Speak Lord: Of our giftedness

spirit-lindisfarne

I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.

Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14

It is not every Sunday that there is a direct relationship between the second reading and the other elements of the Liturgy of the Word. The Gospel (generally) is chosen on the principle of each Sunday offering the next part of a semi-continuous reading of the Gospel of the Year, and the first reading and psalm and verse of the Gospel Acclamation chosen to prepare us in some way or other for hearing that reading. The second reading is from a semi continuous reading of one of the Epistles.

But this week, the week of the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, it so happens that the second reading too relates to a principal concern of the other readings: that we should live the faith we have been given.

St Paul urges Timothy and us to recognise the supernatural gifts we have been given, and our natural ones! And he urges us to put them to good use.

  • What gifts do you know you have?
  • Would you see them as natural or supernatural? Or both?
  • How do you use them?
  • For whom do you use them?

Stained glass window in the Anglican parish church of Lindisfarne. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: help us help ourselves

faith-works

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’

Luke 17:5-10

The Master of the servant can sound a little cold, even unkindly.

It is probably important to note that, as placed in Luke’s Gospel, the parable is a response to the disciples’ request that the Lord should increase their faith. His reply implies you have what you need: use it!

Sunday is the 27th Sunday of the year, and that year is fast approaching its close. Listening to its Gospel reading might prompt us to ask: what this year have I received from the Lord for the better living of my life and the better serving/loving of my neighbour? And how am I using those gifts?

We are not merely servants – the Lord calls us friends. But he longs for us to live more fully of his friendship.

‘By my works I will show you my faith’ Poster for the Year of Mercy in Nantes Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: God in the details

story-teller

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”
‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

Luke 16:19-31

The architect Mies van der Rohe said of his architectural projects: ‘God is in the details’. His buildings are so cleanly designed, so stripped back of fuss that what is there stands out with great clarity and beauty.

The parables of Jesus too are generally pared back to something extremely simple, so that the impact of what remains is all the greater

The parable heard as the gospel reading on Sunday, the 26th in Ordinary Time, was unusually long, but three details are worth noting.

The parable which demonstrates that we ignore doing good at our peril, also makes the point that for the most part what needs attending to, is on our doorstep. In today’s global village our doorstep may extend further than it used to… but a gentle, loving attention to those closest is always a good place to start to live out or calling as Christians, our responsibility as human beings.

It also makes the point that a very little sometimes came make a great difference – in his agony the rich man – just a drop of water…. For the poor man, just the scraps for the table. We might do more but to start where we can is good.

And finally it shows that the bad habits of a life time are hard to break. The rich man, so used to having his own way, still considers Lazarus as his to command.

And yet, as Amos (almost) put it, the sprawler’s revelry is ended.

Detail from ‘The past is the key to the future’, carving in the chapel at the National Arboretum, Alrewas, Lichfield. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Fight

war-memorial-lichfield-cathedral

As a man dedicated to God, you must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle. Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

Now, before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed
by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,
the King of kings and the Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal,
whose home is in inaccessible light,
whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:
to him be honour and everlasting power. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:11-16

The second reading we heard on Sunday, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, urges those who listen to fight the good fight.

The language of violence can lead to actions that utterly betray the Gospel of love and service. And it can lead people to extraordinary selflessness and sacrifice for the sake of love and the whole human family.

We hear the call, and hearing it take responsibility for how we answer it.

  • What is the ‘fight’ you fight today?
  • For whom?
  • Against what?
  • In what way do you fight and what does it cost you?

Bring your responses to God in prayer.

War memorial in Lichfield Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

 

Taste and See: Help for us all?

fear

O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Collect for Mass yesterday , the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, asked the Lord’s blessing on those who are hastening to attain his promises.

Today, let us pause also to pray for those who are far from hastening – be that their fault or not…

Detail from War Memorial, Port Sunlight, Liverpool. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that we may be found

puppets-puppet-museum-marseilles

The almighty Lord says this:

Woe to those ensconced so snugly in Zion
and to those who feel so safe on the mountain of Samaria,
those famous men of this first of nations
to whom the House of Israel goes as client.
Lying on ivory beds
and sprawling on their divans,
they dine on lambs from the flock,
and stall-fattened veal;
they bawl to the sound of the harp,
they invent new instruments of music like David,
they drink wine by the bowlful,
and use the finest oil for anointing themselves,
but about the ruin of Joseph they do not care at all.
That is why they will be the first to be exiled;
the sprawlers’ revelry is over.

Amos 6:1,4-7

The first reading at Mass today, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes – as did last week’s – from the prophet Amos. He describes the decadence of Israel, the Israel which has left the Lord and who are now to find themselves lost, abandoned by the Lord…

The tribes of Israel, the Northern Kingdom are lost to history, vanquished in war, and taken off into exile. Called to be a nation set apart, they find themselves cast adrift and their identity as a group lost…

  • What experiences of being lost and found can you recall?
  • What experiences can you recall of helping someone else  ‘lost’ to become ‘found’.
  • Bring your memories and feelings to God in prayer.

Puppets,  Fort Saint Jean, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris