Sunday, 14 October 2007

SERMON: 14 October 2007

The Gorton Team ministry is located with the Ardwick Deanery of the Manchester Diocese. The clergy of the deanery meet together about once a month. They've been a real support to me since I've been here - I can turn to them with questions, and "cover" (a clergy substitute) for our churches when we need a priest. They've also accepted me quite well and have asked me to preach in their churches at various times. This is for the Dean's home parish. I felt a bit of pressure because it's a church that although they welcomed me to their pulpit, they have not "authorized" a woman to serve as their Rector. Since of 1992 when women were ordained as priests in CofE, there's a vote taken each time a search process is begun in a parish. Knowing how they felt about me not serving at the altar was odd - even more odd is that the Dean is married to a woman priest and SHE can't celebrate at the church of her husband ... FYI she works part time as a women's prison chaplain and is available on Sundays!!

SUNDAY 14 October 2007

St Cross Church, Clayton, Manchester

19 after Trinity Year C

TEC – Ruth 1:1-19A
COE – Jeremiah 29: 1,4-7
Luke 17:11- 19 – Jesus heals ten lepers, one says thanks

I offer these words in the name of one Triune God. Amen.

I am very happy to be here and to have been invited by Matt my dean and colleague who has really helped both my partner JD and I. I have known some of you already as it was about one year ago, that I was a part of St George’s as it was closing. I will also say that Joe and I were here for a wonderful sermon by Jacob that stayed with us for weeks. I can tell you which it was later, but I feel it set a very high standard for me this morning.

In our gospel story we hear about ten people whom Jesus heals. We also are told that only ONE of them praises God and thanks Jesus for his healing. Jesus acknowledges this man. But to the other Nine Jesus seems to be a bit upset. Jesus appears to say that they were un-grateful; that they didn’t need to thank him but the least they could have done was to give praise to God.

We all know it doesn’t go down well when you don’t say thanks to someone who has helped you, does it? Since moving here to the North, I’ve learnt that getting off the bus should include: cheers, thank you, Ta, or some combination of the three. Growing up, my mum taught me the same thing back home.
Whether we’re in England or America, we can hear a tone in Jesus’ voice that sounds a bit critical. Maybe you can see Jesus wagging his finger as well. With that in mind, it would be very easy for us to see this gospel as a lesson in being polite in either British or American society.

But it’s not quite that. We could see these words of Jesus as a reminder on how to act when someone give us something. But they’re not exactly that either.
During the time Jesus lived there WERE ways that people were expected to act toward one another. But they were different from ours. One thing that they could exchange with one another wasn’t money – it was how they ACTED.
And if you were poor and couldn’t afford to repay you also gave praise and said thanks to the person who took care of you because you had nothing else to give.
So who is this man who comes back to Jesus? We’re told he’s a Samaritan – a foreigner – someone from an area that good Jewish people avoided and someone who the non-Jewish people avoided as well. Basically, he is an outsider. He is just like the woman whom Jesus talked to at the well when no one else would. And he has nothing to give back to Jesus –– so all he can do is give praise to God and say thanks to Jesus. He has no other way to “repay” Jesus’ kindness.

I often try to put Jesus’ stories in our current world and think who around us today would play the different parts.
Who do YOU think could be the person feeling least able to give anything back?
Who is the person we might find just like this Samaritan man?

Now I might surprise you with my suggestions – because perhaps you, like me, often think of yourself as the One who gives thanks and praise – we’re here in church after all. But what IF the One --
Is a young “hoodie” lad – no longer a child not quite an adult? Or maybe a Polish immigrant, without economic well-being in his home and a stranger here?
Perhaps he would be a foreign refugee – definitely someone without a country?

Then what about the other 9? In Jesus’ day these folk must have felt able somehow to give back or repay Jesus because they didn’t give their thanks and praise. In some way, they felt themselves more on par with Jesus and less in his debt – even though being healed.
Although you may disagree with me, I believe most of us in church today are a lot more like the Nine than we are the one. Not that we’re ungrateful or not-thankful but because we probably DO feel we have some way to give back to Jesus or repay God.

