Now is the time for the singing of the birds
Song of Solomon 2.12
PLEASE DON’T MISS THIS - and may the gently flowing brook of the shining piano bear pure Love directly to the heart, soul, mind and body of you … thus may something of the spirit of our parish’s Silent Retreat touch you, too … (as you sit with your coffee on the oft-thought-of porch, camp counselor; … as you go about your day today, loved ones all)
Touch THE GROUND (of all things) …
please click on group photos (& then again on the ensuing photo) to enlarge
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners – Isaiah 61.1
Thus spoke the prophet Isaiah, looking towards the Christ who later, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, quoted him! – in company with millions since.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. This is what it means to be a child of God. This is what it means to be religious:
Sent to bind up. Sent to bring and to be good news. Sent to speak of freedom. Sent to open the jailer’s gate. Sent and Anointed to anoint.
All’s well and good then, we might say, or even pray: the Spirit of the Lord is upon “me”.
But what makes this good news? – for the oppressed, or for the broken- hearted, or for the imprisoned, as well as for “me”?
Pentecost gives us our answer. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon “me”, certainly, but also upon every other human person:
Here we are “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia” – Acts 2.9
Rather like one of Pope Francis’ sermons, the Spirit of God, Creator and Christ, rests upon everyone and wanders where She wills.
Pentecost, the new life, the multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-religious, universal life makes Divine appeal to all the world.
The Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, recognised as being at work in all persons, in every time and place, opens the jailer’s gate.
Cue for the critics: “They’re drunk! – At 9 in the morning. They’re histrionic. Take no notice. Stick with the old rules”
And the critics are still around. But so’s God’s Spirit – now and ever shall be, world without end. Blessed be God!
Happy Pentecost – for all the world.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES (16:16-34) spoke today of a young slave girl’s mental health problems (as we’d probably describe her condition today) being grossly used to earn a living for her “owners” who pressed her into “fortune-telling”.
Leap forward 2000 years to Bangladesh where, on Friday, 19 years old Reshma Begum was pulled from the rubble of an eight-storey sweat-shop, the collapsed Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh, where she had been trapped in the basement since the 24th April. More than 1000 others lost their lives there.
O, dear God, grace humankind we pray with a new ability to turn from hardness of heart. Teach us the truest and highest meaning of “religion” wheresoever and in whomsoever it is applied: teach us, after the pattern of anointed “Christs” throughout history, that to be humanely human, to be religious, indeed to be “Christian” means primarily being one who “binds up”, offering healing and compassion for all humankind that, as Jesus of Nazareth prayed, “they may be one”. Help us to see that withholding such grace creates planks in hypocritical eyes altogether more offensive and blinding than mere splinters in the eyes of those we too often feel minded either to “turn a blind eye to”, or to direct.
And may the tears of joy that greeted Reshma Begum’s “resurrection” also wash the wounds of those who mourn the heedless and needless destruction of over 1000 of her colleagues – and many more worldwide. May care and compassion for our brothers and sisters always take precedence over “making a living” out of “fortune-telling” …
TODAY WE ENCOUNTERED Jesus at the Pool of Siloam in Beth-zatha or Bethesda. The name means House of Mercy and it is sacramental sign and symbol of our vocation today as the Body of Christ now on earth. Humankind is called by one of her own, by Jesus of Nazareth, to be merciful.
Encountering a “paralysed” man with “no-one to help” him into the healing waters of the pool, Jesus asks the “obvious question” that’s so obvious no-one asked it before. “Do you want to be well?”.
And it was the asking of that question, the showing of mercy, rather than a dip in the pool, that restored health and wholeness to a man who’d lain waiting for 38 years. Jesus of Nazareth is a House of Mercy in his own person. And we – all humankind – the “Body of the Anointed (Christos)” now on earth are equally and wholly to be Houses of Mercy in just the same way.
Bramhall Parish Church is hugely proud of Rachael Elizabeth, who, together with her friend Florence at University in Lampeter has been “Living Below The Line” on just £1 per day – having sought sponsorship for the merciful works of Christian Aid. Between them they’ve raised £735 to date. Houses of Mercy. Models. Christ-like. Sometimes it’s obvious things that change the world in the biggest and best ways. Sometimes it’s just plain mercy that’s required. Please click Rachael’s photo if you’d like to offer sponsorship. And please take a moment to offer thanks in your own special and personal way for the gifts of life and of love in your life and in mine.
The Pool of Siloam – Homily for Easter 6 is here
Living Below The Line – a word about Mercy is here
THE CHALLENGE Jesus of Nazareth sets before his followers - to “love one another” has a particular resonance to it for any and all who have an eye or ears for current world news reporting – of tragedies of such immense proportions.
What a joy it is when we hear good news! How glad we are to hear the stories of those who seek to counter violence, apathy, hunger and thirst in our world by “putting themselves out” in the name and for the sake of a wider cause.
Living below the line
Rachael Elizabeth is one of three ordinands of our parish at the present time. Presently reading Theology, in the University of Wales at Lampeter, Rachael and her friend Florence are going to sustain themselves this coming week at a cost to each of them of just £1 a day, seeking the sponsorship of friends and family to support the “good news” that Christian Aid brings to countless lives lived in otherwise very dark times. We will support them with offerings of love and prayer, and any who would like to make a financial sponsorship are invited to do so by first clicking the image below.
Prayers are also being offered this week for Tracy Ward who will travel tomorrow for a Bishop’s Advisory Panel gathering from Monday – Wednesday, seeking discernment for the next stages of her walk along the road of discipleship.
