Posts tagged ‘Ilford’

March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick

Statue of St. Patrick in Timoleague, Co. Cork

St. Patrick’s Day Sermon, 17/3/12
Text: John 4:31-38

Of course we don’t know a whole lot about St. Patrick and it can be hard to know sometimes where the facts end and the legend begins, but one thing we do know is that he was passionate about serving his Master. In Patrick we have a man of God and someone who was willing to give up everything in order to follow God’s call upon his life. For Patrick God was everything; he would have wholeheartedly agreed with the Psalmist when he wrote of God:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside you. (Psalm 73:25)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have this same passion, this same focus and drive and commitment?

In the Gospel reading for today, we see that the Lord Jesus is tired from the long journey that He is making with His disciples, as they walk from Judea to Galilee. He is sat down by Jacob’s well, where he has just had that famous conversation with the Samaritan woman and the disciples come up to him and urge him, saying:

‘Rabbi, eat something.’ (31)

To which Jesus replies:

‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ (32) and
‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’ (34)

It is as if Jesus is saying to his disciples that doing God’s will is even more important than eating! It is from doing God’s will and God’s work that Jesus gains spiritual strength and sustenance. Yes, we make sure that we are physically fed and nourished but what about spiritual food (in other words doing God’s will for our lives)? Perhaps one of the things that we are reminded of in Lent is that food is just for the physical nourishment of our bodies. Yes, we can enjoy food (and who doesn’t), but let it not preoccupy us so much. Let us spend more time being preoccupied with Spiritual food, doing God’s will, for that is where true nourishment is found.

We see a great and godly example in the life of St. Patrick. In his early twenties he was willing to leave his parents and homeland for the sake of following God’s call. Patrick heeded God’s call to come to Ireland, a land where the Good News of Jesus Christ had been little heard, a land of hardship and warring kings, a land of pagan worship practices and a land of spiritual darkness. But with the eyes that God gave him, what did Patrick see? He saw the same thing as Jesus saw when he said to his disciples:

‘… But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.’ (35)

Patrick saw a land of people who were starving, not for lack of food but for lack of God. In his own words he wrote:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.

Just as the Lord Jesus, in the land of the Samaritans, saw people who were ready and eager to receive God’s word, so Patrick saw that the Irish were hungry for truth and thirsty for salvation.

For someone without faith, it would have seemed an impossible task; to go to another country, where many of the people were hostile and speak to them of a God of love, a God who gave his Son to die in their stead upon a cross, in a place far away in time and distance from their own and yet Patrick did it anyway. Patrick took the risk, he did not play it safe. He did not try and form a committee or organise a mission conference or plan a direct mailing campaign, he just went.

As I think about that I find it exhilarating, exciting and liberating. We do not need to carry the weight on our shoulders of what we need to do and when and how we need to do it; it is not our work, but God’s. He is leader, we just need to follow.

As we look over Ireland today, in almost every conceivable way it is a very different Ireland from the one whose shores St. Patrick would have landed upon all those centuries ago. In Patrick’s time there were no tarmacadamed roads, no means of instant communication over long distances, no cars, no computers, no shopping centres or multiplex cinemas, none of the ‘stuff’ that occupies so much of the time we always complain we don’t have enough of today. Yes, the landscape might be very different, but the people are not so different really; just like our ancient forbears, we have hopes and dreams, ambitions and fears and we all like they need a Saviour.

The fields are as ripe for harvest today as they ever were. How many of the people thronging the streets of our towns and cities and celebrating this day are lost, lonely and hurting inside? For how many of them does life seem hopeless and bleak with no apparent purpose and meaning? And who are the St. Patrick’s today who will tell them and show them Jesus?

We are.

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September 23, 2011

Bantry Harbour

I rediscovered these pictures last week that I had taken earlier on in the year.  I had gone to visit someone in Bantry Hospital and the little harbour for fishing boats caught my eye.  I pulled the car over and got out armed with my Olympus OM-1 and 50mm lens.  The film was Ilford Delta 100 and I used a yellow filter to help bring out detail in the sky (without it the sky appears just white).

