Posts tagged ‘Olympus OM-1’

April 15, 2012

Unity

Leaving a mark...

Today’s Sermon.  Text: Psalm 133.

Parents, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and teachers love it when the children they are looking after are getting on together. It makes life so much easier doesn’t it? When we see children sharing and caring, when they remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when they use their knife and fork rather than shoveling the food into their mouths with their hands (or something they have found in the garden), it makes us happy and realise that all the hard work in trying to bring them up was actually worth it. Of course the reality is that often children are selfish and rude and forget how to behave towards each other and to grown-ups and it can often be very difficult for those who have responsibility for them.

One of the greatest privileges for those who are parents is that the actual experience of bringing up children gives them a deep insight into the relationship we all have with our heavenly Father. When confronted with a stubborn child stamping their foot and shouting ‘NO’, we hopefully realise that we too have done this sort of thing with our heavenly Parent, God! We might not have actually stamped our foot and stuck out our bottom lip, but we have been just as defiant in wanting our way rather than the right way.

As we look at the church, we remember that we are all God’s children and as such we ought to admit that we are not particularly obedient children at that; we are always bickering about this that and the other thing (and that is even within our denomination, let alone between different Christian traditions). Every way that we can let our Heavenly Father down we have and every way we could have hindered Christ’s mission, we have. Have you ever been in the supermarket and seen and heard a child screaming at their poor mother of father? Perhaps the child is lying on the floor, clutching a bag of sweets they are not allowed to have and the red-faced parent is trying in vain to be in charge. In looking at so much of the debate and dissension in the church today, are we not just like that child in the supermarket? We shout out ‘I am right, my way is best’!  Worse still, we mock our brothers and sisters who disagree with us, if not face to face, then in hushed conversation with others in the church car park, or on the pages of the Gazette or on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes it is just heartbreaking, that whether it be between members of our own church congregation, or between different churches or between clergy there always seems to be some issue that threatens to divide and break up any kind of fellowship that we have. What does God think of all this I wonder? Perhaps our Psalm for today, Psalm 133 will help us:

How very good and pleasant it is to dwell in unity.

When we walk into a house where everyone is at each other, arguing and fighting, we can sense the atmosphere almost immediately. On the other hand, when we walk into a house where the occupants are together and at peace with one another, what a difference it makes! Isn’t it lovely to walk into a peaceful and unified home, a genuine pleasure? The context of today’s Psalm could have originated in a number of different places – perhaps it refers to the relationship between Abram and Lot in Genesis chapter 13:8, where Abram said:

Let there be no strife between you and me … for we are kindred.

Perhaps this verse refers back to tensions between the tribes of Israel or perhaps even between the sons of King David, but I don’t suppose any of that matters to us too much because it is as wonderful today when people live together in unity as it always was.

The next couple of lines are interesting, we read:

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, Even on Aaron’s beard, running down upon the collar of his clothing.

Interesting it might be, but what on earth is it saying? You may remember the character of Aaron, as Moses’ brother, Israel’s spokesman to Pharaoh and the first high priest in Israel’s history. When Aaron was made priest, special and expensive oil was used to anoint him (and all those after him too). The oil was consecrated, which means dedicated, devoted and set apart for God. A generous amount of oil was used, hence the fact that it ran down over his beard and the collar of his robes. So how then is living together in unity like this oil? The idea is that when God’s people are unified then it is a community of people that are genuinely set apart for Him and carrying out their calling in the world. Unity, like the sacred oil, is a precious thing.

When we as brothers and sisters are living in disunity then we are set apart from God, but when we are together then we are set apart for God.

I think that there are few things that give the devil more pleasure than infighting between God’s children; it is a gift to him and a gift that we should at all costs avoid giving to him! But when we are together, when (as it were) we are all singing from the same hymn sheet, all pulling in the same direction, all playing for the same team, then wow, look at what God can do!

Next in our Psalm we read:

It is like the dew of Hermon running down upon the hills of Zion. For there the Lord has promised his blessing: even life for evermore.

