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Recent Lym Zim News

Autumn seems to beckon already and one wonders how the summer months passed so fast! Our annual church fete has once again successfully been and gone and folk have started to enquire about Christmas cards already!

Fund raising has been limited but in March at the end of our financial year we sent £1000 to each project. Due to some extremely generous donations in addition to the annual draw subscriptions, we have recently sent £4000 to Emerald Hill to cover the school fees for boarding, education and hearing support for Faith and Leanne and help towards other Emerald Hill work. A further £3000 went to the Perdo Arrupe centre to help them make a start on their ‘wish list’ for 2017 as described in the last edition of this magazine.

Father Brian

Sr. Hilda at Emerald Hill wrote recently:

“We are so grateful for the support you give two of our students. We continue to have a lot of financial challenges and a number of pupils did not return to school until 3 weeks after the start of term as until then the parents could not find the funds for the fees. Our hostels were built in 1927 and now need many repairs. We have had lots of sporting activities like soccer, netball and volleyball which our children have done well in.*

Celebrations for 35 children who took their first stage of Baptism and a celebration for our founder St Dominic were enjoyed in term 2 and as term ends we thank the Lord for his protection.”

The first Sunday Brian returned to Zim this year he was involved in more than 20 Baptism’s at Emerald where he celebrates Mass each Sunday (photos show some of the celebrations after that Mass). Brian seems to have recovered well from his health problems and the Catholic faith is certainly being fostered at Emerald Hill! A copy of their latest brochure for prospective students/parents/referring agencies arrived in my post last week and will appear on our website in due course.

Some readers will know that my health has not been too good in recent months and I now have home oxygen which is helping enormously but will curtail some of my ‘out of the home’ activities including attendance at events as lifting and carrying are difficult. The plus side to this is that I have more time at home to create cards and crafts but I need more outlets for such items and kind people to ensure sales on behalf of Lym Zim. Maybe you can help in some way? Please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas or offers!

As always I thank you all for the support you give me in this Parish endeavour and our efforts are richly rewarded by the thanks and prayers of those we help.

* When I was last at Emerald Hill, a day out at inter school sport competitions was a highlight much enjoyed by many pupils. They continue to be an important part of school life and social integration.

Matthew 14. 22-23

History can be true in ways which are timeless; and sometimes it can be helpful to see a miracle as a window through which we can glimpse something of the love of God in Christ.
And so, the story of how Jesus appeared to his disciples, walking towards them over the water when their own strength was nearly gone, can help us think about the ways in which Jesus comes to meet us today. You see, we’re all like the disciples in the boat. They’d seen a lot of him; they’d listened to his teaching and prayed his special prayer. They’d followed him, probably at some personal cost, and they’d tried to put his teaching into practise. But now they were stuck. They were struggling to make headway; their boat was in great danger, and there was nothing they could do.

Do you ever feel this describes life for you? You may be good at what you have to do. You may be a committed Christian, a disciple of Jesus and things are going along nicely. And then the bottom drops out of your world.
It seems that despite your prayers and your best efforts the situation just gets worse and worse.
Someone whom you love very much becomes desperately ill, and you’re powerless to help. All you can do is watch them as they suffer, and ask yourself time after time, “Why must it be like this?”
Or perhaps you lose your job, and maybe your home, through no fault of your own, and you struggle, you really struggle to make ends meet. Such misfortune can bring us to the very end of our tether, and sometimes it can break us.

At these times, Jesus may seem to be a pale and distant figure, unrelated to us and our problems. We can all understand this from our own experience, and isn’t this exactly the circumstance which the disciples were facing as they were struggling to keep their little boat upright in a very heavy storm?
If we’re honest, do we have the faith to trust Jesus in desperate situations?
Do we have the spiritual energy to be bothered? Do we even care? Or are we so consumed with our own blackness that any thoughts about Jesus are quickly dissolved in our anger at the way in which we feel he’s let us down?
But, despite our feelings, we need to keep our eyes on him. Especially at times like these, because if we don’t then we shan’t see when he begins to do the impossible.