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There were a couple of old fishermen about that looked like they had seen more than their fair share of wind and rain and storms enough for several lifetimes.  I wish I’d had the courage to ask them if I could take a photo of them, but we just said ‘hello’ as they continued to eye me with curiosity as I took pictures (about 5 in total) of their boats.  I had taken the clerical collar out of my shirt as an attempt to look somewhat ‘normal’, but I’m sure I still stuck out like a sore thumb!  Anyway I was quite happy with the pictures I had taken and the experience gave me something to smile about on the journey home.

September 12, 2011

Roll 30

A few recent pictures.  These are taken with a Nikon F100 and 18-35mm and 50mm lenses using Ilford FP4+ (125 ISO), developed in Agfa Rodinal and scanned using an Epson 4490.  Kinsale harbour

Red Strand

Red Strand

Kinsale harbour

April 12, 2011

and Jesus wept

Rainy Day 2

Better late than never, for those who are interested, here is last Sunday’s sermon.  The text is John 11:1-45 (Year A, 5th Sunday in Lent).

Have you ever been frustrated with God?  Have you have prayed and prayed about something and it appears that God is ignoring you?  We pray for justice, for peace, for healing and often we are left wondering if God even heard our prayer.  To give you a very trivial example, a few years ago, Sonja and I were camping on the edge of a forest in North Wales, it was a beautiful place, but during the night there was a ferocious storm.  As I lay in the tent with the noise of the wind so loud there was little chance of any sleep I could not help but worry about what would happen if even just one branch were to fall from a height onto our tent.  Of course Sonja had and has far greater faith than me and so she slept soundly through the whole night! I prayed that God would stop the wind and branches from falling but it kept on blowing, even harder if anything!  I began to get sulky with God and eventually fell into a restless and grumpy sleep.  The next morning we awoke to a beautiful calm and sunny morning and I realised that my prayer had in fact been answered, the wind had stopped, just as I had asked and even more than that, no branches had fallen on us!  I was taught a lesson which I am still learning, that God’s timing is often very different from ours.

Of course, we can all think of examples in our own lives and many far more serious than the one I have shared with you.  Why didn’t God act when we wanted Him to and in the way we wanted him to?  In our reading from John’s gospel, we get the beginnings of an answer.  Jesus and the disciples are a couple of days journey away when Jesus gets a message that his friend Lazarus is ill.  Now we would expect that upon hearing this news Jesus would get up and immediately set out on a journey to be with his friend, but what does He do, he stays where he is for another two days and He doesn’t even tell the disciples!

Once the two days are up, he tells his disciples that they are going to go back to Judea, which immediately sets the alarm bells ringing for them, they know that there are many down there who want to kill Jesus, and perhaps that is one of the reasons for Jesus’ delay; He has spent the two days in prayer, in preparation for what will happen once He does make His way into such a dangerous situation, where there are those who want to stone Him.  This is what He says to the troubled disciples:

‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight?  Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.  But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ (v.10)

Following Jesus is sometimes very difficult, but it is always the right thing to do, His is always the right path to take, even when that path leads to danger and perhaps death, as Thomas feared.  When we were talking about this at the Bible study on Wednesday, someone reminded us of those wonderful verses from Romans 8:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38,39)

So not even death will separate us from Christ.  Perhaps the disciples are just beginning to realise this as they make their way.

When they arrive after their journey, they learn that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  There can be no doubt whatsoever that he is dead.  Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha are also good friends of Jesus and when they hear that He is coming Martha goes out to meet Him, but Mary stays behind.  What must Martha be thinking?  Perhaps she is upset, maybe even cross that Jesus did not come sooner, she says:

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ (v.23)

Martha knows Jesus well enough to show remarkable faith and composure.  Even so, she does not fully grasp the Lord’s response when He says to her:

‘Your brother will rise again.’ (v.23)

Martha thinks that Jesus is talking about the resurrection on the last day, a belief that most Jews (and subsequently all Christians hold).  What Martha is yet to grasp is that Jesus is resurrection personified, and so He says to her in one of the seven famous ‘I am’ sayings of John’s gospel:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ (v.25, 26)

After telling Jesus of her belief in Him, Martha goes back to get her sister and a number of others come with them as they return to Jesus.  Mary then falls at Jesus’ feet and says to him:

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ (v.32)

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of what happens next, because in a moment it can shatter the false view that many people have of God; people often accuse God of not caring, of not understanding, of not knowing what it is like to grieve or to suffer or to be in pain, ‘how could an all-powerful God know my frailty and suffering and hurt?’  Do you know what?  He does.  Jesus sees Mary weeping, and in that moment God cries.  It is the shortest verse in the whole Bible; “Jesus began to weep.”