Mount Hermon is a high snow-capped mountain in the north of the land. Today the region is between Syria and Lebanon. We might not think too much of dew in our green and wet climate, but if you are a farmer in an arid climate then the morning dew is crucial for the survival of vegetation during the dry season. The dew ran down the sides of the mountain and gave life to the plants round about. This then is a picture of what unity does amongst God’s people, it brings life and blessing to the church, it brings growth and a harvest. Without the water from the mountain, the plants would wither and die; without unity the church withers and dies and there is no blessing, no harvest and no future.

It is very exciting to see God at work in this Parish; I could not even begin to list the many great things He has done, they are too many to mention here. Someone recently had the idea of writing a book of people’s stories and I think that would be an excellent idea. We must not be complacent though because the enemy is constantly trying to sow seeds of disunity amongst us.  We must fiercely and jealously guard our unity. We need to pray for each other and we need to look out for each other. When someone comes at you with some gossip, ‘Did you know, so-and-so did this, and they didn’t do that,’ remember this: gossip is not harmless fun, it is evil, it destroys. Every time we say an unkind word we destroy a little bit of that person’s character and the devil gets very excited about it.

Sadly I hear a lot of gossip and I have to tell you that I hate it. I have never seen any good come from gossip, it destroys friendships and trust and unity, it is an evil thing that has no place in the life of the church where we are to dwell together in unity. We have to learn to fight each others corner, to stand up for each other, we are family! If someone or something attacks one of us, then we are all attacked, if one of us is gossiped about then all of us are gossiped about – we are one body – does a body fight itself? No! All the parts of one body work together to fight off the common enemy, and that is how we as the body of Christ should be, fighting off all that comes against us with God’s strength, which is there for us when we live together in unity. God loves it when we get on together and He will continue to bless us so long as we are.

Let us pray … Amen.

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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.

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.

April 14, 2011

Goodbye OM-1

Goodbye to my OM-1 :-(

I am not usually one for impulse buying (or any kind of buying for that matter) but there are a few photographic ambitions that I aspire to and one of them is to have a medium format camera.  So I was browsing the Ffordes website and came across a bargain, a Fuji GA645zi for £345…

Now I know that is fairly meaningless to a lot of people but for me it was an exciting moment (doesn’t take much though).  So it is on its way from Scotland  and I’m really looking forward to seeing if I made a huge mistake or whether it will have been a great purchase.  The main benefit will be much larger negatives of 56 x 42mm as opposed to 35 x 24mm, which means much sharper and more three-dimensional looking pictures (the bigger the negative or digital sensor in a camera the better the pictures will look, though of course it has to be a worthwhile photo in the first place!)

The downside is that I do not have that kind of spare cash so I have to sell something to make way for the new arrival.  Unfortunately it’s got to be the OM-1, a camera that will be hard to part with and I know that I will miss.  It’s up on ebay now if you fancy a bid ;-)

Here’s a few photos from the OM-1 from the last couple of years…
Stroll around the garden 2

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One of my first black and white pictures…

Galley Head, Co. Cork

Had to put this last one in because it was with the now sadly discontinued Kodachrome…

Kodachrome 6

April 11, 2011

Charlie

Charlie

We were heading out as a family on Friday evening and had just driven a few hundred metres onto the main road when we saw the body of our cat ‘Charlie’ lying there.  He had only recently been knocked down as his body was still warm and limp, though quite lifeless.  I carried him home and we buried him in the garden the next morning.

I remember reading a church magazine years ago where there was a section called ‘The Wise Owl”.  People wrote letters (this was before the days of email) asking questions about the Christian life and the Wise Owl would answer.  I remember one letter written by a young boy whose dog had died, asking if his dog would go to heaven.  The Wise Owl said ‘no’ (albeit in a very long-winded fashion).  I could not help but think the the Owl may be wise, but sensitive and gracious he was not.

I would like to think that Scripture is silent on the issue because it is not something we need to know.  Perhaps in the life that is to come we may be surprised by many things and one of those surprises might just possibly be a reuniting with those pets whom we have loved and lost.  I hope so anyway.

February 20, 2011

The right response to hatred

Light and Dark

Photo: Sunrise on the way to Timoleague, early one Sunday morning.

