Picked Up: The Things We Think (and probably Feel) but Do Not Say

Image result for ash wednesdayI have decided that since I’ve asked the question about what has been picked up in the heart – I should share what is going on in  mine since asking the question in the first place.  It has been an interesting couple of weeks! I think I am fairly self-aware to the externals (reactions to situations, how I communicate with people) but I have realized that I don’t always give enough time or thought to what is going on with my internals.

Anyway – here is the first of many of the ‘pick-ups’…

The Things We Think (and probably feel) but Do Not Say

If you know your Tom Cruise movies you may have picked up that the title is from the film ‘Jerry Maguire’; this was the title (except for the brackets) of Jerry’s manifesto that ultimately led to his undoing and re-doing. This also happens to be one of my favourite films and got a re-watch this week.

I have been thinking a lot about ‘the things we think and do not say’ for both Ash Wednesday as I explored the condition of the heart as well as for Valentine’s Day – another opportunity to do the same.

We all have things we think and probably feel but do not say. But what about the person that misses out on what we do not say? It is fairly obvious that we often reflect more on ourselves and the consequences for us if we say or don’t say what we think or feel. Do we ever think about the consequences for the other person with any objectivity at all?

I have very recently been on the receiving end of what was felt and not said. An old friend from High School made contact via Messenger. This is someone I haven’t seen or talked to for over 20 years. Life is difficult for him at the moment for a variety of reasons and he finds my path to the Priesthood rather intriguing. He thought I would have ended up a politician! Soon into the conversation he told me that he ‘kinda had a crush on me in school’. In looking back now, I did at the time think he did at a couple of points. But neither of us did anything about it.

Later in this exchange he said that he wished he could have told me then how he felt ‘but oh well’.

Oh wow. I wish he had told me. I have no idea how I would have reacted then. 25 years is a long time ago. Who knows what would have happened?! Chasing this rabbit has been fun/interesting/hard on the heart these last couple of days. If nothing else – I would have finished High School knowing that someone had a crush on me at some point. As far as I know – no one else did. I am not going to speculate on what this knowledge may or may not have done for me. Then or now.

It has made me think more about the things we think (and probably feel) and do not say. Maybe it is time to say more?

NYE: Von guten Machten Sermon & Reflection

Happy New Year! Wishing everyone much faith, hope and love in 2018. As today is of course a Sunday I am preaching this morning. The following is both a sermon and a reflection on what has past and how we can face the future together. I am in the great debt of my friend Sybille Seemann for sending the Bonhoeffer poem – ‘in case you need inspiration for a New Year’s service’. This was a move of the Spirit!

St Mary’s 8:00 P&P
Christ the Worker 9:30 P&P

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:15-21

Just as I sat down to work on this sermon, my wonderful German friend Sybille sent me the poem ‘Von guten Machten’ – the English translation ‘By loving forces’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She did this in the event that I was looking for inspiration for a New Year’s service. I can only describe this as a move of the Spirit because I was indeed looking for inspiration!

Every year Sybille loves to read this poem – in German of course – as she finds herself blessed by it. On my first reading of it – I felt very blessed by it to. I have a great hope and prayer that you find it a blessing too.

By loving forces silently surrounded,
I feel quite soothed, secure, and filled with grace.
So I would like to live these days together,
and go with you into another year.

Still matters of the past are pressing our hearts
and evil days are weighing down on us.
Oh Lord, to our souls, so scared and sore,
give rescue, as it’s that you made us for.

And when you pass to us the bitter chalice
of suffering, filled to the brim and more,
we take it, full of thanks and trembling not,
from this, your caring and beloved hand.

But if you want to please us, over and again,
with our shining sun and wondrous world,
let us muse on what is past, and then we shall,
with our lives, in all belong to you.

Warm and bright be our candles’ flame today,
since into gloom you brought a gleaming light,
and lead again us, if you will, together!
We know it: you are beaming in the night.

When silence now will snow around us ev’rywhere,
so let us hear the all-embracing sound
of greater things than we can see and wider,
your world, and all your children’s soaring hail.

By loving forces wonderfully sheltered,
we are awaiting fearlessly what comes.
God is with us at dusk and in the morning
and most assuredly on ev’ry day.

Bonhoeffer wrote this poem while he was imprisoned. He sent it to his family for Christmas (the one to be his last) bring hope and reassurance to them. If today, on the last day of 2017, are in need of hope, reassurance and encouragement I hope these words bring some to you.

As the clock runs out on 2017, as Bonhoeffer said ‘let us muse on what is past, and then we shall, with our lives, in all belong to you.’

2017 has been a tough year to downright horrendous for many people that I know – both inside and outside the church. Relationship breakdowns, addiction problems, illness and disease that have seemingly come out of nowhere. Death has visited many this year too.

I know that many people in my parish have had similar experiences. As we came into Christmas these events and experiences didn’t seem to let up either. In fact, they can be compounded during the holidays.

