• Canon Robbie’s Reflections (8/9/2020) by Jane Kustner

  • All will be well (8/9/2020) by Jane Kustner

    Sermon delivered by Reverend Valerie Pearce
    Matthew 14: 22-33 (9 after Trinity – 9 august 2020)

    Most of us, most of the time probably like life to be ‘normal’. We like to know where we are and to have some sense of control over our lives. We may have a strong sense of God’s blessing when we are in control. But where does that leave us, and where is God in such times as we’ve been experiencing this year, where our lives have felt increasingly and bewilderingly out of our control.

    It seems that the story in the Gospel today may have something to teach us in this regard.
    Jesus had told his disciples to go off in their boat after the feeding of the five thousand, probably because the people were becoming worked up into a frenzy, thinking that Jesus was a wonder worker and the answer to all their problems. Perhaps the disciples did too. He wanted to go off and have some time of solitude and prayer.

    So the disciples went off in their boat and then a storm had appeared from nowhere, just like Covid-19, as it so often does on the Sea of Galilee, and they had to work with all their skill to keep the boat afloat. They were desperate and fearing for their lives – and then they saw Jesus walking on the water; they were taken by surprise and at first thought it might be a ghost, but he called out to them. As soon as they realized who it was, they calmed down, they believed he could do something to help them in their plight.

    But Peter, as impulsive as ever, got out of the boat, but realizing how rough it was, became afraid and began to sink. Jesus put out his hand and saved him, chiding him for having little faith. As soon as they both got into the boat, the storm ceased.

    So, this story we’ve heard in the Gospel today surely has two main things to teach us about discipleship and faith.

    First of all, we can expect that in the course of our life and our journey of faith all will not always go to plan, and we will meet with trials and difficulties.

    St Theresa of Avila, a 16th Century Carmelite nun, who found herself stuck in mud on one of her journeys between her convents, is recorded as having shouted at God, ”If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies”!

    The trouble is, that we can believe at one level that God is there and will help us, but at times this may not be evident, and the pain and difficulty may be very hard to bear.

    Sometimes, like Jesus unexpectedly appearing in the gloom beside the lake, the answer or help for our problem may come from an unexpected place or person, and we may sometimes only realize with hindsight how we’d been helped. But strangely, those who have had most to bear in life can often teach us most about the love and strengthening that faith in God can bring.

    I had a conversation with a woman at a church where I was helping.
    She started the conversation by saying that it was sad that so many people, when the going got tough, gave up on God. She went on to say that she had been brought up in Care- which was tough- and she had been abused. She said that she was taken to church on Sundays, but it was very much ‘hell-fire and damnation’, with dire warnings of what would happen if the congregation misbehaved, although she did enjoy the Sunday school. But despite all the trials and traumas she had experienced in her life, somehow she had come to know and trust in the God of love. She felt supported and sustained by this through her life’s journey.

    The second thing we can learn is from Peter’s response. We somehow believe we can put things right in our own strength – and then we sink or fall flat on our face. Peter was a failure over and over again. He wanted to do well and be strong, but he was always failing and getting it wrong. But ultimately, he was singled out – after what could perhaps be described as his greatest failure, when he denied that he knew Jesus three times – to be the head of the disciples. It didn’t matter that he had failed; what mattered was that he had truly loved and been prepared to ‘hang in there’. So God was able to use him for good. One of our wise Sisters once said to me, “If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything’!

    Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish diplomat who was the second Secretary General of the United Nations wrote in his spiritual book called Markings,
    ‘God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in Him
    But we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated
    by the steady radiance, renewed daily,
    of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.’

    And, in these times that we’re living through, we can surely take heart from these words of Julian of Norwich, the 14th Century mystic, writing in her Revelations of Divine Love:
    He did not say
    you shall not be tempted;
    you shall not be troubled;
    you shall not be distressed,
    but He said,
    you shall not be overcome.

    God wills that we take heed to these words,
    and that we be very strong in certain trust,
    in well and in woe,
    for He loves and delights in us,
    so He wills that we love Him and delight in Him
    and strongly trust in Him
    and all shall be well. Amen

  • All Lives Matter (8/3/2020) by Jane Kustner

    We have a dream: this nation will arise,
    and truly live according to its creed,
    that all are equal in their makers eyes,
    and none shall suffer through another’s greed

    We have a dream that one day we shall see
    a world of justice, truth and equity,
    where sons of slaves and daughters of the free
    will share the banquet of community.

    We have a dream; our children shall be free
    from judgements based on colour or on race;
    free to become whatever they may be,
    of their own choosing in the light of grace.