Sermon for Sunday 20th February.  Text: Matthew 5:38-48

Timoleague, Clonakilty HC, Year A 3rd Sunday Before Lent (Proper 2), 20/2/11.  Matthew 5:38-48

Humility is a difficult thing to grasp.  I had to laugh last week when I saw a politician on television puffing out his chest and saying “I am a humble man”!  Poor chap, I think the irony of boasting about his humility was lost upon him!  But of course politicians are easy targets, what about ourselves, are we in danger of being proud of our humility?  Well if we are then the few verses of our reading from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel will give us a jolt back into reality…

The Lord Jesus starts off by quoting a well-known phrase from the Old Testament law (from Exodus 21:24) and then He expands upon it:

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an  eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; (Matthew 5:38, 39)

How do we react when we are wronged?  Think about when you are in the car and somebody pulls out in front of you or cuts you up at a roundabout, or you are trying to turn on to the main road but some eejit is blocking the yellow box junction!  We can get a bit upset – perhaps we even secretly wish that our car was equipped with a mobile rocket-launcher!  When someone does wrong to us we want revenge!

The Old Testament law of ‘an eye for an eye’ was there to make sure that the punishment fitted the crime, so that a sentence was neither too harsh nor too lenient.  What does the Lord want us to do?  Does He want us to demand our rights?  No.  Does He want us to make sure that those who wrong us are punished?  No.  (This is not so much talking about crimes against the state which are punishable under law, it is talking about our relationships and dealings with people).  Do we have a readiness to resentment?  Are we easily offended?  Do we go into a sulk when we don’t get our way?  Are we keen to assert our rights?

The Lord does not want us to be like this, we are not to be a miserable selfish grouch who everybody avoids because they are afraid of upsetting.  As Mahatma Ghandi (who though a Hindu greatly admired Jesus’ teaching) said ‘an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.’  If we want God’s Kingdom to come, if we want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven , then we have to let go of our natural wishes and desires and we have to respond as Jesus did.  If someone slaps us on the cheek, our first thought might be to punch their lights out, but no, we are to not retaliate.  If someone takes from us we are not to resist but offer them more!  If someone compels us to do something to help them we are to go the ‘whole hog’ and help them as fully as we are able to do so.

We are to return good for evil and blessing for cursing.  We are to love not only in word but in deed also.

Next, the Lord says:

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Of course, nowhere in the Old Testament law does it say to hate enemies, rather the words had been misinterpreted over time.  It’s one thing to turn the other cheek but when the Lord asks us to love our enemies is that not going a bit far?  What is an enemy?  According to my dictionary, an enemy is someone who is opposed to something, and actively tries to damage it. (Collins English Dictionary sixth ed. 2003).  Is Jesus mad?  No, He definitely is not.  Perhaps we forget that once we were His enemy, and did He not treat us with overwhelming love?  We might say ‘I was never God’s enemy’, well before you gave your life to Christ, you were a sinner, what is a sinner, but someone who lives their life apart from God.  There is no sitting on the fence, either we are for God or we are against Him and to be against Him is to be His enemy. Listen to this, from Romans chapter 5:

8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

So in other words, the Lord Jesus wants us to behave towards others as He has behaved towards us, with unconditional love, grace and acceptance.

A professor of New Testament Studies, Gary M. Burge, writes the following true story

A few years ago in Jerusalem’s famed Hadassh Hospital, an Israeli soldier lay dying. He had contracted AIDS as a result of his reckless lifestyle and was now in the last stages of the disease’s terrible course. His father was a famous Jerusalem rabbi, and both he and the rest of his family had disowned him. He was condemned to die in his shame. The nursing staff on his floor knew his story and carefully avoided his room. Everyone was simply waiting for his life to expire.

The soldier happened to be part of a regiment that patrolled the Occupied West Bank, and his unit was known for its ferocity and war-fighting skills. The Palestinians living there hated these troops. They were merciless and could be cruel. Their green berets always gave them away.