Peter saw Jesus in the middle of the storm. Our Lord came to him when his own efforts were nearly all spent. Peter recognised him and responded to the invitation to trust, but then he looked away and saw the waves. He took his eyes off Jesus and at that moment he began to sink.
And, you know, it’s just the same for us. There are times when we seem to be in the middle of a raging storm. Times when we’re exhausted and tempted to give up. But at those times, we really need to look up from the waves and the disaster all around us and listen once more to Jesus as he says:
“ Trust me; why have all this doubt?”

There are many times when Jesus asks us to do what may seem impossible. How can we even begin to do the task for which he’s called us? How can we possibly give up that sin which really has us in its grip?
How can we possibly breathe the same air as that awful man or woman who seems intent on being rude and placing obstacles in our path? How on earth could we expect to develop a serious prayer life when we’re surrounded by so much frantic trouble?
Well, if like Peter we continue to look at the waves then, yes, we’ll sink. We’ll sink because we’ll really believe that the situation is truly impossible and that God has left us alone. But this isn’t so. What we’ve been called to do is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our ears open for his encouragement, even if it contains a rebuke. And our wills and hearts must be ready to do what he says. Even if it seems crazy at the time.

Remember the story of the feeding of the 5000.
The disciples must have thought that the distribution of such a small amount of food to so many people was crazy. But they did as Jesus asked and there was more than enough.
And we should never forget that he may choose to speak to us in unexpected ways. Perhaps even through that person whom we can’t stand.
Perhaps this is why we need to ask Jesus to open our eyes and our ears to his presence for us, not just in a beautiful church when we’re involved with what we might think are holy things. But also in the dirty, messy experiences of everyday life. In the encounters with ordinary men and women. In the strained relationships; in the muck and the mire and the lies and the deceit. Jesus is there in the middle of our shame. He’s there for us and he’s holding out his hand.
All we need to do is to look up, smile, and take it.

Matthew 17. 1-9 The Transfiguration

Sometimes we’re privileged to see God’s Peace in other people. I can remember a lady in Wonford Hospital who was very poorly, and yet who was content to die. She had no fear, and she told me as well as the doctors who were attending her, that she was ready to meet God. And I sensed her peace.

I saw this serenity again, in the patience and tranquillity of an elderly gentleman who’d been hospitalised for several months after falling down stairs. He was 97 years old and there was hardly a part of his body that he could move by himself. If anyone had a right to feel sorry, angry, or at the end of their tether, he did. But you could almost feel the presence of God within him.

And so, I can begin to understand just a little bit about the sense of being in the presence of the Son of God which was the great experience of Peter John and James, described in the Gospel reading which we heard just now. The experience which we call the Transfiguration.

We’ve no way of knowing just what was going on before the event took place. Was Jesus praying with his disciples perhaps ? Or was he praying alone?

Maybe he was talking with them about the significance of Moses or Elijah. We just don’t know. But I expect that like me, you’ve sometimes glimpsed something of the peace and beauty of God in other people. And sometimes we meet people who are so close to God, so full of his Holy Spirit, that they seem to glow.

Do you remember the way in which St Paul wrote about the way in which the face of Moses used to shine after he’d been with God? There must surely have been something of this nature about the appearance of Jesus at that time of the Transfiguration.
We’ve no way of being up that particular mountain with Peter John and James, but the presence of Jesus is all around us. It’s this presence which brings peace in the uncertainties and difficulties which face us all. It’s this presence which brings the peace which can transfigure a world which sometimes seems to be collapsing under our feet.

Peter, James and John had their eyes opened on that mountain top. Do you remember the account in St Mark’s gospel where a blind man had his sight restored in stages? Well, Jesus had tried to explain to Peter that God would be revealed through a Messiah who suffered, died and failed; but Peter just couldn’t get a handle on that. But like the blind man , his eyes were opened further at the Transfiguration. The ordinariness of Jesus was pierced for a while and these three saw him as he really was.

But they still had much more to learn, and their eyes were only fully opened after his death. They continued to follow him, but at the end they all gave up and ran away. They ran away because they could see that Jesus was indeed an outstanding failure, and they hadn’t yet reached the understanding that it was through this failure that Jesus was to show the meaning of God.

