Thursday, 20 June 2019

What are we celebrating on Corpus Christi?

Sermon preached on 20/6/2019 at St. Mary Magdalene, Coventry

Genesis 14. 18-20
Psalm 116 10-end
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
John 6. 51-58

So, here we are again on the feast of Corpus Christi, otherwise known as the one with the strange Latin name.  It is also referred to as the day of thanksgiving for the institution of holy communion. When looking that up on the internet I found that Corpus Christi is also a town in Texas. So what is Corpus Christi about? Well, what we are doing here tonight has nothing to do with a town in Texas.
It is more about what happens every time we gather around the altar and share in bread and wine, body and blood. It's roots obviously go back to the last supper, but it is so much more than that.

The first question to ask is probably what do we call it? In different churches it is called The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, The Eucharist or The Mass. What you call it can depend on your theology or personal preference. I prefer the term the mass, mainly because I find it the easiest to say! However, I think each name can teach us something about what it is we are doing.

The Lord's supper – This is where it all starts really. That night over two thousand years ago in Jerusalem when Jesus had his last meal with the disciples and uttered those key phrases “This is my body given for you do this in remembrance of me. This is my blood shed for you do this in remembrance of me.” and theologians have been arguing about what he meant ever since. In our gospel reading we heard how Jesus describes himself as the living bread. The Jews who heard him at the time were confused by what he meant. We have the advantage of the rest of the story and another two thousand years of theology, and it can still seem like it doesn’t make sense. I mean how can Jesus be bread and bread be his body and wine his blood? Sometimes we have to accept that what we believe may be based on spiritual experience not scientific fact.

Holy Communion – We gather at the altar as a community, that is at least trying to be holy, even if we, the people here and now, don't always manage it. Yet we are part of a church community that reaches across time and space. Here, in this act of receiving bread and wine we are linked with those that have carried out this same ritual over the hundreds of years of the Christian church, and indeed we do join with the angels and archangels and all God's church to proclaim his glory. We are not just celebrating Holy Communion, we are a Holy Communion, a communion of people and angels of saints and sinners but also a communion of souls that can find their redemption in broken bread and wine out poured, in the body and blood.

Eucharist- The word eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning to give thanks. Sometimes looking at the world around us, at the pollution, at the state of modern politics, the pain and suffering it can seem as if there is nothing to be thankful for. Yet, on the night that he was to be betrayed, knowing what was to come, Jesus took bread and giving thanks, broke it. At the start of the Eucharistic prayer we give thanks, as we recall not just the last supper but all the events of the days that followed, we are reminded again of the fact that God loves us and that as Julian of Norwich said "all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." We have a God that loves us, that will redeem the world, that is indeed something to be thankful for.

Mass - We move from Greek to Latin, the name mass comes from the final part of the service, the dismissal which traditionally in Latin was Ite, missa est, apologies to any Latin experts if I said that wrong.  It translates as "go, it is the sending". The modern version is go in peace to love and serve the lord. We are sent out from the table strengthened by what we have received. We are sent to go in peace, to try and live in peace with our fellow man. Something that we seem to be losing the ability to do. We need to think about what we say and type when on social media, to engage in honest and open debate, not just trade insults. This may seem hard when someone else's view seems the worst thing on earth to you. Yet we are also sent to love the Lord, and it's not unrequited love. As we love him so his love pours down on us and we in turn can pass that love on to others. Loving God and loving others helps us also to do the third part of the dismissal, serve the lord. We can serve the Lord by living in peace, loving and helping others. However, doing this is not as simple as it seems and we are fallible human beings. In receiving the sacrament of the mass, we are fed and strengthened by the body and blood of Christ to go out into the world to do the difficult task of living in peace, loving and serving the Lord.

So, I started with the question what are we doing here tonight? We are doing the same as every Sunday morning, but with the chance to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing and why. We are remembering and re presenting the reality of the last supper, the cross and the resurrection. We are being formed into a holy communion, not just here in this time and place but with all the glorious company of heaven. We are giving thanks for God and his saving grace and his reassurance that all will be well. We are being fed and strengthened to go out into the big, bad wide world and spread God's love and peace so that in the words of the lords prayer thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Some Thoughts on Gaudate Sunday and Why We Have a Pink Candle

Advent 3 16/12/1018

Readings : Zeph 14-end
           Phill: 4:4-7
                  Luke 3: 7-18

May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

We have reached the third Sunday in advent, also called Gaudete Sunday. The more observant among you might have noticed that the advent candle we lit this morning is pink, rather than purple.

