Thursday, 4 August 2016

Confronting Religous Violence



The former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has written a fascinating book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. * Dr Sacks remains a widely respected figure, and is a man of some wisdom, to whom we would do well to listen. He challenges first of all the contemporary myth that Religion causes violence, a sentiment expressed, for instance, in John Lennon’s Imagine, and that therefore, religion ought to be, somehow, abolished. Some very serious research has shown that both in ancient and more recent history, only about 10% of wars have been religious in some way or another. The overwhelming causes of violence are rather to be found in disputes, big or small, over territory, power, nationality, money, or even sex. (you never hear anyone suggesting that therefore we should abolish money or sex!)  While religious affiliation may well aggravate a situation, religion has, from earliest times, proved to be the most effective way of cementing different peoples together, in learning how to live alongside one another, and to value and understand different approaches and cultures. Above all, to be a religious person, whatever one’s faith, is, for Dr Sacks, to commit oneself to want the best for the other person.

 

Meeting and sharing with people of different faiths has, for me, been a very valuable thing. The true search for God will always take us away from violence, and towards the heart of love. While other world faiths may therefore show me something of God, I do however believe that ultimately God is to be known most fully as he is in Christ, crucified and risen, and that view can be held with absolute integrity alongside wanting to know more of other world faiths. In no faith other than classic, biblical, catholic and orthodox Christianity, has God really, totally and truly revealed what he is like. To say that all faiths are equal, is to deny the death and resurrection of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I am right, and everyone else isn’t, rather it means God is right! 

 

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus sets out our clear Christian duty to love our neighbour. It is the Samaritan, the despised foreigner, who is closest to God. We are not just to be a good neighbour to those who are different, those who challenge us, those indeed, who, in our heart of hearts we do not like, but we are to be prepared to be helped, and loved by them.

 

Lord God,

Thank you for the human family,

For people of all faiths and none,

Especially those who are our neighbours.

May we learn to promote tolerance and understanding,

And also never be afraid to witness to our faith in Jesus. Amen.

                                                                                                                                                 

 

 *Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.  Published by Hodder & Stoughton                                                                                                                                                               

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Do This in Remembrance of Me


Do this in remembrance of me.

 

From the earliest times of her history, the Church has obeyed our Lord’s command, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ Come to Mass, be present, listen, sing, pray, offer Christ to the Father with the priest, receive Holy Communion, all offered to God’s praise and glory, that we may be sent out to live outside the Church walls what we have done within them.

 

In times of persecution, the only Altar available has been the hands of the priest. In times of peace, the Church has lingered over the wonder and mystery of the Mass, and embellished the celebration with beautiful surroundings, wonderful words and praiseworthy music.

 

In the wonder and gift of the Holy Eucharist, Christ makes himself known. Son of God and Son of Mary, present to our senses simply as bread and wine, but really, truly and sacramentally present in his body and blood. When we are offered the bread of life, as the Priest says, ‘The Body of Christ’, we respond ‘Amen’, meaning yes Lord, I believe that you are truly present.  All that we have to bring here is a hunger for this food, this manna from heaven, this life giving bread. If we are so full of ourselves and our own self-importance, we will hard it hard to make room, but if we know our need of God, then he may enter in, heal us, and save us. 

 

We never just ‘go to Church.’ We are entering a space set apart for worship of God, an earthly shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem. Christ is always here in the Blessed Sacrament reserved for Adoration, and for those in need, in the Tabernacle, the Aumbry. Christ is here in the living words of Scripture, and in each other, for you and I are made in the image of God.

 

‘Behold, I stand at the Door and Knock,’ says Jesus. Let us make the most of his gracious invitation, for in doing so, we will discover how to make the most of life itself.

 

  May the Heart of Jesus, in the most blessed sacrament, be praised, adored and loved with grateful

  affection, at every moment, in all the Churches of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.

 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Thy Kingdom Come: May in Elland


May is Mary’s month, and a month full of Festivals and Celebrations, as we continue to celebrate Easter, and to live out God’s call to mercy in our lives. We begin with All Saints Art Exhibition, before turning to the Feast of the Ascension on Thursday 5th May. There will be a said Mass in All Saints at 12.15pm, and then the principle celebration for both of our Churches, in St Mary’s at 7.30pm, followed by Festive Refreshments.