When you are in the place of tears you are never ever alone, your Creator, Saviour, Master and Friend, your Lord and your God knows what it is to weep also.  Your pain is never only your pain; in some incredible and mysterious way He shares it with you.

Jesus then asks, ‘Where have you laid him?’ (v.34) and they bring Him to the tomb.

The tomb is a cave, which has a stone rolled across the entrance.  Jesus calls for the stone to be removed but Martha says there will be a bad smell because Lazarus had been dead for four days.  But there is no stench, because the One who will Himself conquer death on the cross has done something that only God could do.  He looks upwards and says:

‘Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ (v.42)

And so Jesus demonstrates in a very powerful way that He is indeed ‘the resurrection and the life’, as he says in a loud voice:

‘Lazarus, come out!’ (v.43)

The dead man is no longer dead, he is bound in cloths wrapped around him and Jesus says to unbind him and let him go.

Imagine that you were there and what it would have been like.  It would have been perhaps terrifying and wonderful and holy and beautiful and surreal all at the same time.  Finding the strength to even stand, let alone speak would have been difficult.  Imagine the hugs as Lazarus’ sisters and friends greet him for whom they had been in mourning (and how that may be like the reunions there will be for us in the next life).  Imagine the wide-eyed and open-mouthed disciples – they had seen a lot with Jesus but never anything like this.  Imagine the sceptics and those on the fringes – the Messiah had come, of that there was no doubt, He was here at last, the waiting was over.

And what about us, what benefit is this event that John so faithfully records in his gospel?  Firstly “Jesus weeps”, I think we have already dealt with that one, but remember this, your tears, your pain, your loss, your grief are His also, if you will share them with Him.

Secondly, even death is no barrier with God.  Yes we will die, all of us, that is an undisputed fact. But Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  When we die, we will rise again and in Jesus we have light to show us the way and in Him we have life, eternal life, so that we need not be afraid.  If we follow Him now we will be with Him always.  Follow Him now, while it is still day and before the night comes and it is too late… Amen.

March 9, 2011

Lent, a time for new beginnings and growth.

Blarney Crocuses

Photo: Crocuses at Blarney Castle (February 2011)

Sermon for Ash Wednesday.  Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Mentioning ‘Lent’ to people will provoke differing reactions. For some, it is the chance to give something up, such as chocolate, smoking, alcohol, (or churchgoing)!  For others it is the chance to start doing something good and positive, going for a brisk walk every morning, reading Deuteronomy and Leviticus before breakfast or giving some time or money to a charity.  For others still, even mentioning ‘Lent’ will result in arms being folded and statements of defiance such as ‘Well, I’m giving up Lent for Lent!”

I have to say that over the years I’ve tried various things with limited success, so I was pleased about the appointed reading for today because it is one that I have for years found in equal measure comforting, encouraging and challenging.  This reading gives us help with some of the great themes of Lent that have been practised by Christians down through the centuries, these are: Giving to the needy, Prayer, Fasting, and the way we view possessions.

The Lord Jesus begins by teaching about giving to the needy.  Even just mentioning this may make us squirm!  It used to be that the needy were people who you lived amongst, orphans and widows and beggars on the streets were near where you lived and may have been known to you personally.  Now to a large degree, the needy are much more remote from us, they live in far away places, we are distanced from them in language, culture and creed.  As such, it is easy to forget about them and as it were to pass by on the other side of the road.  If we have a conscience however, the needy will never be so far away from us that we are unable to help.  Not only does the Lord Jesus want us to give to the needy, He wants us to do it in secret.  He says:

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you…” (v.1-4)

The Lord does not want us to be hypocrites, where we only do things for outward appearance – ‘Look at me aren’t I great for giving all this money away!’  Haven’t we all felt that temptation, when we have done something good or given something away, we want people to know about it? Of course, if people can find out about our giving and it looks like we were trying to keep it a secret all the better – ‘O how holy I am!’  I love the phrase ‘do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’, our motive for giving must be pure; we must genuinely not even secretly want some kind of reward in return.  We give because of God’s love, God’s love for us and for the joy of being used by God to bless others in return.

