Monday, July 15, 2024

Thought for the day. Southwark 13th July 2024

 I wonder where you are in the story.

Yes, I know I ask that question quite often.

That's because I think it's one of the very best ways to engage with Scripture, rather than sim0ly find yourself lulled into unthinking by a familiar scenario, a sense that you already know what is going to happen.

So...I wonder where you are in the story.

Likes account of the Last Supper.

A scene we know so well ThatThat we literally have a liturgy that brings us into the story week after week after week. We know the script 

We really do know what happens.

But I don't think it was ,ike that for the disciples.

Come on. REALLY think about.

Set aside any sense of wondering devotion inspired by a long Eucharistic obedience 

It won't have felt like THAT at all

Rather I imagine it was one of those situations in which while we understand each individual word, the overall message of the conversation makes no sense at all.

"What, oh what, is Jesus talking about?

Why is this the last Passover he will eat?

Are those ugly rumours about forthcoming violence true? And if they are, why are we here in thecfebrile atmosphere of Jerusalem at festival time..?

How can he know he won't drink wine again until the kingdom comes?

And then he blesses and breaks the bread but instead of taking us into our past, into our familiar defining story of Passover, he says, quite calmly, that the bread is his body.

The wine his blood

Even Jesus surely can't rewrite a story, change its meaning, just like that.

And if he has...what are we supposed to do?

EAT and DRINK.? While the man we love is still sitting among us, full of life and love? Really?!?

How can we?

Surely that would be an unforgivable betrayal, not an act of faith?

It seems that Jesus is expecting betrayal from one of us....but that hasn't stopped him sharing this strangest of meals with all of us. Each and every one of us as welcome, as beloved as ever, no matter what.

I wish I understood what he was talking about, what it all means...."

I wonder whether it began to make some kind of sense for them in the coming days or whether they clung on in blind obedience to the mandate Do this in Remembrance of me gaining confidence little by little every time...

I wonder too, whether the visitors who enter our churches and hear those same words, so familiar the insider, are every bit as confused and disturbed,

What a way to celebrate love....

And yet...and yet...the experience of eating and drinking in humble obedience brings the deep certainty that Christ is with us, that we can, and do, meet him in the breaking of bread.

May we find ourselves in the story, welcomed, fed, transformed...

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Trinity 6 Evensong, for the end of Choir Year

:‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

   and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then, each of us will be accountable to God 

I hope, on this last Sunday of the cathedral choir’s year, that the rest of the congregation will forgive me if I literally Preach to the Choir.

You see, week by week, service by service – they preach to us.

Their tongues, their voices give praise to God and encourage the rest of us to do the same, whether we arrive as fervent believers or curious spectators. That’s the power of music in worship. It takes us up, even despite ourselves ,and transports us to places we cannot reach in other ways. 

Sometimes it catches us unawares and while it may be the tune that we take away in our conscious thoughts, often that tune carries with it words that lodge in our hearts, shaping us against our expectations.

You see, I’m pretty confident that, regardless of your feel8mgs about God, you cannot sing as you without having a keen sense of beauty...and beauty rests in something that is beyond the strictly rational. I know that those in the choir will be all too familiar with my describing music as something that can open windows on to heaven. I really do believe it. It is, I guess, pretty much why I am a Precentor...because I believe in the power of words and music together to effect what they describe.

But I wonder, oh my loved and lovely choristers, if you had ever noticed that you are potentially enticing a riot whenever you sing the Magnificat. 

Listen to yourselves

He has put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away

If that’s not revolution I’m not sure what is. 

That’s the world turned upside down even more assuredly than our own UK political landscape in the small hours of Friday morning.

And you, as you sing the Song of Mary with so much beauty and skill, are reminding us that this – THIS – is what God has done, and what God will always do...Challenging injustice, unseating oppressive power, lifting up the lowly.

And God invites us into living in that world of Magnificat right here and now...We are to be part of building it.

 It is here that our accountability lies.

What does that mean for us?

Sometimes we seem to put our own gloss on it. We choose to assert that, as God's kingdom is not of this world, so we can live our daily lives according to the rule of our own wills. We leave God to one side in some kind of remote insubstantial spiritual realm which doesn't impact on our actual behaviour at all, and seek to build a kingdom based on our own desires.

That’s NOT being accountable to God by any stretch of the imagination. Remember, this is the God who is SO involved in human kind that He opts to join in with our life in all its mess and muddle, frustration and disappointment.

He's invested in us, all right.

Interested whenever his children cry out for justice...whenever they long for bread but are given stones....whenever we exclude or deny or try to limit His life-giving, transforming Grace.

Christ's Kingdom may not be FROM this world but it is most emphatically FOR this world...For those taking up new roles in government, assuming weighty responsibilities that might just reshape our national life for the better...and for those who are having to rethink their lives in the light of electoral defeat….

For those who now dare to believe that they may have a voice in the conversation and a place at the table, and those who are anxious that at a time of new beginnings they might be discarded, excluded while the world oves on.

For the General Synod of the Church of England in all its current pain and division and, for the people of this city, - baffled, apathetic, distressed...f

In all these structures, and in every aspect of our lives, we are to be accountable to God as together we look for the signs of God’s Kingdom,  founded on love that gives without reserve, that befriends with ceaseless generosity, that values everyone, regardless of gender or opinion, as someone made in God's image, someone for whom Christ was pleased to die…

So as we sing of a world transformed and renewed, we can begin to LIVE the Magnificat. Let the music effect what it describes in your hearts and in your lives...and let is song continue in your soul through these holiday weeks when we may not worship together...because the Magnificat is for life and not just for Choral is a rallying cry which calls the world together to magnify the Lord, to sing God’s praise and with our lives as with our voices.