Jesus shows us God, by showing us what it means to be human. And really being human means being in the muddle and mess that Jesus was in. This is where God is. Peter wanted to grasp the divinity without the failure, but the flash of the divine, the glimpse of meaning, only comes out of the failure. Out of the Cross. There’s no place to find God except in man, and no way to find man except in Jesus Christ.

The Cross helps us to recognise Jesus when we meet him in the random encounters we have with those who suddenly need us .There’s no straight and settled road towards God. The coming of the Son of Man is like a lightning bolt, and you never know when the revelation is to be offered to you.

Perhaps at the most unlikely moment , just when you’re at your most irritable with that boring, grasping person who needs you. The gospel makes us ready for the sudden transfiguration of such moments; ready to see God, to see Christ in the mess of being human.

The temptation , of course, is to stay up the mountain where we might have experienced God’s peace. But the time always comes in this life when we have to come down and live on the plain.
The peace , or the sense of it, may fade. It might even fade to the extent that you begin to doubt that you’ve ever experienced it. That’s why it’s good to speak of it, or perhaps discuss it with a friend.
We need to remind ourselves when we’re walking in the dark places of the valley, that we’ve been up on the mountain top, but until the Lord has prepared us more deeply , it would be more than we could stand to live there permanently.

But if we listen to him he will take us back again and again in ways that will help us to recognise his transfigured presence amongst us today. The word that comes to us, leading us on to follow Jesus, is the same word that came from the cloud on that strange day in Galilee. A word which rings out through the shining image of Christ the Son of God.

A word for us, not just for Peter, James and John. God continues to say:   “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”.

Listen to him!   Amen.

Matthew 11. 25-30

Some time ago, Colin Cowdrey, one of the greatest cricketers of all time, died. He was known and loved all around the world, and at his memorial service, tribute to him was made by the great and the famous. But perhaps one of the most moving parts of the service was when one of his sons stepped forward to speak. The words he used came from the deep love which they shared, and he was able to talk about his father in a way which wouldn’t have been possible for anyone else.

The stories which Jesus told about God are like this. There were things about God which only Jesus knew, and he must have realised that all of the other people he met, including the priests of his time, didn’t know God in this deep and personal way.
Perhaps the closest we can get to understanding this is the awareness which we sometimes have of being united in love to someone else. Perhaps we’ve been blessed by knowing what it means to love someone so much that we can say we’re at one with them, whether they be a partner, a child or a friend. And yet this closeness is only a pale shadow of the way in which love unites Jesus, the Son and God, the Father.

Jesus spoke very clearly about the depth of his relationship to God, but in contrast we are often reluctant to do this.
Have you, for instance, ever felt frightened to talk about your experience of God, perhaps at a Bible study group?
Have you ever been in the presence of people who seemed to know so much about scripture and theology that you’ve been overawed by it all?

Take heart! It was just the same at the time of Jesus. The religious teachers whom he would have known probably spent the largest part of each day studying the Jewish Scriptures. It was believed that those who lived like this would, through their wisdom, come to know God better than anyone else.
But most ordinary men and women barely had time to earn their daily bread. Can you imagine asking someone who probably spent 12 hours each day just trying to get by, to think and talk about a fine point of scripture?

We can easily see how ordinary folk reached the conclusion that really knowing God was reserved for the special few.

But Jesus sliced through all of this. “No”, he said, “You just need to be like a little child”. Jesus came to know and love God not by studying books about him, but by living in his presence. By listening for his voice; by watching and imitating him, and by learning through experience that he could trust God never to let him down. He also discovered that, as they followed his teaching, ordinary people were beginning to know God more and more.

And so, Jesus came to see that he was himself acting as a window on to the living God. Through his teaching, through his words and through his actions people were coming to see who God “The Father” really was.

So, when we look at the teaching of Jesus we can see that his knowledge of the God whom he called” Father” was shown through a relationship which we can understand, if only faintly, by looking at our own human relationships of love. But we know, because the Son of God was so uniquely related to God, that we can only describe him as being one with the Father. And yet Jesus also teaches that God is to be known by us in this same way. How can this be? How can we become one with the Father in this unique way?

Well, let’s look at some of the things which Jesus taught.
He said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”

“Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”

“Apart from me you can do nothing.”