The next great theme of Lent is that of Prayer, the Lord says:

5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (v.5-6)

Again, we are not to be hypocrites, putting on prayers for show to be seen and heard by others.  I learnt my lesson about this at the Christian Union meeting I used to attend in my student days.  For some reason I got it into my head that God was impressed with long complicated prayers and so when we used to have prayer times I would set off on these really extended ridiculous prayers with what I thought were long and impressive words and rich metaphors – it was all very ridiculous and I am ashamed as I remember it.  Nobody said anything to me about it but one day, in mid prayer it suddenly dawned on me what I was doing – I was trying to impress God, and I was trying to impress my fellow students and I was a big eejit!  I felt so stupid and it was many months before I could pray out loud again – normally and honestly and without hypocrisy.  Of course this is even more important in our personal and private prayer; like our giving of money, our personal prayer times should be in secret, behind a closed door out of sight and hearing of anyone else as much as possible.

Have you ever tried to fast?  If you want some way to make yourself as grumpy and as irritable as possible I highly recommend it!  No seriously, fasting is something that is a very good habit indeed, though one that seems (for many) to have fallen by the wayside a bit in recent times.  There are lots of different ways of doing it but here is what I would suggest for someone who would like to give it a go:  A simple way to do it is to fast for 24 hours, so when you wake up in the morning don’t have breakfast, just a couple of glasses of water and the time that you normally would have spent preparing and eating your breakfast spend in prayer and Bible reading.  Then for your elevenses the same, a glass or two of water and the time you would have normally taken with your coffee and ‘Kit Kat’ spend with God in the place of prayer, same for lunch, same for dinner and the same before bed.  The next morning, have your breakfast, but just have a small bowl of cereal or slice of toast, if you go for the ‘full Irish’ you will probably be sick!  Fasting has a strange effect; you will find yourself getting grumpy as you get hungry but this will go because of the extra time spent in prayer and in that prayer you will find all sorts of things that need dealing with coming to the surface.  Talk to God about all the stuff that comes up, tell him what you are feeling, just let it all out and tell him.  People who fast often find it invaluable and actually look forward to it as a time of blessing and fellowship with God.  Again, the Lord Jesus wants our fasting to be done in secret – we don’t make a fuss about it so we plan the fasting for a quiet day when we would be at home rather than a day when we were invited to City Hall for a banquet!

The fourth great theme of Lent that the Lord teaches us about is our attitude towards money and possessions.  It’s a bit of a cliché (but one that we have no doubt witnessed), that the more money people have the more tightly they try and hold on to it.  So often people who are very wealthy are also very unhappy.  Conversely, people who are not at all wealthy are often much more happy.  I have also seen how often it is the poorest people who are the most generous in their giving of both money and resources; they have learned a lesson of which the rest of us can only be  in awe of, that true happiness is in giving away what God blesses us with, that we might in turn bless others.

As we look at these things, the giving of money, praying in secret, fasting and our attitude to money and possessions it can be overwhelming.  We can despair at our weakness:  We try to give money away but we can’t even afford to pay our bills first, ‘I want to be able to pray but I don’t think God would listen, he’s too busy and how could he love me after what I’ve done anyway; fasting, I’m a million miles away from that, it’s just for monks and people who have loads of spare time on their hands; money how can I worry about money, I don’t have any to hoard in the first place!’  I know, I know.  Look, just begin with small steps, like a child learning to walk, holding his Father’s big hands and looking into his Father’s kind and loving eyes.  Just take one step at a time…

I’ll finish with this amazing true story that I came across recently:

A man called Craig had been an alcoholic for more than a dozen years. He’d lost everything he had, including his wife and son, due to his selfishness and addiction. Things began to change after he gave his life to Christ, but he still fell regularly into his old habits. It didn’t help that he’d lost his well-paying job and was working at a local grocery shop that was well stocked with alcohol. After a few years of going back and forth between Christ and the bottle, he finally cut the ties, and, out of obedience to Christ, quit his job.

With no income and hope only in Christ, he was in desperate condition. After an interview with a sheet metal company down the street from his new church, he cried out to God. “God, if you give me this job I will give you my first pay check.” Surprisingly, he got the job.