Understood this way, Jesus is not wagging his finger at the Nine or at us regular church-goers. We’re not meant to feel criticized or bad or guilty for not coming back to say thanks. However, I do believe Jesus IS asking WHERE are we?
Where are we??

We are here. We live in the city and the prophet Jeremiah is talking to us. He knows us because he lives in the city as well. About 2,000 600 years ago Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem and felt called by God to stay in his city at a time when the people around him needed hope.
Jeremiah says to us: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” If we are like the Nine, then perhaps our way to give praise and thanks is to seek the welfare of the city and pray to God. Maybe this is how we can show our gratitude to God.

Where I lived in California was quite different from Manchester. I did not grow up in a proper city. Honestly, I have never lived with a bus stop outside my door nor bars on my windows. I had no experience with living in a district like Gorton. Obviously I’ve come to experience the deprivations of the inner city quickly.
Most of you know better than I how challenging the city can be – the difficulties of daily life, the frustrations when people live close together, health and safety are always “issues” and the consequences of deprivation can even lead to depression. Sometimes even changes for the good can feel less than positive.

However, since moving here, I’ve clearly come to recognize the resources I have to give back to God.
My way to say thanks and give praise to Jesus is to join Jeremiah in giving hope and to follow Jeremiah in to seeking the welfare of the city and to pray on its behalf.
To love and care for the city will take more than my prayers; it might take each one of the Nine of us – especially if we’re to reach out to that one who is outside – the refugee, the immigrant, the hoodie.

In this light, I don’t believe Jesus is criticizing us, not calling us ungrateful. We’re necessary.
AND we must go on to find our OWN way to show our thanks to Jesus and give praise to God.

The question is - Do you also see yourself as someone with enough gratitude to give back to God?
Can you show your appreciation by how you act?
IF so! Because then that all of us like the Nine can not only pray but also work toward the welfare of our city.

Friday, 8 June 2007

SERMON: Thursday 8 June 2007

An invitation from one of my deanery colleagues to preach mid-week at a "Festival" we don't celebrate in my Team. Corpus Christi would possibly be celebrated in TEC, but is more popular with the Anglo-Catholics. Here, the Anglo-Catholics are often the churches more open to women than the Evangelicals - so I have a natural affinity with them. This was an excellent chance to get to talk about a favorite saint of mine : Julian. It was also the chance to talk/write about an experience I've wanted to share since I've been ordained and sharing the bread - looking at people's hands. (the stories they could tell!) After the service, the rector told me he'd never seen the congregation be asked to move or "participate" during a sermon but you wouldn't have known it at the time - they all talked with the person sitting next to them. And because, as usual, there were so few people in these large church buildings ... they really HAD to move.

PS - you can see a truly wonderful parish website for this church St Agnes, Longsight . I think it's a gorgeous building, and the people are rector are absolutely lovely!

Corpus Christi aka “Thanksgiving for Holy Communion”

(Season of Pentecost - Thursday after Trinity Sunday) Year C
8 June 2007 – Festival, HC, Procession & Adoration
St Agnes Church, Longsight – Stephen Edwards, Rector

Genesis 14:18-20
Psalm 116:10-17
1 Cor 11:23-26
John 6: 51-58

I offer these words in the name of our one triune God – the supreme goodness of all manner of things and the endless fulfilling of all true desires. Amen.

It’s a real joy to be here this evening. Since the first day I met your rector Stephen he’s been telling me what fun you all have in church, especially when there’s a celebration. And together with my partner Joe, let me say we’re delighted to be part of yours tonight.

I did not grow up in the Anglican Church. I “found” it when I was in my mid-twenties and immediately fell in love with the consistent regularity of a community gathering together to share this very special meal of bread and wine made Holy. However, I admit that regularity can become a negative. Sometimes we can get quite routine in our tradition. It can become common and ordinary to walk forward week after week, put out our hands, and partake of Jesus. I know that on some Sundays, I completely take for granted the Mystery of it all.