Gaudete means to rejoice, yet we are in Advent, which can be described as a mini lent, a season that is supposed to be about sombre reflection. Gaudete Sunday is if you like a light in the darkness, a sign that we have almost made it. Although whether you rejoice at it nearly been Christmas may depend on whether you have been super organised and got everything done,
or if you are in a mad panic at the thought of what you still need to do before the big day!

I don't know about anyone else but I can be rather impatient and find waiting quite hard, especially if there’s going to be something nice at the end of it!

Throughout the history of the people of Israel there seems to be a theme of waiting, but it is a waiting in hope and expectation,
that one day the messiah will come, the oppressive rulers will be thrown down.

Our first reading today was from the prophet Zephanianh,
he was alive in an era when Jerusalem and the people of Israel
had seen a great deal of upheaval. They had been conquered by the Assyrias. Their leaders had worshipped false gods in the Jerusalem temple. Zephaniah is a short book, only 3 chapters long and the first two and a half are about how evil the people are and how the trails and tribulations they are living through are Gods punishment on them.
Then half way through chapter 3 we get a change in tone. A remnant of Israel shall be left that can do no wrong, utter no lies. The song of rejoicing we heard this morning follows on from this vision of a better future.
Ultimately it is a song of hope, however bad things may seem God has not totally abandoned his people and one day all will be well.

In his letter to the Phillipans Paul sounds surprisingly upbeat
considering that he was probably writing it whilst under house arrest and with the prospect of being killed at anytime.
In those circumstances I am not sure I would be calling on people to rejoice! I would be more concerned with them putting together a plan to rescue me, but then I am not a saint.

Paul tells the phillipians to rejoice but he also offers some guidelines for how to behave, let your gentleness be known to everyone pray and don't worry, Reading those words today with all the uncertainty we seem to be facing over brexit, national and international politics and what seems a public political discourse that gets more angry and ill tempered by the day.
What Paul is describing sounds a million miles away from what we are experiencing.

Yet I think what both Paul and Zephanianh have to say is very relevant to us today, firstly, don't give up hope, empires may be falling, it may seem as if we are staring in to a cataclysmic abyss, but God still plans to redeem this mess. So whilst we are in a period of reflection and penitence during Advent, it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom.

 We can still rejoice because God is coming to redeem all things.
 More importantly we can be a forerunner of that redemption
 in how we live and how we treat each other.

At the time of John the Baptist the people of Israel were again experiencing being ruled by an occupying force. They were forced to submit not to God but to an occupying force, who were throwing people of their land, paying them a pittance for skilled work, there seemed little prospect of improvement.
This is why the people were so desperate for a messiah.
John the Baptist with his charasmatic preaching and counter cultural lifestyle was seen as a potential messiah, a figure of hope, that's why the people looked to him with expectation.
John however tells them that they need to look elsewhere, he is not the one, there is one that is greater that is coming.

Waiting in expectation for a messiah to come and save you from oppression is a bit different to waiting in joyful expectation when you are anticipating nice presents, good food and drink,
time with family and friends and possibly a break from work. Many Christians will be celebrating Christmas in secret, their lives in danger because of their faith. For others it may mean extra stress and worry. Children may be dreading Christmas because it means mum and dad will drink, and then fight.

How can we wait in joyful expectation in these situations? As I was thinking about this last week I came across two tweets,
the first was a response to someone having expressed amazement at how Theresa May could joyfully sing "O come, all the faithful", given her current political difficulties the reply was that's what Christians do.
The second was from the twitter account Slug Soup, a curious group of cuddly frogs and hedgehogs that tweet about soup and philosophical musings. They tweeted
"we have been thinking about joy.
It runs through your life like a deep, slow River;
like a stream of cool air.
It is crystal clear, you cannot always see it but it is always there."

There is a deep joy that comes from having a relationship with the God that gave himself to us as a tiny baby. It is a joy that doesn't need Christmas trees or presents, good food or other material things to be felt. Sometimes it may even be hard to find,
but it is always there if we wait and if we pray in joyful expectation it can be found.


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Corpus Christi: Bread and wine into body and blood with the help of a fluffy sheep

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 Things may not be what they appear, appearances can be deceiving, don't judge a book by its cover. There are lots of sayings that teach us not to rely on what we see. These sayings still exist despite the scientific age we live in, with it's quest to provide firm evidence for everything.