He clearly remembers the day when he got his first pay check. Stacks of bills needed to be paid. Penniless but determined, he wrote his name on the back of the check and endorsed it over to the church and walked it to the church office without waiting for the Sunday offering. That was the moment, he says, that changed his life because now he understood what it meant to trust God.

As of today, Craig has been sober for 25 years, he’s a manager at that sheet metal company, and he serves as an elder at his local church.[1]

With God’s help, all things are possible, even for me and even for you.  Amen.

November 11, 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est? (The old Lie)

We will remember them...

The poem of this name was one we had to learn in school.  The horrors of the first world war put to rest any ridiculous romantic notion of it being “Sweet and right to die for one’s country.” (Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.)

We will remember them…


Dulce et Decorum Est


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!---An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori
.


Wilfred Owen.

(See link for more on this poem).
September 2, 2010

Rescue

There we were in Jacob’s of Baltimore sitting having a coffee and ice cream when we heard the sound of a helicopter.  We looked out the window and it was the big Rescue ‘copter from Shannon.  There was a bit of a commotion outside so we decided to investigate.  Here’s the news story (source):

Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat crews went to the assistance of a yacht which reported a man overboard 1 mile to the east of Baltimore Beacon. Baltimore all weather lifeboat Hilda Jarrett under the command of coxswain Kieran Cotter and Baltimore inshore lifeboat Bessie, helmed by John Kearney were alerted at 15:21 this afternoon (28 August 2010).
A 32 ft yacht sailing out of Schull Harbour with four adults and one child on board suffered an unexpected gybe when sailing downwind. A crewmember was struck by the boom and knocked overboard in a semi-conscious condition. Fortunately he was wearing a lifejacket. The crew of the yacht were unable to recover the casualty who was plucked from the water by a motor boat in the vicinity.
Two Baltimore lifeboat crewmembers boarded the rescuing vessel to offer medical assistance as the boat returned to Baltimore Harbour. Meanwhile Coastguard Helicopter 115 from Shannon, had arrived on scene and due to the condition of the causalty, winched him on board for rapid transfer to Cork University Hospital. Baltimore Lifeboat coxswain Kieran Cotter commented afterwards ‘ the mans life had been saved by the wearing of a lifejacket’.
This brought out the latent photojournalist in me:  
Rescue 1

“What you lookin’ at?!”

Rescue 4

Audience

Rescue 3

Getting Ready

Rescue 2

Got ‘im
Rescue 5

RNLI man – job well done.  
Well done to the rescue services.  I hope and pray that the rescued man is now OK.  
All pictures taken with Nikon F100 film camera and a 50mm lens, using Ilford FP4 plus Black and White film.  
September 1, 2010

Coffee

Tri-x Coffee

Good Morning.  Coffee?  Fair Trade is good.

August 25, 2010

The Blacksmith

Blacksmith

Not since I had seen a horse being fitted with new ‘shoes’ as a boy had I seen a Blacksmith at work.  The opportunity came unexpectedly upon a family outing to the Traditional Farm at Muckross House.  Watching this man it was easy to see that he had great skill as he hammered away at a rod of hot iron, making a pair of tongs designed to lead a bull with (the pincers of the tongs are inserted into the bulls nose – the joys of being a farmer!)

Blacksmith 2

It was a challenge to photograph.  I had Ilford Delta 100 loaded into the Nikon F100.  Fortunately I had a ‘fast’ 50mm f1.8, but it was still very dark.  I decided to spot meter off the red-hot section of the tongs, which gave me a shutter speed of about 1 1/2  seconds at f1.8.  Of course this meant that the picture would never be sharp so I hoped instead to catch some of the movement of the Blacksmiths arm as he brought down the hammer and some of the sparks that flew off the metal.  It didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped but not as bad as I had feared either – so we’ll call it a draw!

August 18, 2010

"My lovely horse…"

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We came across these friendly fella’s on a walk near Courtmacsherry.  On looking at the picture now I can’t help but laugh as I remember the Father Ted episode “A song for Europe”, with the “My Lovely Horse” music video.  They don’t make ’em like that any more.  Ha Ha LOL !

My lovely horse, running through the fields.
Where are you going with your fetlocks blowing in the wind?
I want to shower you with sugar lumps and ride you over fences.
Polish your hooves every single day, and bring you to the horse dentist….