So, this yearly celebration is wonderful because gives us a chance to look again at the Eucharist and to maybe encounter the Mystery again. Tonight, I hope that with what we hear and say; with our movement and in silence, and with what is prepared at the altar and what has been prepared in your kitchens we’ll each come to experience something – anything – about Holy Communion in a new way.

One of the things I’ve come to love about living in Manchester – which I’m sure you can relate to – is the many things on offer each evening. Manchester is full of events from sports to culture and leisure for everyone. This evening there is a concert at Bridgewater Hall featuring the music of the English Christian Mystic called Julian (1342-1417). You might know her as the saint who lived in the late 1300’s with her cat, anchored onto the cathedral in Norwich from which she gave spiritual direction to those who came to visit her. She also wrote of her vivid visions or dreams about God and realistic conversations with Jesus.
Mystics are those strange people among us who can feel and experience God most closely. And they often write to describe that to us. What I love about the mystics is that what they say can move us to a new insight, they might play with what we take for granted or challenge what we believe.

Julian is like that. Julian wrote – all those ages ago – in a very unusual way about Holy Communion. I said mystics challenged us, and Julian does. She writes about Jesus as our Mother. Although not disputing that Jesus is a male, Christ is our Mother because by taking our human nature, with Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection he sustains our growing into God. That’s certainly different. You need to know that to hear how beautifully she talks of Holy Communion …

“The mother can give her child from her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with Himself; and He does it most graciously and most tenderly with the Blessed Sacrament which is the Precious Food of true life … with which he supports us most mercifully and graciously.”

That may not make sense to your head, but what about touching your heart? I feel she expresses the sustenance I get from the Eucharist; she captures the wholesome sense of nurture and love that’s present.

There’s another mystic – this time from Germany – I like. His name is Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) – in the early 1300’s He writes …

“I could not bear to touch God with my own hand
when he came within my reach,
but He wanted me to hold Him.”

And we do hold God with our very hands when we take the host - the bread. There’s nothing between our skin and the touch of God at that point, is there?
We know that the priest’s hands are essential in the sacraments – baptizing, elevating gifts, anointing the sick, and blessing. This mystic Eckhart makes us think of it the other way when receiving communion. At that moment, WE hold God, we hold Jesus; not the priest.

But the priest does have the privilege to pass out this very special bread. As a new priest, one of the first things I noticed at the altar rail was people’s hands as they prepared to accept the wafer or bread.

Every pair of hands is different – some young and small, some wrinkled with the signs of age or cupped by the ravages of arthritis, sometimes only one hand;
hands thick and hairy, some with the well-earned dirt of hard work or beautifully manicured at the beauty salon; dry and cracked or smooth and soft;
the hands that have been opened to me come in a whole range of colors
and there might be a bandage, cut or bruise presented to me …

And there are stories behind each set of hands … some stories I would know about through my role as pastor and counselor, some stories I could only guess at, some stories that I might hear about later over tea or never ever learn.

These hands – presented to receive - have become a mystical experience for me – but it’s a Holy moment that only I get to have. Now -- if you’ll humor the American visitor amongst you – I’d like you to invite you to share in this with me. We’ll have a little bit of interaction; but don’t worry there’s nothing too touchy-feely.

First, I want you to put your hands together as YOU do to receive communion. Look at them – take a moment to Trust and Feel that God wants you to hold God there – you might want to imagine the wafer in your palms.
Now take your right hand and open it - present it to the person sitting on your right – but bring your gaze to the right hand of your neighbor that’s now in front of you … look at it: What do you see? you might know the story that goes with it, you might not; something might surprise you in what you see
Now, do the Reverse, Share your left hand to the left and focus on a different hand in front of you: Remember that this hand will reach out for and touch the presence of Jesus just as yours does in a few minutes.
!! Thanks everybody !!

My final thought is that our hands – mine, yours, the person next to you – our hands should be more than receiving. The simple act of opening our hands to receive the bread and wine should do more than just change OUR own lives.