And he said:

“I am the bread of life; whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

Well, there can be no doubt that Jesus expects us to be a part of the unique relationship which exists between him and God. He’s also very clear as to how this can happen.

It happens when we are “in Christ”.

Inasmuch as we are “in Christ” then we know God in the same way as Jesus knows him. And so he’s given us both Word and Sacrament to form and nourish us in himself.

Perhaps sometimes we worry unduly as to whether we really are in Christ; but that’s probably a very good sign that we are. We don’t expect babies to turn into fully grown adults overnight, do we? But they’re in the human race no matter what developmental stage they’re at, and although youngsters might sometimes long for adult life, in the main they don’t doubt that they’ll get there.
And so it is with Christian growth. As we journey on towards full Christian maturity, the Holy Spirit will continually seek to form us more and more in Christ in order that through this belonging to Christ we can love and be loved by Our Heavenly Father. A love which is trusting and tender and childlike .A love which knows, without using words, that our Father would do nothing that was not for our very best.

Charles Wesley summed all of this up in the words of his hymn “Love Divine.”
Let me finish by reading two verses of that hymn to you:

“Finish, then, thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be; Let us see thy great salvation, perfectly restored in thee. Changed from glory into glory, till in Heaven we take our place. Till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”

Corpus Christi

John 6: 51-58.

We all want to be healthy, and we worry when we’re sick. So, we protect our bodies when we do things which we know might injure us; And we try to avoid cuts at all costs. If you’re like most people, you suffer when your body receives a cut.

We find it hard to think of injuring ourselves on purpose for any reason, and the sight of blood for many people is something which makes them look away.
So it’s almost impossible to think about giving our flesh for someone to eat; and it’s easy for us to imagine the reaction from those who heard the words of Jesus about eating his body.

Jesus said in the gospel passage we heard just now, that he was the “living bread that came down from heaven”. He told us that this bread is “his flesh which he would give for the life of the world” and that “whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood would have eternal life and would be raised up on the last day.”

Try to imagine the effect that such words would have had on a Jewish crowd. For them, just as for us, even thinking about eating the flesh of another person was repulsive. It was, and still is, against the Jewish Law to eat animal flesh from which the blood hasn’t been properly drained. The Jews would have found these words of Jesus absolutely horrific.

And there’s more! Jesus goes on to say that he shares God’s life in a special way and wants to bring other people into this relationship with God through sharing his own life, his own flesh and blood, with them.

To the Jews, this would have been blasphemy.

So then, how can we take these difficult words? What do they mean for our relationship with Jesus?

Well, first of all we need to realise that even modern religious practice makes use of ancient ideas.
It’s a fact that every life lives off another living thing. Many pagan religions recognised this, and would often hold sacred meals in which they thought they were sharing in the life of their god . They believed that by eating meat sacrificed to their god, they would share in their god‘s life.

And Christianity uses this kind of language as a way of understanding how believers take divine life into themselves. The beginning of St.John’s gospel tells us that at the incarnation the “Word was made flesh”.
This is the same as saying that the flesh of Christ contains God’s life for us all.

It’s easy to understand that food and life go together. Unless we eat we die. Food, symbolised by bread, which will of course eventually rot, keeps us in physical life, which as we know, ends in death. This was the bread, or manna, which Moses gave to Israel in the desert.

Living bread for the Christian Community, which is the new Israel, keeps us in a lasting life that triumphs over death. If we want lasting life we must eat this bread of life.

God the Father, gives Jesus, the bread from heaven. The work of Jesus is to give lasting life to believers. This is the work which God has given him. And our work is to believe this. Eating and drinking can be understood as taking the very life of Jesus into the centre of our hearts.
We need to saturate our hearts and our minds and our souls with Jesus, the very life of God. We need to be so filled with him that his very self becomes a part of us.

We know now that the gospel passage which we’ve just heard may be taken as a reference to Holy Communion. Bread can’t be shared until it’s broken. Wine can’t be drunk until it’s poured out. We take the bread and drink from the cup with the knowledge that it was shared with us out of love; as God’s sacrifice for us

The heavenly food is made available through the breaking and bleeding and death of Jesus. This sharing of himself is made mysteriously present in the Eucharist, and Jesus explains that through the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, we will be raised up with him on the last day. It’s his promise to live through us as we receive him.