Tonight we are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ. During the reformation the Eucharist and what exactly Jesus meant when he said “this is my body” was a major point of debate. The reformers claimed that the bread and wine looked clearly like bread and wine so must be just bread and wine.

 However, as I said at the start appearances can be deceiving. To help demonstrate this point, I have bought a friend with me tonight, meet Woolly the Sheep.
Now, Woolly was a present from some friends a few years ago. Now, I like cute and cuddly things and have a rather large cuddly toy collection. Andrew had told my friends not to give me any more as we had no space. So, when I unwrapped Woolly, Andrew's first response was “what’s that? I said no more cuddly toys!” I then pointed out the label round his neck which clearly stated this is not a toy.

 Andrew responded by pointing that he has a head, eyes, ears, four paws and body, it definitely looked like a cuddly toy. However if you look beneath the outer skin, you will find that Woolly here is missing something key to being a cuddly toy, he has no stuffing! Instead he has a hot water bottle. When Woolly is being put to his proper use you may pick him up and if you don't know the truth get an unexpected warm feeling, which tells you there is more to Woolly than meets the eye.

 Receiving the bread and wine in the mass can have a similar effect. Sara Miles had no intention of being a Christian when one day she walked into a church where a service was taking place. She joined the service and in her book “take this bread” she describes what happened when she joined in receiving the bread and wine.

“I still can't explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced: I felt as if I just stepped off a curb or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening – I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was happening-the piece of bread was the “body” of “Christ”, a patently untrue or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening- God, named “Christ” or “Jesus” was real and in my mouth -utterly short circuited my ability to do anything but cry.”

Whilst we may not all have the same reaction as Sara Miles did, we all have feelings that go beyond what out five conventional senses may tell us. We may feel a sense of awe at some stunning sight of natural beauty, find ourselves moved by a particular piece of music, or just feel a sense of something other.

 A few years ago I visited Medjugorje in Bosnia, in the 1980's a group of children claimed to have seen visions of the virgin Mary on the hillside there. The catholic church has not yet accepted the place as an official holy site. However, when we climbed up the mountain to the site, where there is now a statue, I had a sense of it feeling like a special, holy place. In the same way when receiving the Eucharist I often have a sense that this is more than bread and wine.

 Thomas Aquinas writes about the concept of a spiritual eye, the idea that there is an instinctive or intuitive power in the human soul that can recognise the presence of the divine. It is this spiritual eye that allows us to perceive that there is more to the bread and wine in the mass than mere physical human sight would suggest.

 If our inward sense is telling us that we are receiving something so special, so holy, what does that mean for us? For Sara Miles, who I quoted earlier, that experience was the first step on a road that was to lead to her becoming a church leader. That might not be the path we all take, but in the simple act of receiving bread and wine, body and blood, by accepting part of Christ in us, we can all be transformed.

 Our spiritual senses experience the presence of Christ and that presence becomes part of us, strengthening us, renewing and reforming us until we all become part of His body, His feet, His eyes, His hands, His strength to go out into the world and do His work. Amen