One evening the soldier went into cardiac arrest. All the usual alarms went off, but the nursing staff did not respond. Even the doctors looked the other way. Yet on the floor another man was at work—a Palestinian Janitor, a Christian—who knew this soldiers story as well and also knew the meaning of the emergency. The Janitor’s own village had even been attacked by this soldier’s unit. When the Palestinian heard the alarm and witnessed the neglect, his heart was filled with compassion. He dropped his broom, entered the soldier’s room, and attempted to resuscitate the man by giving him cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The scene was remarkable: a poor Palestinian man, a victim of this soldier’s violence, now tried to save his enemy while those who should have been doing this stood on the sidelines. …

When you understand what it means for an enemy to love an enemy—and for the righteous to show neglect—then you will have a picture of the power of God’s grace at work in a person’s heart.

Gary M. Burge, Jesus, the Middle-Eastern Storyteller (Zondervan, 2009), pp. 24-25 (From preachingtoday.com)

It is of course easy for us to love those who love us, but the ability to love those who are actively hostile to us is another thing altogether.  One of the things that makes the Christian and indeed the Church of God different from the world is the ability to love unconditionally.

To live like this might seem like the bar is set just too high, but are we not children of God, and as children of God should we not be like our Heavenly Father?  If we only love those who love us, then where is the evidence of our conversion?  As Bishop J.C. Ryle puts it:

Do we flinch from the test? Do we find it impossible to do good to our enemies?  If that be the case we may be sure we have yet to be converted.  As yet we have not received the “Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. ii. 12.)

(J.C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on the Gospel, Matthew, 1856).

So who are our enemies?  The answer will be different for each of us.  They may be persons we do not even know, but who would wish us ill because of our association with Christ.  Sadly, our enemy may even be a family member or former friend or work colleague.  They  may make no secret in delighting in our failures and resenting our successes.

Here is the challenge:  You can be sure that if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus that you will have the opportunity to minister to those who hate you.  What will we do when that time comes; will we turn away and pretend not to notice, or will we reach out in love?

How happy would the world be if we were all able to live as Jesus taught.  But we are weak and we are proud and so stubborn.  Yet if there is a small spark of hope in us that is able to say “Thy will be done”, we can be assured that the very second we say “yes” to God, He is there and He will help us and He will give us every strength, resource and encouragement in Christ that we need to love, yes to unconditionally love even those who hate us.

Amen.

 

January 23, 2011

Unity

Light and Shadow
Today’s Sermon.  Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, (Epiphany 3, Year A)

The couple of us here that are older than thirty, do you remember where you were and what you were doing in 1989 when you heard the news of the Berlin wall coming down?  I remember listening to my radio late into the night as news reporters standing by the wall described the events as they unfolded, the emotion, the sheer joy that was all around.  As sledgehammers were taken to the wall and big chunks of the graffiti-clad concrete crumbled, interviews were taking place with people who were so excited and overjoyed at the prospect of being reunited with family and friends from whom they had been separated for decades.  There was a time when the collapse of Communism in Europe seemed an impossibility; the ‘Cold War’ seemed as if it would go on for ever and yet, the impossible happened…

Look at the church today.  There are more divisions than we could number, divisions between East and West, between North and South, divisions that are new and many that are old, and every single one is because of human greed and power struggles and that rather unfashionable word, sin.

People are the same today as they always were, that is why we can look at the church in Corinth in AD 55 and learn from their mistakes, because exactly the same mistakes are being made today.  The church in Corinth resembled the society in which she lived.  Corinth was a divided city: there were rich and poor, slave and free, educated and uneducated, Jew and Gentile.  The church should have been different, a place where every one of these different groups could come together, with Christ as the common ground between them, but this was not the case.  The Christians had taken their eyes off Christ and had instead become obsessed with the differences that there were between them.[1]

So in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. (10)

He appeals to them, he pleads with them, he calls them his brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are all part of the same family – for heaven’s sake!