In the Eucharist Jesus invites us to the fullness of life that only the Son of God can give. This beginning will lead, through death to a life more glorious than anything we can imagine. Can we pass up such a love as this? Can we honestly turn away from the one who gave himself for us?

Think on these things when you come forward in a few moments, and give thanks to God for the body of Christ that keeps you in eternal life. Remember these words of Jesus:

“ My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.” Amen.

A Note on Gift Aid

At the end of December 2016, weekly Gift Aid envelopes were discontinued in our three parishes of Axminster, Lyme Regis and Seaton.  Our parishes now take advantage of the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme or ‘GASDS’ which allows us to claim back tax (within certain parameters) from cash put anonymously into the plate at Mass.

Understandably there was initial concern at the change, but the administrative burden on our parish volunteers is now very much lighter as there is now no need to record an individual’s donation each week.

Bank Standing Orders:

There are still advantages to our parishes for individuals to donate by ‘Gift Aid’ and that is through Bank Standing Order.  With the GASDS plate arrangement, there is an annual ceiling figure per parish above which tax cannot be claimed, so Parish Gift-Aid Organizers (and our Treasurer) would be happy to discuss Gift Aid with anyone who would like to become a donor in their own right. Our Gift-Aid contacts are:

Axminster – Peter Porteous
Lyme Regis – Mike Hamerton
Seaton – Tom and Julie Dunnon
Treasurer – Brian Williams

Please see one of the above if you would like to become a Gift Aid donor through Bank Standing Order.

There is a new envelope for One-Off Gift Aid Donations

These envelopes will be held by the Parish Gift Aid parish contacts for the strict purpose of collecting ‘one-off’ donations from donors who are not registered in the parishes for Gift Aid. The occasions when these envelopes might be used are by visitors to the parish or for donations during special services such as a wedding. The envelopes are accountable to HMRC so our Parish contacts are briefed to give them out and collect them back for counting .

If you have any query concerning Gift Aid, please contact Peter Porteous on 01460 221325

Trinity Sunday

Have you ever met someone who’s in love with themselves? Someone who thinks they’re the best thing since sliced bread? Someone who thinks that the world just couldn’t do without them? I have, and I expect you’ve met people like that, too. They’re not really very pleasant because they love themselves so much that they never have time for anyone else. They can’t give love away, because they don’t have any left over. All very sad really, because they don’t actually know the meaning of love at all.

But I expect you’ve also met other people who really love someone else very much. Maybe you do. Perhaps your husband or wife, or a special friend. And in this case, if your love is one hundred per cent you’ll always put them first.
One of the things about love like this, about real love, is that it just can’t exist unless it’s shared with someone else. And when you’re very close to another person like this you often know what they’re thinking before they actually say anything. Two people in love really do, as the song says, “become one”.

When two people are in love, one of them never takes first place over the other. Real lovers are equals because love never tries to control or to take charge. Love always accepts the other person for what he or she is, and is always looking for ways to grow. A good example of this is a man and woman who give themselves to each other in love. And if a child is born out of this love, it’s almost as if the baby is the love, in person, which the two people have for each other.
We could say that the two people who’ve become one in their love, share that oneness with the new independent life which comes from, but is at the same time, a part of it.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen that old Michael Cain film “Alfie”; but the theme tune goes: “What’s it all about, Alfie?”.
And that’s quite a good question for all of us to ask ourselves. What’s it all about? Why are we here? Do we just live for a few years and then die? What’s the point of it all? The big question is “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
An atheist would say that the whole universe is really meaningless and there’s no point at all to our existence.
But most people don’t believe this. Most people believe that God created the universe, and then, the next big question is; “Why would God do that?”
Well, we know from our own experience that real love is just about the strongest force there is. And because God is responsible for all that is, then he must be totally soaked in love.

But, just a minute; we said just now that real love can’t exist in one person by themselves, and so in a way which is really beyond our understanding we have to say that this one God is somehow a family of love in himself. Christians summarise all of this by speaking of the love of God as being shared between God as Father and God as Son, and they go on to say that the love which the Father and the Son have for each other finds expression through the Holy Spirit. A third person in this community of love which we call God.

