Taste and See: Work to do

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Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

The Lord offers to move heaven and earth to bring his people back to him. Valleys are filled in and mountains laid low so that the people God calls can travel more easily, more speedily, to return home to the Lord.

  • What are the barriers between God and his people?
  • How might you help shift or reduce these?
  • What are the barriers between God and you?
  • Who might you help shift or reduce these?

Image of Centenary Square, Birmingham, 2016. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: Help us to hope

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‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

​The message is indeed joyful. Freedom and wholeness, liberation and mercy is offered to those who have known punishment and confi​nement, frustration and misery.

The Lord orders the prophet to offer this goodness, because it is for the betterment of his people.

Though our baptism we share in the prophetic ministry of Christ and his Church. We too are called to be ministers of consolation in the world, missionary disciples who do not only talk to each other, but go further to those others who are also part of God’s people.

The message is joyful, but sometimes the intended messengers are hesitant or even refuse.

  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 highest, where would you place yourself on the scale. And why would you find yourself at that point?
  • Where would you put your parish in its response to the call of the Lord?

Photograph: At a caravanserai, east of Konya, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Wake us up!

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:33-37

With all the noise of the secular Xmas going on around us, even the the idea of the opportunity to sleep our way through the coming weeks might seem like a distant dream.

But Jesus calls us to a spiritual awaking, an awareness of the presence and the call of God who is always and everywhere with us.

In this first weeks of Advent the focus of the Church’s Liturgy tends towards the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. But in between the First Coming of  the Incarnation and Nativity, and the Second Coming there is the abiding presence of Jesus Christ to us, not least (as we were reminded in last Sunday’s Gospel in our neighbour and especially those in need).

HMS Belfast, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Renovation

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Collect for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Almighty ever-living God,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray,
that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
may render your majesty service
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
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 Gospel of yesterday – the judgement of humankind, and separation of them out to those blessed by the Father, and those who are to depart with their own curse on them – can put the frighteners on us.

Fear is often a paralysing and debilitating thing, which inhibits life and love. It keeps us from the truth of things and confines us to the prison of our own worst imaginings.

The Collect for yesterday provides a healthy and helpful reminder of the reason for the teaching of Jesus about Judgement. It is offered here, now, to help us respond to it. To know afresh what love is, and the consequence of selfishness, here, now. And his love shown to us even in the telling is offered to assist us to what is good and best, and possible!

If the Lord knocks down, he does it to build up, and – together with us – to build up better.

  • What new thing might you do to cooperate with God’s love for you and for your neighbour?
  • What help might you provide to others to hear of the love of the Lord?

Building work. Paris, Left Bank. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: minister of mercy and judge…

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”

Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

Gospel for Solemnity of Christ the King
Matthew 25:31-46

Which of us can claim never to have neglected those in need: brothers and sisters who we could have assisted.

Sometimes our neglect has been wilful – and we can have all sorts of justification: ‘they brought it on themselves’; ‘they need to learn’; ‘I’m too busy; let someone else do it’, or just, ‘I don’t care’…

Sometimes our neglect has been unintended: we simply have been too busy, or too frightened to intervene, or, or, or…

The chilling parable is told by the Lord of mercy. He warns us of the harm we do to the community of love, to him himself and to our brothers and sisters, but he does it now out of love even for the unloving, the unlovely… He does it for us at our worst and out of love for us.

Detail of Judgement from Autun. Trocadero Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. (c) 2011, Allen Morris

 

 

Taste and See: Community and Hospitality

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Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

Gospel for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

The parable ends on a sad note. In a culture which sort of  feels it is unfair unless everyone wins, we might wonder about the morality of the Master. Maybe the frightened servant really couldn’t help how he behaved and needed love and care to gt over his ‘block… And maybe a better title for this parable than the usual ‘Parable of the Talents’ would be ‘The parable of the frightened servant’…

Maybe then we would see not only the consequences of responding to opportunity to trade effectively and the virtue of good capital investment, and how good managers reward good workers, but also see some shortcomings in the successful servants and in their master.

If only the ‘good’ servants have tried to share the good news with the one who is locked in disbelief and fear; if only the master had wondered why he was only ready to entrust this one with one talent… Things could have been so different.

As they are outside of the world of the parable where our Master comes in flesh for the sake of the sick, those who are told the mercy of God is not for them and who are fearful because of the lies and because of their sins and weaknesses.  He comes for them not to banish them but to help them find their home in him.

And he entrusts the message of sharing the good news to the fearful to the countless millions who already share his life and form his Church….

  • How does your parish or faith group reach out to the fearful?
  • What part do you play in this common work?

Art Gallery and Canal, Walsall. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Perfection!

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A perfect wife – who can find her?
She is far beyond the price of pearls.
Her husband’s heart has confidence in her,
from her he will derive no little profit.
Advantage and not hurt she brings him
all the days of her life.
She is always busy with wool and with flax,
she does her work with eager hands.
She sets her hands to the distaff,
her fingers grasp the spindle.
She holds out her hand to the poor,
she opens her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty;
the woman who is wise is the one to praise.
Give her a share in what her hands have worked for,
and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

First reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

This woman, this wife, gives security to her husband, is a source of blessing to her household, her children (mentioned in the fuller passsage, but not included in the Lectionary extract), her neighbours, her community.

She echoes the blessing that God offers to Israel and she incarnates it in her flesh and in her life.

This portrait of the perfect wife concludes The Book of Proverbs and it sets a challenge before all as to how we live and share the blessings of God.

Image of Saint. Walsall Art Gallery. (c) 2017, Allen Morris