Kindled with the Fire

Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

Strong words from a writer who I turn to from time to time, to challenge me, Annie Dillard, written in a book called ‘Teaching a Stone to Talk’. Annie clearly sees the potential for encounter with God as very powerful, to be taken seriously and not to be trifled with. Perhaps we don’t explicitly talk enough about the power of the Holy Spirit or the Holy Spirit more generally, except perhaps passingly at Pentecost. God the Father seems straight-forward enough and God the Son we read about in the the real-life stories of the Gospels week by week, but God the Holy Spirit?

I don’t know about you, but there are times when the prospect of coming to church doesn’t always fill me with the Holy Joy that perhaps it should do. But you know once we get down to the serious business of invoking the name of what Annie calls the “Sleeping God”, something happens. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it happens. I don’t know quite when it occurs, but it happens. I don’t know precisely what causes it, but it happens. The assembled company become the body of Christ, infused with the Holy Spirit, that “fills our hearts with love”.

One of the joys of the Scottish Episcopal tradition is that in our Eucharistic Liturgies we have an explicit Epiclesis. That is the part of the Eucharistic prayer in which the presence of the Holy Spirit is invoked to bless the elements or the communicants or wonderfully in our case, both. In most of our Eucharistic Prayers it goes like this:

Hear us, most merciful Father,
and send your Holy Spirit upon us
and upon this bread and this wine,
that, overshadowed by his life-giving power,
they may be the Body and Blood of your Son,
and we may be kindled with the fire of your love
and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

“and we may be kindled with the fire of your love”, I just love that bit, it sends a tingle down my spine every time. We’re asking for the Holy Spirit to descend on our community of faith, to bless us, to change us and to elevate us beyond all our human weakness, our human failings and our human imaginings.

At Pentecost and every Sunday the Spirit descends, not on us as isolated individuals all with our own likes, dislikes and foibles, but on on our assembly, to raise us to something more divine and just a little less human. The result is an ever deeper common life; united in prayer, united in the breaking of bread, united in action in the world, united in love. As Disciples of Christ we share at least some of our lives, some of our resources and some of our talents for the benefit of others.

Common life in the early church was built across the boundaries of gender, of ethnicity and of social class. It subverted the values and hierarchies of the Roman Empire and by the power of the Spirit, that life is to be taken to every corner of the earth. That subversion is what we should be about – filled with the Spirit.

As Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Blessings
James

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Welcome to Liliana and Salvador

It was lovely to welcome two new members to the Christian Family through the baptisms of Liliana and Salvador (in Tain and Dornoch respectively) over the last two weeks.

 

Yesterday in Tain, as we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension (transferred from Thursday) we heard:

‘While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”‘

Whilst in Dornoch last Sunday we heard:

Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Fitting sentiments for these occasions when both the Church Family and the families of Liliana and Salvador have cause for rejoicing.

SEI May Newsletter

The Scottish Episcopal Institute, which is responsible for training priests, deacons and lay readers in our Church, produces a monthly newsletter.  If you are interested in what the Institute and its students (including our own Don Grant) do at Residential Weekends, you can read about it here in the May 2018 News from SEI.

God’s not Dead

Tain Church Film Club

invite all who might be interested to join them for a showing of:

God’s not Dead

Friday 25th May 2018

7:30pm

Tain Parish Church Hall

All are most welcome.

College student Josh Wheaton attends a philosophy class, where the uncompromising Professor Radisson requires all students to agree in writing that the Christian god is “dead”. When Josh refuses on account of his Christianity, the Professor challenges him to defend his position that his god is real, which leads to a series of confrontational presentations by himself and the professor in turn, each making their case in front of the class, before a final debate. At the same time, Reverends Dave and Jude attempt to leave town but are hindered by curious minor accidents, student Ayisha is at odds with her father Misrab’s conservative religious principles, and Mark, who is some kind of businessman, acts cynically towards his mentally ill mother, while his journalist girlfriend receives bad news from a doctor.” (Synopsis from IMDb)

New Priest in the Diocese

This afternoon in St Anne’s Church in Strathpeffer, Revd Julia Boothby was presented to Bishop Mark to be licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Invergordon, Dingwall and Strathpeffer.

A large number of members of the congregations, Julia’s family, some people from her previous parish (North Mymms near Hatfield in Hertfordshire) and clergy and laity from around our Diocese packed into St Anne’s.

It was a lovely service and splendid fellowship (and food) was shared in the Strathpeffer Community Centre afterwards.

Welcome Julia (and David) it’s lovely to have you amongst us and to have another priest in the northern part of the Diocese.

We are at One

Douglas and Denise with presenter Sarah Mack

Today, a crew from the One Show (on BBC1) were at the Crask filming a piece following on from the press coverage of the Dedication and Commissioning of the Ministry St Trolla’s last weekend.  The result will be aired as part of the One Show on BBC1 on Monday (30th April) at 7pm (segment actually at about 7:25pm).

Travelling in the Resurrection

Since Easter I’ve been away quite a bit. I’ve travelled to Shropshire and back – maybe some 24 hours of travelling by bus, train and car. One of the things I like about travelling by public transport is that you meet a whole selection of people that you would be unlikely to meet under any other circumstances. These people all have their stories to tell and when travelling many share some small portion of their lives with the stranger sitting in the seat opposite. In my experience the likelihood of this increases when the train or bus is delayed, cancelled or suffers some other adversity. My travels were not without incident.

Maybe this willingness to talk is simply a way to pass the time whilst the situation is remedied, or maybe it’s because the immediate adversity makes people more acutely aware of the difficulties that they or their loved ones are facing, and the disrupted travel makes a real connection with disruptions in other parts of their lives.

We’re travelling through the Easter season, after the disruption and adversity of Holy Week, a week which for me had added resonance this year in the aftermath of my Father’s funeral. Easter, I don’t mind admitting, was quite literally a blessèd relief. Easter is here. Alleluia Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed Alleluia.

In Luke’s Gospel, we hear about groups of disciples who meet Jesus under a variety of circumstances. In each case, although they’ve encountered the Risen Jesus, they’ve failed to recognise Him (at least initially). On Easter Day we heard about Mary in the Garden, who mistakes Him for the gardener and only recognises Him when he calls her by name. Recognising Jesus requires more than just seeing Him. Hearing about Him isn’t enough either, we need faith as well – think of Thomas who we have also heard about recently. In Luke’s Gospel there’s also the story about two Disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus and talk with Him as He explains the Scriptures to them whilst walking along. The calling by name, the breaking of bread or the invitation to touch Him – these are when it clicks and we actually realise we are in His presence, as Thomas does when he famously says “My Lord and my God”.

In our Resurrection journey, the point is that Jesus is really real and truly alive! How is Jesus really real and truly alive in our world today? How do our eyes need to be opened to perceive Jesus? How do our ears need to be unstopped to hear His voice? Where do we touch the hands and feet of our Lord? If the Resurrection is to mean anything to me it has to mean something every hour of the day, every day of the week and every week of the year. It isn’t just an Easter thing or a Sunday thing, we are after all an Easter People. How does the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus help us to make sense of what is happening in our lives just now? How does the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus help us bring comfort and healing to the people of a world which with each passing day seems to be getting itself into a bigger and bigger mess?

At the centre of our Eucharistic Prayer we find Paul’s account to the Corinthians about the last supper. In that account what we perhaps hear is: “Jesus took bread and said: this is my body that is for you”. But is he not saying “If you are looking for my body, this is it” Jesus is saying if you are looking for my body, don’t go looking for it in the tomb, don’t look up to heaven for it, you don’t have to look anywhere but amongst yourselves. In any meal shared in friendship, in any act of hospitality, in any act of walking with others (feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned or the sick or the lonely, housing the homeless, celebrating with friends), it’s in all these things that we are in the presence of Christ.

It’s sitting on a train that isn’t going anywhere, it’s sitting in a hospital anxiously awaiting news, it’s in all those everyday encounters, as we travel through life, where stories are told and people share their innermost fears with a fellow human being, that we’re walking with our Risen Lord; Travelling in the Resurrection.

Blessings
James