This one God is always trying to grow his love and to draw everything into the relationship which is the heart of his being. That’s why through the Holy Spirit He created the Universe. That’s why , through the Holy Spirit, the Son of God took human flesh and came into our world as Jesus of Nazareth.
If you read your Bible you’ll realise that Jesus knew he was one with God the Father; united in love which let him share the very mind of God. He knew that God wanted to bring everything that He’d created into a sharing of His life of love. Everything , including all of us here this morning. That’s the Good News, the Gospel, which Jesus taught.

We are all the product of God’s love. We are all very precious to Him. He loves us all equally and doesn’t have any favourites.
God became man in Jesus, so that in Jesus we could become joined to God. That’s the meaning of the love of God.
A love which is so big that He gives Himself away to us in Jesus so that our lives might become one with His. So that we might actually share in His divinity. So that through the Holy Spirit we might share in the love which the Father and the Son have for each other.

So that we might share in the love of the Holy Trinity whose special day we are remembering at this Mass.   Amen.

Pentecost

Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and we rejoice at that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the first followers of Jesus. An event which is often referred to as the Church’s birthday.

But for reasons which will soon become obvious, I’m going to begin by taking you back to the Feast of the Ascension; a Feast which we celebrated just a week ago.

Now, one of the most important things about the Ascension is that it teaches us something new about heaven. It teaches us that because Jesus took it there, our human nature is always in the presence of God

 And today, as a result of Pentecost, as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit in this new way, God’s life is also made permanently present through human life. So you see, Ascension and Pentecost actually go together. They link the human with the divine; in both directions, so to speak.

This means that being religious, or knowing Jesus, can have nothing to do with an escape from all of the messes and muddles which are such a large part of being human. Some people may think they know Jesus because they come to church, have warm feelings and act in a very religious way. But if they also live their life by behaving badly to other people, then I’m afraid their behaviour shows them to be sadly mistaken, because one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus present  to us through other men and women.

It was the departure of Jesus that made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit; and  what the Holy Spirit makes present is done on an entirely human level.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit that was in Christ, constantly makes Jesus present to each of us and continues Christ’s work through us.

Think about this for a moment; we’re agents of the Holy Spirit. He channels the words and actions of Jesus, through us; but they originate in Jesus.

 So the real work of Christian witness is the task of the Holy Spirit. In a very real sense when a Christian person is moved to Christian action, this is the Holy Spirit at work. Christ walks into hospitals, homes and prisons today, wearing your skin and talking with your voice.  Everything that Christ did for his disciples the Holy Spirit will do for us.

Just as Christ taught, corrected and encouraged his disciples, so the Holy Spirit teaches, strengthens and corrects us.

 We know the Holy Spirit, we know Jesus, as a result of the way in which he changes our lives. The Holy Spirit becomes joined to us in a very real way, so that through us Christ continues his work.

Now, much of what we hear about the Holy Spirit has to do with dramatic things. Signs and wonders. Tongues of fire and ecstatic experiences, and I don’t want to suggest that these aren’t important.

You may or you may not be blessed in this way. This may be one way in which the Holy Spirit shows Himself in your life. But please don’t worry if this isn’t your experience, because it’s more important to be able to recognise the Holy Spirit who brings Christ, by the effects that take place in your life.

Do you remember Jesus said something very similar about the Holy Spirit in a conversation which he had with Nicodemus?  He made the point that we learned things about the wind by looking at the results of a storm. He was also making the point that we should recognise the activity of the Spirit by the results of his work.

And the way in which the Spirit works is by using all of those ordinary things which are available to us. Our powers of reasoning, for example, which include the ability which we’ve been given to listen and to learn.

He’ll  also use  other Christian men and women by giving them gifts of teaching and preaching and advice. Some people are used by the Spirit as channels  through which He’ll draw us closer to Him through music or art or loving concern. But again and again his communications with us are through other human beings.

I’ve laboured this point because it’s very common for us to want to think that religious experiences are all about getting away from the ordinary things of every -day life, and soaring into the heavenly realms to be close to the Lord and away from all the dreary common stuff.

The tragedy is that this is actually a mistake, because it’s quite easy to be religious without necessarily being a Christian.