Division is a tragedy.  At the time I was writing this sermon I was also following on the news the unravelling of our government.  In some ways, watching and listening to all the infighting and power struggles has been so ridiculous it has been almost funny, like a pantomime – perhaps it would be more funny if it were not so serious, these are the people we have elected!  Yet it is not only our politicians who are sometimes a laughing stock, how many times has the church been in the spotlight of the cold eye of ridicule “look at those Christians fighting with each other, I thought they were supposed to be full of love!”  Because of the kind of world we live in we can be absolutely sure that news will travel far and fast when we fall out with each other, the world loves to make fun of Christians and yet time after time it is our own fault that we are seen as weak hypocrites.  It was the same in Corinth.  Paul was in Ephesus, hundreds of kilometres away across the Aegean Sea and yet long before the days of Telephones, T.V. or Twitter, news got to him about what was happening in Corinth.  Look at verse 11:

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

Bad news travels fast.  The Apostle Paul had spent eighteen months in Corinth, but since he had left the church had split up into various groups.  One group were loyal to Paul, another group were followers of a preacher called Apollos, another group were followers of Cephas (the Apostle Peter) and another group thought they were superior to the rest saying that they followed Christ.  Paul goes on to tell them how completely absurd and foolish this is:

Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (13)

Christ died so that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  There is only one Christ, not one Christ for Protestants and another Christ for Roman Catholics, not one Christ for Eastern Orthodox and another for Pentecostals, not one Christ for the Church of Ireland and another for every Community Church, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Quaker and Mennonite!  There is only one Christ, so the logical conclusion is this: there is only one church.  That’s right, there is only one church.  Every Christian in Corinth, despite their differences had one thing in common.  Every Christian today, despite our differences, has one thing (or rather One Person) in common.  Christ.  How can division be allowed to remain when we all belong to the same Christ?  How can we have doctrine and theology, laws, articles and canons that divide God’s people up, putting the sheep in different pens?  Not only is it crazy, it is sinful and how God must hate and detest the barriers that we have put up.  We have lost sight of Christ and we have focused on our differences and that is the reason why so much of the church today is dead or dying.  What did Jesus say?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned…” (John 15:5,6, NIV)

In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity[2], Christians all around the world “become aware of the great diversity of ways of adoring God. Hearts are touched, and people realize that their neighbours’ ways are not so strange.”  When we take our eyes off those things that divide us and together focus on Christ, it is something very profound, special and exciting.  I hope that as time goes on we will be able to do more and more together with our brothers and sisters in Christ that worship elsewhere within this Parish and that in time the differences between us will diminish to the point that we can no longer remember what they were!  When we look back a generation or two and see how far we have come, there is much to give us hope for the future.

At first glance it seems a bit strange that verse 18 is tacked onto the end of today’s reading because it clearly belongs to the next section.  But with church Unity in mind, it is the perfect verse to end with.  Here’s what it says:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

As far as the Apostle Paul is concerned, there is only one dividing line between people, the cross of Christ.  Many of us like to sit on the fence about different things; about politics, about religion or sport.  But there is no sitting on the fence when it comes to the cross of Christ, either we are with Christ or we are against Him (Mark 9:40).  The Corinthians were supposed to be in agreement about the cross, and if they were then all the other human-made differences would have melted away.  The same is true of the church today, the cross should be the only dividing line between those who put their faith and trust in Christ and those who do not.

Being much concerned about the rise of denominations in the church, John Wesley told of a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, “Are there any Presbyterians here?” “Yes!” came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any Anglicans? Any Methodists?” The answer was Yes! each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was No! “No?” To this, Wesley asked, “Who then is inside?” The answer came back, “There are only Christians here.”[3]

Wouldn’t it be great if one day someone would say to us, “Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the walls of division within the church came down, the day when we finally realised that we were one in Christ?” One day it will happen … Amen.