From recent times, French mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) writes “in our hands, the hands of all of us, the world and life – our world, our life – are placed like a host, ready to be changed with divine influence.”

As Teilhard reminds us we’ve must never forget that the Precious Food of our Mother Jesus and the ability to hold God in our own hands are meant to be both receiving AND giving. Once consumed, the bread and wine transformed into the body and blood must then help to transform the world. A final mystic Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) says, “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”

So when you come forward to receive bread and wine tonight, as we walk the procession, spend time in adoration as well as in fellowship
remember that only through the actions of our hands to forgive, nurture, sustain, to offer tenderness and work for justice can our regular practice of celebrating Eucharist together continue the healing, saving and blessing work of Christ all around us.


Sunday, 8 April 2007

SERMON: Easter Sunday 8 April 2007

This is my the second of my "major feasts" with the Team -- it was my first Easter Sunday but I'd already had one Christmas. I learned after the day that what's very interesting here in my "patch" (neighborhood) is that there ISN"T any extra "bump" in attendance for these holidays! Maybe one or two extra at Christmas Eve (which they celebrate more than Christmas Day), but rarely any extras for Easter. That's SO different from TEC, isn't it? It is an odd feeling actually, not to have a "crowd", not to be worried about extra welcoming and an evangelistic, accessible, open sermon. I wrote as if there might be new, extra people - but I also wrote based on my experience, after 7 months of what it felt like to live here. JD thinks this is one of my "very best" sermons.

Easter Sunday
8 April 2007
Sunday of the Resurrection – Year C
Emmanuel Church (Gorton Abbey Hey Team)

Acts 10 : 34 - 43
Psalm 118 : 14-24 – this is the day the Lord has made
Luke 24 : 1- 12 – The resurrection of Jesus, women at the tomb

Alleluia Christ is Risen!

Let me teach you something from the American Episcopal Church. We say the bit “Alleluia Christ is Risen” and “He is Risen indeed” quite a lot on Easter Sunday, and you’ve got to say it loudly and with conviction. So let’s try it again …
Great !!

Some of you were here last Sunday for a Sunday with Palms and the Passion Story; and some of us within the team ministry have gathered during this Holy Week.

We were here at Emmanuel on Thursday to remember Jesus’ commandments at the last supper of his life: a commandment to love one another and to remember him. For the disciples that night to show the love he had for them, he washed their feet (like the lowliest person. We continue to show our love for Jesus in the service of Holy Communion that we share in remembrance of him.

Then on Good Friday at St James’ and St Philip’s we remembered in quiet, with prayer and meditative communion the agony, loneliness, the despair and great loss that were those last hours and finally the death of our Lord. For me, it’s not easy to attend Good Friday services – they can feel so dark and sometimes our lives have enough darkness. But whether we attend services or think about our own lives, we have to recognize these days in Holy Week in order to truly appreciate Easter Sunday and fully celebrate the empty tomb today.

So now we’re here… We’re here with each other and with the wonderful story of the women finding the angels in the empty tomb and asking what had been done to Jesus. We’re here with each other and with Peter and those absolutely amazed by what has happened.

On Christmas, my word for the day was Love. I like a simple thing to think about on these big days. Today, my word is Hope. If you remember nothing from today’s service but the word Hope then I’ll be glad. The Resurrection is about Hope! It’s not just about Hope – the Resurrection IS Hope. And as Christians we have a job to do that is about Hope as well. As Christians, we ARE Hope.
First I want to say that as I was writing this sermon I felt myself being very forceful about what I was saying … I felt myself really wanting YOU to understand how I feel, about how important this Hope is, and I’m going to be forceful in what I say, which -- as you can ask Joe – is not usually how I am.

SO, Hope! Let me tell you about the Hope I’m talking about. It’s not just our own hope of eternal life with Jesus that the Resurrection promises, and which our baptism connects us with. I mean hope in the lives we live – here in the day to day of Gorton.