 

Our Archbishops have asked us to mark the Novena, the 9 days of Prayer between Ascension Day, 5th May, and Pentecost as a particular time of Prayer, under the banner of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. They write

 

‘In the week leading up to Pentecost (May 8th - 15th, 2016) we long to see a great wave of prayer across our land, throughout the Church of England and many other Churches.

Our hope is

  1. for all Christians to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ
  2. for all of us to have confidence to share the Gospel
  3. for all to respond to the call of Jesus Christ to follow Him as disciples, to live out the Gospel and to seek God’s Kingdom from day to day
     
    At the heart of our prayers will be the words that Jesus Christ himself taught us - ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’ It is impossible to overstate the life-transforming power of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that is reassuring enough to be on the lips of the dying and yet dangerous enough to be banned in cinemas. It is famous enough to be spoken each day by billions in hundreds of languages and yet intimate enough to draw us ever closer into friendship with Jesus Christ. It is simple enough to be memorised by small children and yet profound enough to sustain a whole lifetime of prayer. When we pray it with sincerity and with joy, there is no imagining the new ways in which God can use us to his glory.’
     
    We will be keeping our Prayers focussed on this Theme throughout this period, together with 2 particular events to which all are welcome: Bishop Tony will be with us on Sunday 8th May, at 6pm in All Saints, to celebrate an Evening Liturgy, ’The Stations of Mercy’. There will also be a Holy Hour of Prayer, from 9.30am-10.30am, on Saturday 14th May, in All Saints. The Feast of Pentecost, 50 days on from Easter Day, follows on Sunday 15th May.
     
    The same day, Overgate Hospice are celebrating 35 years with a Garden Party in the Hospice Grounds, from 12noon to 4pm. Lynn Lord, our Reader, will be re-Licensed together with Readers from across the Dioceses of Leeds, in Bradford Cathedral on Monday 9th May. Please do pray for Lynn, as we give thanks for all she gives to our life in Elland.
     
    Christian Aid Week runs from 15th to 21st May, while the Parishes’ Walsingham Pilgrimage is from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd May. Please do let me know of any Prayers you would like offered there. It was an absolute joy last year, to have so many candles to light there, on behalf of you all!
     
    The Festival of Corpus Christi, the Day of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist, is celebrated in All Saints on Thursday 26th May at 7.30pm, while the final celebration of the Month is the Visitation of Our Lady to Elizabeth, a festival of Holy Joy, on Tuesday 31st May.
     
    Finally, my thanks to all who hold Office as our Church Wardens and Church Council members, and thise with particular tasks and ministries, following our Parish Annual Meetings.
     
    May the Risen Christ Grant Us His Peace, Alleluia, Amen.
     
    Fr David

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dying you destroyed our Death


 
Palm Sunday, and Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem open the door through which we enter Holy Week, the most momentous week in the Church’s year and indeed humanity’s history.

 

It is hard for us to conceive of a greater contrast than that between the beginning and the end of Jesus' final week. The gospel we hear on Palm Sunday speaks about the crowd’s enthusiastic welcome of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem.

 

However, we know this is a week that swings from one extreme to the other and the shouts of hosanna will become cries of hatred. From palm branches to passion, from hosannas to heckling, from majesty to mockery, from friend to foe, we are reminded that crowds are fickle and of the depth to which unredeemed humanity can sink.

 

The core of this Holy Week is the Easter Triduum, which begins on Thursday evening at All Saints, with the celebration of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. On Good Friday in our Churches we will hear St. John's account of Christ's Passion and we will venerate the Cross. Our Triduum concludes with the Dawn Easter Vigil Mass at All Saints as Easter Day dawns, and we proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus. This short period is the most sacred time in the Church’s year. A time when we celebrate 'the work of our redemption'. Easter Day moves on to the joyful celebrations of Easter Morning in both of our Churches.