Equally, there are people for whom 2017 has been a good year, a great year! Bless them! We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Doing this helps us to maintain some balance and perspective.

It is years and times like this that can make us more aware of our need for the loving forces of God.

Despite his circumstances, Bonhoeffer ‘felt quite soothed, secure and filled with grace by the loving forces’ he was silently surrounded by. I can appreciate that silence can be hard for some people.

Especially when that silence seems to come from God. When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, our situations don’t change and the darkness of our thoughts and emotions close in.

Bonhoeffer addresses this too – ‘still matters of the past are pressing on our hearts and evil days are weighing down on us’. It is not in avoiding these matters that we find comfort – it is when we acknowledge them – ‘take our souls so scared and sore’ to the Lord. He will rescue us – that is what He does! It is what we were made for – to be rescued from the darkness. The darkness of sin and the darkness of ourselves.

Whatever we are facing today – we do not face it alone however alone we may be feeling. We all from time to time, as Bonhoeffer puts it ‘get passed the bitter chalice of suffering, filled to the brim and more, we take it.’

It can be cold comfort that we all suffer sometimes – in different times and seasons and for different reasons. As a church family we do it together. We can be loving forces to each other.

I think this might be why Bonhoeffer only briefly starts this poem with ‘I’. By the second stanza he talks in ‘us’ and ‘we’. Bonhoeffer strongly emphasized the need of every person to be of a community. He founded a religious community himself. He would also have lived in a community in the concentration camp – a community of great suffering.

Everyone experiences suffering in their life – to different degrees of course. It is important to remember that we will all experience suffering differently – depending on how we cope with life in general. It is both dangerous and unhelpful to compare the sufferings of others with our own. Suffering is not a competitive sport. I believe that paying attention to the suffering of others can help bring perspective to our own suffering; but it won’t lessen our suffering.

Why – you might want to ask, looking around this morning – these ‘we’s’? We need each other – church! We were made to be in relationship with God and with other people.

We see an example of the need for others in the Christmas story with the arrival of the shepherds. I wonder what Mary & Joseph initially thought about that? The shepherds didn’t bring anything, didn’t appear to be in anyway practically helpful. But maybe they weren’t meant to be. Perhaps the arrival of the shepherds was to help Mary and Joseph confirm what – up to now – had been their own secret?

Maybe it was a relief – that all that they had been through – God was faithful to his word. God is faithful to his word. Always. What a relief that is. In this uncertain world and in uncertain times – we can look to the manger and know that God is faithful! Maybe some of us here this morning need to know this again.

Bonhoeffer describes ‘by loving forces wonderfully sheltered, we are awaiting fearlessly what comes’. God will be faithful. We wait fearlessly together for what comes next. We wait by loving forces silently surrounded and wonderfully sheltered.

God is our shelter and our refuge. Psalm 18: ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.’

By loving forces God is with us at dusk and in the morning and most assuredly on every day.

Love and prayers to you as we walk together by loving forces into 2018.



My Advent Reflection for 2017…

I do realize it is Advent 4 today. But it is still Advent for a few more hours and therefore not too late to post something of a reflection. The season has felt short – I spent the first part of it at home in Calgary before coming back home to Slough.

It has felt a bit disjointed in some ways – trying to maintain the dignity of the season at the same moment as preparing for the Christmas services. As I sit here this morning my Christmas Day sermon is only about half written. I have 5 services to participate in today – 2 preaches this morning, narrating the Crib Service, leading the Reflective Service and presiding at Midnight Communion. With friends over for dinner in between. Phew!

I went to Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford last night for Nine Lessons and Carols – Merry Christmas to me! This was a bit of an indulgence of time – but so necessary and an invitation I didn’t want to refuse. It gave me some ideas of where to take my Christmas Day Sermon – will post that once it’s written!

The journey to Oxford was a smooth one – little traffic, trains were on time and had few passengers. I have done the journey to Oxford many times over the last 3 years by all manor of transport – it is a well worn path for me. Some journeys have been better than others.

The theme of journeys and paths came up in two of my three Advent sermons this year. John the Baptist brings the message of hope for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. John also wants us to prepare spiritually for this coming. There are two things, according to John that we need to do.

Firstly, we need to clear a path for the Lord and secondly that path is to be straight. The original Greek word for paths means ‘a beaten pathway’. By this I mean a well-worn path, a path that has seen some use, it’s been established. In a personal way God wants us to prepare a path.

What does that path look like? Is our path to God straight? I know that mine sometimes is more of a meandering path – taking the long way!

Have we made a path for Him to come and do a major and powerful work in our lives? I trust that God wants us to make a beaten pathway to Him. Come to Him over and over again. We also need to clear that path of debris – this can be anything that standing in the way of God being able to work in our lives fully.

I hope that your path is clear and straight – I know that mine could use a little maintenance.

Much love.