 Think for a  moment. God’s most amazing revelation of Himself was through the humanity of Jesus. Wouldn’t it therefore be quite likely that He’d use the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, within the ordinary bits of His creation. Bits like me and you?

And so, don’t worry if you don’t speak in tongues , or if when people ask you whether you’ve  been born again, you feel that you don’t really understand them.

 The thing to worry about is when any warm feelings  you might have about knowing Jesus become a substitute for his work. Work which will always bring you closer to the common and messy things of everyday life. The sick, the suffering, the poor and those on the margins. Worry when the most important thing about your Christian life is the way in which you worship rather than the way in which you treat other people.

God will keep His promises made through Jesus about the presence and the work of The Holy Spirit. My prayer is that our eyes and our ears may be opened to His presence and work all around us and through us; for that is where he is and what he does.

Ascension Day

All of you will have heard of Albert Einstein. And what I’m about to remind you of comes directly from his famous theory of special relativity.

Imagine two identical twins. One of them sets off on a space journey and returns after two years of space travel at almost the speed of light. He’ll be exactly two years older. But his twin who stayed behind on earth will have aged by thirty years. Weird but true. We think of time as existing in chunks, but that’s only the way we perceive it. A physicist will speak of the space-time continuum. Time slows down if you’re travelling fast. And before you tell me that we can’t travel that fast, let me remind you that the Heidron collider can accelerate sub atomic particles to almost the speed of light. And whilst we’re talking about sub atomic particles, did you know that something as small as an electron can disappear from one place and reappear in another without going through the space which separates the two places? This is a fact, and much of our modern science is built on so called “quantum weirdness”

We live in a really strange universe, and indeed, some scientists have suggested that our universe is just one of an infinite number of parallel universes.

The power behind all of this must be way beyond our ability to understand ; and it’s this power which we call God.

So all this talk about rising from the dead and ascending into heaven isn’t perhaps as weird as it might seem, once you set those gospel reports alongside the weird stuff which science now takes as routine.

But why would God bring Jesus through death and then move him from this world into what is commonly called “heaven”? And where is heaven? Did Jesus take off like a space ship and zoom away until he got there? I don’t think so.

Let me remind you what, as Christians, we believe; it makes a lot of sense especially of the mess which we all seem to be in.

Love is the most powerful force there is. We know this from our own experience. So whatever else God is he’s a God of love. He created us as an expression of his love because love always expands. He created us in His own image in order to reflect His love back to him and onto everything in creation; and we’ve failed. All of us.

But God never gives up. He’s shown us in the resurrection of Jesus that he’s quite capable of creating a new person from the old one. The same stuff but also different. That’s what all those stories about the resurrection of Jesus are trying to tell us. And this new creation will never die.

Where did Jesus go as a result of the Ascension? Well, the universe which we live in is pretty strange and God’s heaven is linked to it. It’s very close, just beyond our perception, but it’s there all right and the Ascension tells us that God’s dimension of reality is open to human beings. Jesus has taken our humanity there. One day heaven and earth will be joined together. There will be no more death, decay , suffering or tears. We shall all rise from death and our hope is that God’s mercy will let us enjoy the beauty of heaven forever. 

Some theologians have taught that in the Ascension Christ moves from a human place to a divine place without ceasing to be human.  Just as he didn’t cease to be divine when he moved the other way to his human place, through the incarnation.  

And so, a novelty has been introduced into heaven.  And that novelty is our human nature. This whole movement places our humanity in the presence of God.  It’s a glorification not only of Christ, but of all human nature.  Christianity teaches that human life draws its dignity not from any particular rights which we think are due to us, but from the fact that because of the Ascension of Jesus , being human was from then on permanently involved in the presence of God. 

It has been said that because of the Ascension we can think of the human race as like a person standing in water up to the neck, safely living because the head is above the surface. This is a good thought; Christ the Head, giving  life to those who remain below.  Christ is now raised above the heavens, but he still experiences on earth, whatever sufferings we, his members feel. 

Christ, while in heaven, is also with us .  And we, while on earth  are also with him.  He is with us in his God head and his power and his love.  He didn’t leave heaven when he came down to us from God; and he didn’t leave us when he ascended to heaven again. 

“Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

May God bless us all to that end.

Amen