    We have a dream that truth will overcome
    the fear and anger of our present day;
    that black and white will share a common home,
    and hand in hand will walk the pilgrim way.

    by Michael Forster
    from Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New #715

    Are those words but a dream? Or is it the beginning of the fulfilment of the dream..? Or is it but another bunch of useless words, to annoy some, and, or to placate others?
    Why all the questions? Well simply at a point of my life in the past, the words held a very powerful and symbolic infusion of something that could become a reality, I do confess that for the present it has changed back to something in the very distant future that may or may not come to pass,, as seen recently in the USA, and most certainly from my personal experience in South Africa and in the UK
    The words concern that very intrinsic evil of society called RACISM.
    It is intrinsically evil, because it informs the surface what is happening deep down in the minds, and heart of humankind (in fact I am even loathe to use the words humankind with regards to ANYONE who is a RACIST)
    As I am unwilling to believe that any decent God Fearing, and God Loving person who forms part of Humanity will even condescend to the very thought of being A RACIST.
    Diane and I have lived through this Racism for many years, as an anti-apartheid activist, as well as having been incarcerated because of such activism .
    Some years back during my ministry in Wales, on more than one occasion, I witnessed as this racism reared its ugly head, where with people of colour, myself and Diane were abused.
    The question I ask is where the church have been in all this ….? Or….what has the church to say about this? Frankly they have been where they always are, in their private snug little places, and they have said what they always say ….nothing. Or they become “nominal Christians
    ”, rising to the immediate response , and well frankly , just leaving it there , without any follow through , without any sustainable guidance , and help for those who have been abused .
    We as people of God in the church are challenged, to begin a journey of confrontation to rectify that silence, to assist all Gods people who dream the life of anti-Racism, by actively engaging in a process of teaching their people, that it’s not good enough to remain silent, that it’s not good enough to stand in the shadows, and say …”O shame “we would never expect it “…amidst many other clichés
    Dear friends, lets free ourselves from the shackles of silence, and become active partners, in supporting those who are in the throes of fighting all forms of racism, and injustice….because ALL LIVES MATTER TO God …….the question is ….when the roll is called up yonder will you be there ?

    Robert F Dennis (Chaplain)
    St Andrews Chaplaincy
    PAU, Aquitaine. France
    June 20202

  • Following the Science in a post Covid world (7/2/2020) by Jane Kustner

    Follow the Science.

    On a recent retreat I read “Blue Sky God” by Don McGregor. The central tenet of the book is that God is the consciousness, the Ground of Being that sustains the material reality in which we live, stemming from the concept of conscious particles/waves in quantum physics. (Ch1 loc 230) I recommend this and the film “What the bleep do we know” as a great introduction for the non-scientist to this subject. Watch it for free on Youtube!

    But of course there is nothing new under the sun! “Everything that is in the heavens, in the earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness. Hildegarde of Bingen (12th century mystic).

    Imagine the smallest particle in the universe.  At the quantum level, we cannot pin it down because whenever we try to observe it, it changes because it is being observed.  Scientists have concluded that this particle is conscious and at this level we are all related. The universe is connected via this consciousness; this is the ground of being that is common to everything: animate and inanimate.

    Do you find this fascinating and exciting?  Does it not make sense of prayers, healing, praise?  If the ground of being can be influenced and changed, could it be true that by prayers and praise we are able to change the world one tiny particle at a time.  Could it be true that miraculous healing is healing at the sub-atomic level? I get excited when science catches up with the deeper magic of the universe!

    If we consider the greatest commandments: love God, love neighbour, they gain substance and meaning beyond faithful worship and being a nice person. Is Jesus, less well known as a quantum physicist, saying that at the sub-atomic level, the basic structure of the universe is held together and can be transformed by LOVE.

    Jesus taught us that humanity is or could be one with God – I am in the Father and the Father is in me –  and we can be one with god and each other;  completely united, connected. Jesus’ healing and other miracles actually demonstrate the fabric and structure of the universe. Can quantum physics explain how he could pass unseen through crowds, walk on water, heal the sick? At the sub-atomic level there is God – at the massive universal level – there is God and it is all about vibration and frequency. Love changes the frequency, love changes the world!

    The scientists have shown that at the sub-atomic level there is a consciousness that is influenced by what we do, how we live, how we vibrate.  Hildegaard told us that there is a relatedness that sits at the very centre of existence. Jesus told us that loving God and loving neighbour would transform the world.  It fits together.

    During the lock down people were reaching into the church online.  Some of them see a world that is disintegrating.  They see the fruit of human ingenuity failing to find answers to the deterioration of our environment and society.  They see greed and selfishness destroying our planet. Where is God in all this? If God exists God is powerless and not in control, irrelevant or out of touch, or even God is a despotic tyrant.

    Many people who do not attend church clicked into our services during lock down.  When they reached in, did they sense that we are in possession of a great secret that could transform them? Did they begin to dare to hope that there might be answers to their pain, confusion and the problems of our world? Or were they simply entertained by something different on the internet?

    How many times have we heard the expression “following the science” during the pandemic? The coming together of science and God in our day should make us pause and reflect.  Perhaps we can find a language to connect with those disaffected, disappointed or disconnected with the Church, those simply looking for a time-filler in long days of isolation.

    When our doors reopen for business, let’s not rush back in and return to “normal”, we may leave our online friends outside, shipwrecked in the world wide web.  Let’s take a moment to ask some questions. What have we learned from our visitors and each other: about ourselves, about God, about how we do church? How can we be renewed, refreshed, rebooted to be Christ’s body in a post Covid world? How can we communicate the greatest news in the universe?

    Maybe if we follow the science……..