Friday, 16 June 2017

Corpus Christi Sermon

May I speak in the name of the Father. And of the son and of the Holy Spirit Tonight we are celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, or as the modern lectionary puts it the day of thanksgiving for the institution of holy communion, which personally I think is a bit of a mouthful. A liturgical act involving bread and wine has been part of the church's tradition since its earliest days. We know that the early Christians were referring to the bread and wine as the body and blood. Indeed one of the charges levelled against them by the Romans was that they were cannibals because they claimed to eat the body and blood. Lets face it on the surface it does sound a bit odd, we come to church each week to carry out a strange ritual and then claim that bread and wine have been turned into the body and blood of a dead man, and then we eat it. So what are we actually doing in church every week? Firstly, we are carrying on with a ritual that was begun by the very earliest Christians. It has its roots in the story of the Last Supper, some churches still refer to communion as the Lords supper, but its meaning goes beyond what happened in a room in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. At that first Lords supper, the disciples had no idea of how not just their world, but the whole world was about to be radically changed. Jesus may have been acting a bit odd and saying strange things that they didn't really fully understand, but that was just Jesus. We have the advantage of coming to the sacrament knowing the full story, not just the breaking of bread, but the breaking of the old world order. It is not just a recreation of the last supper, it is a celebration of the death and the resurrection. Within the mass is the very core of our faith, God became man, died and rose again. It should be something that unites all Christians. Yet, it has become something that can be a big marker of division between the denominations. Over the centuries different groups have developed different ways of thinking about the mass, even about what they call it, and about how important it is. To me as an anglo-catholic receiving the Eucharist on a weekly basis is a key foundation to my faith and my relationship with God. It's what I feel gives me the strength to go out into the world each week and try to live my life in God's way. To my Scottish Presbyterian mother in law, it's nice, but she can take it or leave it. If she never receives it again it she says it won't bother her. We also disagree about what it taking place when we celebrate mass, or the Lords supper. For her the bread is just bread and can be fed to the birds or used to make sandwiches afterwards, the grape juice is just grape juice and can be poured down the sink. The catholic tradition in the church takes a rather different view. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Now, at first glance this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. It still looks and tastes like bread and wine. I am sure if you carried out a scientific analysis, the results would show bread and wine. So how can it be the body and blood? At this point I am tempted by two easy answers, it's a holy mystery we will never understand in this life or it says so in the bible so it must be true. That would be an easy, but I feel unsatisfactory way out. In a time and place where more people are growing up without any knowledge of religious faith and belief being passed on, we need to try and find a way to articulate what it is we do in church and why it is so important, to explain to outsiders the things we say and do that to them might appear slightly weird. This is the point at which I start to think I've set myself an impossible task. However, I will try by looking at the philosophical terms of substance and accident. The substance is fundamentally what a thing is, accidents can be seen as the way things are sensed. So, an example which I hope might make is a bit clearer. I am a person, that is my substance. Nothing I can do will change that. The fact that I have white skin, brown hair and hazel eyes are all accidents. I can change any of those things and whilst the accidents or appearance has changed, the fundamental substance remains the same, I am still a person. So, how does this relate to the bread and wine at the mass? Well, this is where God, as He has a tendency of doing, turns things upside down. Usually it is the accidents, or appearances of things that change but the substance stays the same. At the mass it is argued that the opposite happens, the bread and wine keep their appearance of bread and wine but their substance changes to that of the body and blood. How it happens is indeed a divine mystery, as to why it happens, well, it is a gift from God that can revive and strengthen us when the burdens that we carry feel too heavy, when we look at the world around us and see so much pain and suffering that it seems almost impossible to go on. A sip of wine and a small piece of bread cannot give us the strengthen we need, but the body and blood of Christ can. I hope what I have said makes some sense, but I think the poet John Betjeman managed to say in a few lines what I have tried to say in rather more words tonight. The God who became man in Palestine Lives today in bread and wine. Amen

Sunday, 20 November 2016

My thoughts on Christ the King

Sermon on Christ the King 20/11/2016

Jeremiah 23: 1-6
Colossians 1: 11-20
Luke 23: 33-43

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today is Christ the King, what do we think of when we hear the word King?
If, like me, you are a fan of Disney, you night think of the Lion King, if you are a bit of a fashionista you might think about the fashionable clothes a king would wear. If you are a bit of an egotist you might think about having people bow to you and obey you if you were King.

In general good Kings are seen as people to be respected, looked up to and possibly admired by the people they lead, and in return they expect their subjects to work with them to help build a good and just society. However, a bad king, or any bad leader can also spell disaster.

The people of Israel had a bit of a mixed experience of monarchy. To start with they had no king, but were ruled by judges and prophets. Then the people decided they wanted a king and Samuel appointed Saul, who started well but ended up a bit mad, he was succeed by David. Who after a bit of adultery and murder was succeeded by his son Soloman.

At the end of Soloman's reign Israel split into two countries Israel and Judah, both led by Kings. There were some good kings and some bad kings. During the time of Jeremiah, Jehoiachin came to the throne of Judah. Jehoiachin was generally considered a bad king as it was under his rule that Judah was conquered by Babylon and many Israelites were forced into exile.

At the start of our first reading this morning, Jeremiah is speaking out against this current king, whose decisions have led to the destruction and scattering of the flock, the people of Judah. However, it isn't all bad news, even when it seems like the world is ending, he also has a word of hope, whatever it may feel like, God has not abandoned his people but will come and gather them together again. He will provide for them a righteous and good leader.

Jeremiah's vision is of a king who will reign wisely, who shall be in charge executing justice and righteousness. As Christians we tend to read these lines as pointing forward to Christ. Yet the reading from Luke's gospel this morning isn't exactly a great description of a King. Instead of a crown of gold and jewels He has a crown of thorns. Instead of people bowing down and worshipping this King, they are mocking him. He isn't sitting on a grand throne, but is nailed to a cross. In the words of Luci Shaw “he wore purple only once, and that was an irony.” This doesn’t seem like the great king of Jeremiah's vision, or to fit into any expectation of what a good king should be. This is a King that looks defeated rather than one who is going to have a glorious reign.

