth Parish

Sunday, 11 November 2012

on remembrance sunday

What change is loosed from trench, that tomb of war;
a generation loved is sunk in Flanders' gore.
The toll of men dispenses lasting grief,
to Britain altered; hastened unbelief.

At parlour tables join your hands and call
on spirits of the sons you sent to war.
Where now the Prince of Peace you claim to heed?
Dismembered on a field of unbelief.

Christ's call to love is lost in battle cry
and empire-building; these are glorified
more than he who gave his dying breath,
for we who turn our face in unbelief.