There is good news to be found in our world. And cause for thanksgiving to God – not least for the resources we’re given to enable us properly to “love one another”. Blessed be God!
please click image for order with readings
OUR COLLECT TODAY asks that we “sheep” may hear God’s voice and respond to its call so that all may be gathered into one flock.
Yesterday in Cumbria I heard the voice, and witnessed the tending of shepherds – only recently engaged in round-the-clock marathon to rescue flocks buried deep in snow. The local church is part of what’s appropriately called The Good Shepherd Team.
There are smiles of relief and pleasure in all the communities around at the sight of spindly legged white coated lambs skipping on fresh newly green hillsides. Not long ago the taut faces of over-stretched shepherds driving their quad bikes over threatening snow-drifts were their only hope. The lambs now run to the sound of both the bikes and the shepherd’s voice.
Does a lamb experience joy in the now warming sunshine? Well, whether it thinks about it or not, a lamb often looks and sounds as though it’s full of the joys of Spring. William Blake was moved, as I am, to ponder
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Yes, whilst but a tiny part of the grand sweep of nature all around it, the lamb speaks to me of beauty and grace.
And beauty and grace, a doe, a gazelle, are the meaning, actually, of the name Tabitha. Of Aramaic and Hebrew origin, and translated as Dorcas in Greek, our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today tells of a Tabitha devoted to good works and acts of charity – the word charity itself being derived from the Greek word charis – which also means grace!
Beautiful people committed to caring for others in need – widows amongst these – are usually well thought of. So when Tabitha died in Joppa, and the disciples realised that Peter was nearby in the cosmopolitan city of Lydda, they sent for him, and the widows in their grief held the clothes that Tabitha had made and were keen to show Peter what a good and well loved woman Tabitha had been – a woman possessed indeed of both beauty and of grace.
That this story should be set in Joppa, now called Jaffa, is of significance. Joppa is one of the oldest port cities in the land of Israel and the Mediterranean. Due to its natural advantages, a hill above a bay, and its strategic location on the crossroads of Israel, the city was a centre of historical events over thousands of years.
The story is set in a port – a place of goings and comings and comings and goings. So people will have a good memory for events from the past, both distant and recent. Is this why Peter was called to “come without delay” – ? Are the people of coastal Joppa only too well aware of Peter’s having once seen Jesus call Jairus’ daughter to rise up from the dead? Only too well aware of departures and arrivals, of comings and goings?
Well, at any rate, Peter arrives. And acting in a way almost exactly like Jesus before him – for he’d truly been a ‘disciple’ and had learned his apostleship from his Christ – Peter sent all the grieving chatterboxes out of the room. The graceful, beautiful Tabitha needed to hear only one voice at this moment in her history – needed only to hear the quiet call of Peter: ‘Tabitha, get up.’
And he echoed the voice of his Christ, and he called her to the new life, and he beckoned her to the healing, the restoration and the oneness that had once been offered to him, and he offered her his hand, as though asking her ‘dear one, filled with beauty and grace, please come and dance.’
Please God that, on our own way to paradise, when we sheep need to be plucked from danger, we might hear the call of one who prays ‘get up’ – and take the proffered hand.
So this little story ends with the rejoicing that surrounds the gift of life where previously all had seemed lost. And Peter, the Rock upon which the story depends, stays near the coast for a while, there in the midst of all the comings and goings, with a namesake, a man called Simon – whose name means ‘obedient’ and whose profession, that of a tanner, meant that he lived, as Pope Francis would have it, ‘with the smell of the sheep’. Obedient Pastor Peter lives among working people having raised, and even now continuing to raise up ‘Tabitha’ – ‘beauty and grace’.
Looking backwards now for a moment, to John’s Gospel, we heard tell of its being winter in Jerusalem. I’d never dreamed that Jerusalem would experience snow until I woke up to a white Mount Zion, one Advent Sunday morning, years ago. Yes: winter. Cold and perhaps a bit of gloom and doom around the place. Hurry up the new life. Roll on Spring. Jesus is walking in the temple, in ‘Solomon’s portico’, bringing to mind historical reminiscences of Solomon’s great wisdom.
And there the wise Jesus hears the unwise and mocking words of an angry mob that will – in just a few moments time, and not for the first time – take up stones to throw at him:
‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’
‘Ah!’ Jesus replies. ‘But I have told you plainly. It’s just that you won’t believe.’
Here we see a shepherd, in the depths of threatening ‘winter’, who is wise enough, and teacher enough, to model for anyone watching that a good shepherd will never abandon his sheep – not even under the most intense pressure of violence against his person. No-one will pluck the Father’s beloved sheep out of his hand. No-one. And the Father and Jesus, like Jesus and the sheep, ARE ONE.
Of course this same Jesus was soon to be plucked from the midst of the sheep and was crucified, dead and buried. Fearful friends stood around, clutching his clothes and the tattered tales of the things he had wrought in their hearts and souls and minds and bodies. But ‘beauty and grace’ in the soul of Jesus heard the same gentle call that would later be heard by Tabitha, and by the entire flock of God in every age, past, present or future.
Jesus, Tabitha, little flock, ‘dost thou know who made thee?’.
And now He is risen. And Tabitha with him.
Christ is risen; we are risen!
Shed upon us heavenly grace,
Rain and dew and gleams of glory
From the brightness of Thy face,
That we, Lord, with hearts in Heaven
Here on earth may fruitful be,
And by angel hands be gathered,
And be ever safe with Thee.
Bishop Christopher Wordsworth
He is risen. We are risen.
And generations of shepherds have lived in obedience, with ‘the smell of the sheep’ to tell of good news:
Father, Beloved and Spirit, together with the flock. We are, all of us, all the sheep in the world, called home to the safety of the sheepfold; to be One.