Yet despite all this, he still shows certain signs of kingship. He speaks to the penitent thief with a voice of authority “today you will be with me in paradise.” No ifs, no buts, this is what will be. We may be in what looks like a nightmare situation but the King still has the authority to lead us through it to something better.

Another trait that is often associated with great Kings is mercy. Even when on the cross suffering unimaginable agony, Jesus still acts with mercy, saying Father forgive them. We have become so used to hearing this statement, this story, that I think, it has perhaps lost some of it's impact. God's forgiveness is available for everyone, everyone means everyone. It doesn't just mean the people we like and agree with, it means the people we hate, the people we think have done terrible things. It means Donald Trump, it means the leaders of Islamic State. I find this one of the hardest aspects of Christianity to deal with, that God, the God that I love and that loves me, can also love those that hate and want to harm others, that have committed crimes too terrible to think about. Our human nature wants revenge, we want what we see as justice, we want those that have caused pain made to feel pain. Yet the truth is that God's mercy can reach them to, we are all loved by God.

In both the US election and the UK brexit vote there seems to have been a splitting of people into “them” and “us”, everyone in the us group is right and good and only acting out of the best possible reasons, everyone in the them group is evil, nasty, racist and only acting out of stupidity or self interest. Coventry Cathedral has a famous litany of reconciliation, however I found another litany about forgiveness on the internet this week:
“Whenever we speak of them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we ignore speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't condemn speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we stay silent in the face of speech about them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't speak on behalf of the silenced in talk of them and us, Lord forgive us
Whenever we don't offer an alternative vision that re imagines the idea of them and us, Lord forgive us”
We need to seek to understand the concerns of them and work with them to address those concerns. It is only through forgiveness and the coming together of them and us that the fractured wounds of our society can begin to heal.

What does it mean for us today to be subjects of Christ the King? We seem to be living through times of massive change and upheaval, where the unthinkable is becoming reality. I know there are many people who are worried, scared and upset at the direction the world seems to be moving in. It's all very well to say God's in charge, it all work out right in the end, all we have to do is sit tight. Well, God may be in charge, but a king needs his people to help enact his will. As the subjects of Christ the King, we need to stand up for the values of the kingdom of Christ. Love for one another, including those we disagree with, justice that is tempered with mercy, help for our neighbour, and forgiving those whose actions and words have hurt us. Not an easy task, at times it might even seem an impossible task. Later on in this service we will pray the words, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is up to us the subjects of Christ the King, to try and make that line reality.

Christ is not King of this earthly world yet and that means we are also called to follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah, to speak out against those in authority, or those with a loud voice, when they act in ways that go against the kingdom values of Justice, mercy, forgiveness and love of our neighbour.

To be subjects of Christ the King means we all have a calling, to work and act, in whatever way we can, in the situations we are in, to bring the kingdom of Christ into reality.


from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

This Mornings Sermon

Morning Prayer 25th November 2015
Waiting in Hope

Readings: Isaiah 19
                Matthew 10:16-33

Over the past few weeks the lectionary for morning prayer has had readings from Isaiah, and I must admit a lot of it hasn't exactly been cheerful. As far as today's reading goes, well, I wouldn't want to be in Egypt at the time Isaiah is talking about.

War, drought, famine, unwise rulers leading the country out of the right path. Isaiah's prophesy was written to address issues thousands of years ago.

But how much has changed since then?In some ways lots, in order to find out recent news stories relating to Egypt I could use Google, something Isaiah couldn't do.

Yet the results of that Google search of news stories from the last month included stories of tension between different groups of people in Egypt, farmers concerned that their crops won't provide enough, and criticism of leaders for the decisions they take. It all sounds very like the Isaiah prophecy.

When surrounded by such an onslaught of bad news it would be easy to slide into despair to believe that things will only get worse.

That God has forgotten us, all that stuff about a loving God who provides for your every need if you only ask him, seems like an impossible fairy talevwhen faced with the world situation today. Extremist groups seem able to strike at will, and we only seem to care when it comes close tbo us.

There has been seemingly non stop news coverage of the Paris attacks and people pledging solidarity with France. Yet within days of the Paris attacksbthere were at least 200, possibly up to 2000 people killed by Boko Harem in Nigeria and  I don't even know how may will have died in Iraq and Syria in the past week. There has been little news coverage of these terrorist attacks, I have seen no one pledge to stand with innocent Nigerians, or Iraqi's or Syrian's.