[1] Roger Ellsworth, ‘The message of 1 Corinthians’, Evangelical Press, 1995, p.22

[2] http://tinyurl.com/6zdbabb

January 20, 2011

Roll 24

It is just over a year since I developed my first black and white film, (you can read that post here).  So roll 24 means that I am averaging two films a month – hope you are blown away by my mathematical skill :-/

It’s been great fun and it’s been a steep learning curve; I’ve lost pictures because of not developing them properly which is frustrating, but I’ve also learnt a lot about picture taking, composition, timing, light and so on.  Film photography, especially with an old manual camera and a prime (fixed focal length) lens really forces you to slow down and think about the picture you are taking, and it is also great fun.  So here’s a few pictures from roll 24…

Dreaming of Spring

“Dreaming of Spring”

Charlie

Charlie

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Early Sunday morning near the Timoleague Road

Out of the Cave

“Out of the Cave” at Simon’s Cove

Rock Patterns #2

Rock Patterns at Simon’s Cove

Icicles

Icicles

Ice patterns

Ice patterns on a window

(Details: Camera – Olympus OM-1, lens – Zuiko 50mm f1.4, Film – Agfa APX 100, Developer – Rodinal (8 minutes @ 20°C) – Scanner Epson 4490)

October 18, 2010

Into another’s shoes

Little shoes

It was Atticus in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird who said:

“… you never really understand a man unless you step inside his shoes and walk around in them.” 

Last week at the Cork, Cloyne & Ross Clergy Conference I learnt a lot.  The speaker was Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon and he spoke to us on “Old message, new media: communicating the Gospel in the digital age”.  Key points included understanding what it was like for the person who has no experience of church or theological language coming into a church service and how alien an experience it can be for them.   How do we present and share the gospel with a 16 year old and / or someone from a completely different background or cultural environment than our own?  What language do we use, does it make sense?


Another point Bishop Nick made was the importance of engaging with people through blogging, Twitter, Facebook etc.  It was like the penny finally dropped for me; yes I have been blogging for a while but now I see a greater purpose in it.  Likewise I have been on Facebook and Twitter for some time, but have never really got going with either.  Now even in the past few days I have found myself joining in a debate with some Atheists on Facebook – what an opportunity this is, to share the gospel with people who are never going to go anywhere near a church!  Compared to many I do not get huge numbers of visitors to my blog, but the numbers reading my sermons on line would fill all the church pews several times over – this is exciting stuff but it will only work if I am able to communicate in a way that those who I am trying to engage with understand what I am trying to say.  That of course is a huge challenge…

October 3, 2010

Encouragement for the journey

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(Photo from the Sheep’s Head walk for Christian Aid last month)

A couple of people actually read last weeks effort, so for anyone that may be interested, here is this mornings sermon.