 

On Palm Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus' Passion and death according to St Luke. As we begin this holy week we are given a preview of where this week is heading. We approach this week with reverence because we know that the last journey of Jesus was one that he travelled for all of us.

 

As we travel along this path with Jesus and encounter all the people he meets, we re-live the events and have an opportunity to enter into the sufferings of Christ, during his last days on earth. The people involved in his death are so like us that we can identify with them. There is no role in the unfolding drama that we are not capable of playing.

 

The story of the Passion of Christ lays bare the forces of evil and the wickedness of sin. At the same time, however, it reveals the love and the goodness of God - for what appears as the triumph of the powers of darkness will in fact turn out to be the greatest moment of God's saving plan.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Walking in the Way of Mercy



Jesus said "Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

 

I’ve been struggling with our Church Doors recently. They are awkward and heavy things to open and close in the rain. Wet hands struggle with cold keys, the wood expands and swells. The sheer amount of rainfall we’ve had has made the apparently straightforward task of unlocking or locking a door a bit of a trial at times.

 

In this Year of Mercy, take a look again at our Church Doors, and all they represent. We go through them to enter Church, the House of God, bringing our joys and sorrows, our sins and failings, and our thanksgivings. We are sent through them as worship ends, back to our daily lives, to live and work to God’s praise and glory.

 

A door is opened by a key. The Christian tradition has identified Christ himself as the Key, the one who, in a mystical sense, locks and unlocks the entrance of the Church. "O Key of David," we sing in Advent, "you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open." True faith, then, is a divine gift, and no intruder can pilfer the supernatural goods of our holy religion.

 

Christ refers to Himself as a door, the Door of a sheepfold. "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he shall be safe" (John 10:9). How kind and encouraging his invitation sounds, ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9).

 

Our Church Doors are indeed Doors of Mercy. If we walk through them in humility, ready to admit our need of God’s Mercy, then this forthcoming Holy Season of Lent will speak to us of the God who waits and longs to draw near to us.

 

As you walk through the doors of the Church, remember your life is a pilgrimage in God’s mercy.

 

As you walk through the doors of the Church, remember God’s call to open your heart to his mercy found in serving others.

 

May God bless us in the keeping of a Holy Lent,



 


 

 

Lent, Holy Week and Easter 2016

Lent, Holy Week and Easter 2016 in St Mary's and All Saints, Elland: click here

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Year of Mercy




 
In March this year, Pope Francis announced ‘A Holy Year of Mercy’. The Holy Year, with the theme of mercy and forgiveness, is to take place from 8 December 2015 (The Celebration of the Immaculate Conception) to 20 November 2016 (The Feast of Christ the King).

 

The Holy Year will be marked by the opening of the Holy Door in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the celebration of pilgrimages, special celebrations and events in Cathedrals and Churches throughout the whole world. At the heart of the year are the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, from the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in St Matthew’s Gospel. "Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall receive mercy." Jesus teaches us that God is mercy and compassion, and calls us to share this rich treasury of grace in our Christian lives.

 

We will join with many Anglicans in celebrating this Holy Year. May this ecumenical initiative bear rich fruit in drawing God’s scattered children ever closer together.

 

In this season of Advent, we look to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as an example of one who was open to God, and who committed herself to doing his will. Pope Francis writes of her,

 

It is Mary who will prepare us for the Year of Mercy.  I pray that the sweetness of [Mary's] countenance might watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God's tenderness.

 

Mary received God’s act of mercy that she did nothing to deserve.  Rather it came as a totally free gift at the very moment when she came to be.  Because Mary knows the free gift of God's mercy more than any other creature, she wants us to know it too. Through Mary, may we enter in more deeply to experience God's mercy, that we may be able to share it better with others.

 

 

May the Lord bless all our spiritual, and practical preparations for the coming great Festival of the Birth of our Saviour, the Incarnation of Christ. May we pause along the way, and know God’s mercy and Grace. He has given us his very self!

 

Pax et Bonum – Peace and all Good to you! 

 

Father David

 

 

A PRAYER FOR THE YEAR OF MERCY 

 

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” 

 

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God. 

 

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind. 

 

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.