Some people – scholars – argue about whether Jesus actually came back from the dead. They ask, How is that possible? What did the women really see in the tomb? Maybe it was just a desire to want to see Jesus alive?
I say, I may not be sure how it happened either – But, because of the Hope that the Resurrection itself brings into the world, I believe it DID happen.

Here’s what this Hope means for me. It is generosity. It is optimistic. Hope is caring and loving.

This hope is not simple or selfish – hope doesn’t say now that I’ve got what I need or want in the world, then the rest can get by on their own.

Sometimes a word like this can seem to be invisible – but Hope is not. Hope CAN be seen. Hope can be seen anytime one or two people decide to raise a child or people choose to love others’ children. In our children we have the hope of a continuation of ourselves and what we believe and teach them.

Hope can be also seen around us – it’s no wonder that Easter is celebrated in Springtime when we have all the signs of Hope around us. As I was writing this yesterday, there was the glorious sun, there were birds chirping and a squirrel in my back garden with all the beautiful green grass and little bright buds on the trees. After the long winter of short cold days, Spring reminds us of Hope.

But Hope is more than these beautiful things like babies and spring flowers. Hope is serious hard work. That’s right!
This Easter celebration is not just about Jesus’ resurrection – it’s OUR resurrection as well because of our baptism into Jesus.
Do you believe that?
Do you believe that you’re born into Jesus? And if that’s true, then this is YOUR resurrection as well!

Then it’s our job to do what Jesus did. Jesus was – Jesus is hope IN the world.
When Jesus was born, it was God’s action to put Jesus into the world – God didn’t just think “it might be a nice idea to have hope.” No! God made Hope happen with Jesus’ life and resurrection.
And whilst Jesus was on earth, Jesus didn’t just say to himself, “it might be a nice idea to have hope.” No! Jesus made Hope happen with his ministry amongst the people.
So you and I can’t just say, “oh, what a nice thing Jesus did with hope.” No! We have to DO hope ourselves.

This means our job as followers of Jesus, it’s our responsibility – it’s our Christian DUTY … yes I said our duty – to bring hope into the world.

We can bring hope into our families, bring hope to our friends and neighbors as well as to strangers and citizens; We must bring hope into the world.
We can do it with caring, loving and praying for other people.
I know many of you do it already by showing it – working for the good of this church in many different ways, for the good of the community by participating in it – and respecting all people around you, and for the good of the world with recycling and reducing energy demands as well as donating time or money to charities.

Here’s where I’m going to get forceful :

What will be different about YOU as someone WITH the Resurrection Hope of Jesus within you? What will your Resurrection Hope be this coming week? Where will you bring Hope?
How will you show Hope? Will it be in your home : whether you’re old or young you can be Hopeful. Will it be in church? Will it be in your school or neighborhood?
You can be in very desperate circumstances and still have hope. This Resurrection Hope doesn’t mean doing or getting more – it means BEING more.

It’s now time to think: Right now, sitting here today.
Do you have hope or do you need hope?
Listen for the answer to come to you from your heart.

Now, look around you. The person sitting next to you has just answered that for herself or himself. You don’t have to share your answer, but you need to know and trust this – that IF you don’t have hope right now … there IS someone here who does! And that person, listening to my challenge to them today will have hope enough for both of you.

And if there were not a single one of you sitting here today who felt you had Resurrection hope …
well, I’m telling you, I have enough hope for you all and I will love you and pray for you until you DO have hope.
This isn’t because I’m better than you, and it’s not because I’m clergy and hope is my job.
I have this hope because I believe it’s a gift that God has given me (for now) to share.

Whether you’re like me with lots of hope – spare enough to give – or not, please join me in truly believing that today Resurrection IS Hope. And that Hope IS and will be lived out in our world.

Alleluia, the Lord has Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Ordination day 2007

This is JD's ordination day !! To the priesthood ... in beautiful sunny Los Angeles. (I'm almost squinting from too much sun after being in Manchester about 4 months by this time). This is one of our very first photos as SchatzDuggan clergy couple.
It was a great day : lots of people we love were there -- and many of you came a long way to be with us. We were grateful.