Text:  2 Timothy 1:1-14

Have you ever watched or taken part in a long distance endurance test, you know something like a sponsored walk from Malin Head to Mizen Head, a cross-channel swim, the Cork, Dublin or London Marathon, or crossing the Himalayas on a pogo stick!?  One of the things that they all have in common (apart from making the participants very tired) is that they all have support teams.  There will be a crew of people backing up the walkers, providing food, drink and perhaps shelter.  There may also be a crowd along the way, clapping and cheering as the participants pass by, giving encouragement “well done”, “keep going”, “Only 4000 Kilometres to go” and so on. 
The Christian life is in many ways a bit like a long endurance race.  We will sometimes find the going tough, we may even want to give up, drop out completely or hail a taxi to take us to the finish line!  One of the things that makes it easier is when we encourage one another.  I just love it when I hear that happening, when you take the time and the effort to look after your fellow travellers and ask how they are doing and help them in different ways, encourage them to persevere and pray for them.  This is one of the reasons why the Tuesday morning and Thursday evening groups work so well for those that take part; they are places of encouragement.  People always come away encouraged and built up in their faith. 
As we look at the reading today from 2 Timothy, we see that Timothy, a young church leader has a very tough job to do.  Without support, it would be fair to say that Timothy would not have lasted the distance, yet the letters he receives from the Apostle Paul (who is in prison in Rome), spur him on and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he is given the power and energy and strength to persevere. 
Right in the first verse, Paul puts the Gospel in a nutshell; it is “the promise of life”.  Outside of what Jesus did for us upon the cross there is no promise of life.  Without Christ we are completely lost and without any hope, yet the gift of God is forgiveness and eternal life.
Then in verse 3, Paul writes: 
I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
Wow, Imagine that, having the Apostle Paul pray for you, wouldn’t that be great!  Perhaps we underestimate the importance of praying for each other.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your prayers for my family and for me “Please Lord help Daniel with his work, help him to get round all the visits he needs to do, get to all the meetings he needs to be at and let his sermon not be so long this week Amen!”  Let us always pray for each other, for our family members, friends and even people whom we don’t know.  I’m sure that in heaven we will be stunned at the effect our prayers had in the purposes of God’s Kingdom, how God used our weakness to perform mighty acts of greatness.  Never underestimate the power of prayer. 
Timothy came from a godly home.  Paul writes that
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.  (v 5)
The love of Jesus was there in Timothy’s younger days.  He saw how important this faith was to his grandmother and mother.  Timothy grew up in the Lord.  How important it is for us to make sure that our children ‘grow up in the Lord’, that we show them a godly example of how to live and that we teach them to pray and teach them to read the Bible and show them how to be godly, to be loving to others, to be forgiving and gentle, yet strong in faith and courage.  I know how difficult this is and we can only begin to do it with God’s help, but I am convinced that all the effort that we put into trying to bring up our children to know and love the Lord Jesus will not be in vain.  Our children may not turn out the way we want them to, but if they can just acknowledge God in their life then ultimately that is all that matters. 
As the weather begins to turn cold once more some of you may have already lit your first fire for several months.  Some people just seem to have a gift when it comes to lighting a fire.  Many times I have a fire all set, I have a good amount of dry kindling and newspaper and it is all looking good.  I light the match and it all starts off well, the fire roars into life then in no time at all the flame dies down and there is just a bit of smoke hanging on and it is all looking rather pathetic.  Then Sonja comes in, gives me a look of pity, and in less than a minute I have to stand back because the heat of the fire is so great! 
The Apostle Paul likens Timothy’s spiritual gift to a fire.  He says:  
 I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (6b, 7)
We don’t know especially what Timothy’s gift is, but the same truth applies to us also.  What gifts do you have?  What has God made you good at?  Gifts tend to fade in strength when they are not used or encouraged, so whatever gift you have make sure you use it and when you do, give all the credit and glory to God, because a gift is just that, a gift.  There are lots of people at the moment helping to make the Alpha course we are doing go so well, including those with the gift of hospitality.  They are using that gift so well that the Grace Centre feels such a welcoming and homely place (not to mention the fact that I have probably put on half a stone since the course has started)! 
It seems that Timothy was (understandably) a bit overawed by the responsibilities entrusted to him.  Ephesus was a city where few people had any sympathy for Christ; there was much persecution and opposition to the Christians there.  Paul reminds Timothy to rekindle, to get the fire going again, to be strong in the Lord, not to rely on his own strength and power, but Gods strength and power.  The word ‘cowardice’ in the Greek means someone who flees from the battle, who will not stand up to the fight.  How often has this been true of us, that we have not spoken up when we should have done?  How often have we neglected to tell someone of God’s love and forgiveness, how often have we fled from the battle?  I can think of many times when I should have spoken up on something but didn’t, so I am encouraged by this verse and I hope you are too; God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 
We know that in our own strength we are simply not able, we do not have the ability to use our God-given gifts, we are naturally cowards who run away from the battle, we are lacking in love and we have the self-discipline of a sloth!  Verse 8 though gives us the answer:
‘…relying on the power of God’ 
That’s it, that’s the secret.  Relying on the power of God.  Have you ever run out of petrol and had to push your car?  It’s not easy is it?  It is possible (especially with a bit of help) to move the car, but it will move very slowly and only for a short distance.  When we do not rely on the power of God it is like we are running on empty!  We need His power and we get this power when we surrender to Him, when we hand over control of our lives to Him.  Let us pray:
Here I am Lord, I give you everything, my whole life and all that I am.  All my plans, wishes and desires I give to you.  Leave no stone unturned.  Lord, please heal me of my selfishness and forgive me for the countless times I have sinned.  Cleanse me through the power of the cross, wash me from the inside out.  Lord I am yours, use me for the glory of your name and by your grace to make a real difference in this world for you.  Fill me with your Spirit that I may not be afraid to speak about you and to help people in your name, to live out the gospel everyday in all that I say and all that I do and I ask this in the name of your Son, my Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.