The start of our reading from Matthew isn't much better, we are told to go out like sheep amongst wolves.

I don't know a lot about looking after sheep but I suspect if I sent them out among wolves I would end up with very few sheep and a lot of well fed wolves. Not a very comforting image really.
We are then told, in an echo of Isaiah, that families will be torn apart, parents against children and siblings against each other.
People will be forced to flee, as they have been in Iraq and Syria, it all seems very dark and depressing.

Where is the God that cares for each of his children as much as he cares for a common bird? Does He really care that much that He counts the hairs on the head of each one of us, even as we are attacked and murdered. Even Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that recent events make him question God.

When considering all the problems in the world today it can seem a massive unsolvable mountain. A burden that is too heavy for us each to carry without it pushing us down into despair.

.Recently I have been reading the book  Treasures of Darkness  by Jane Grayshon. The author is someone who has suffered from repeated bouts of serious illness, requiring hospitalisation, surgery and on more than one occasion leaving her close to death.  She writes about her struggles to find God in the darkness. In one section she realises that the real problem isn't the pain and illness but the despair that it brings
“ A flicker of new understanding dawned on me. Despair. YesvI thought to myself. Thats my real enemy. More than the pain which takes over my body. Despair eats into my very soul. Instead of thinking of my enemies as surgeons or pain doing nasty things to me. I should think of them as despair which does nasty things in me. Suddenly I saw that suffering was not my worst enemy.  My enemies were those things which crept unseen into my soul and fed despair.”

Jesus cautions us that it is not what destroys the body that we need to fear but what destroys the soul. To counter act the despair which seems to be all around usbin these days of 24hr news we need to go out and clearly proclaim the gospel message of hope for a better future. The recent controversy over the Lord's prayer advert, that has been banned in cinemas, seems to say that there are those who would rather us religious types just shut up and stayed quietly whispering in the darkness, where the rest of the world can ignore us.

But Jesus calls us to go out and proclaim a message of hope. A message which may not be listened to and which to proclaim may have consequences for us, hopefully not include flogging, but may well include hostile reactions and verbal ridicule. We are to face this and to remember that God is with us and will  empower us to live out our faith publicly in a world that seems to want less and less to do with it, but which has an ever greater need for the message of hope to combat the despair.

When we look around the world today it can be easy to find things that will feed the feeling of despair and hopelessness in us. Isaiah talks of the expectant hope that one day Egypt will be at peace and counted equal with Assyria and Israel .

A highway will exist between Egypt and Assyrian and people move peacefully between them. Assyria is in what is now northern Iraq, an area controlled by Islamic State. Peaceful travel may not be possible there at the moment, but Isaiah gives us hope that one day there will be peace.

As we move into Advent, the season of waiting for the saviours arrival, we need to wait in expectant hope, and share that hope with those around us, to feed the souls of the world with hope and not despair.


from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness

Thursday, 22 October 2015

It's Not How You Say It, It's What You Say That's Important

It seems to me that negative comments and experiences have a deeper impact than positive ones. One of the ideas on the McGuire course for people who stammer is the idea of cancellation, if you have a bad experience you try and do a similar activity but with a positive outcome to override the bad one. However, I think I would need 1000 positive experiences to over ride each bad one.

Recently with my speech therapist we have done some work looking at how my speech affects how I see things. This has made me see that some fairly small negative events from the past are still affecting me today. I was teased by a few kids at school, to this day I am still terrified of talking to teenagers. The teacher in charge of special needs told me that I shouldn't take performing arts GCSE as I would fail it because of my stammer. I took it anyway and got a C, but despite having proved him wrong I still have days when I feel my stammer means I will fail at something. Someone told me people won't want to talk to you because you stammer, I still struggle to start conversations because what if I stammer and the other person then doesn't want to talk to me?

My speech therapist set me the task of finding evidence to support these assumptions. How much evidence did I find to support these assumptions? None, not a thing, I stammered people still talked to me, teenagers didn't tease me, people know that I stammer and still have casual small talk conversations with me and don't run away screaming.

Despite this I still struggle with the thought that my speech has to be perfect and if I let even one stammer get in that will be all anyone will notice. The other week I was leading the intercessions at church, I stammered a little bit not much, but I still sat down thinking that I had messed it up. Then someone came up to me after the service and said thank you, your prayers were really good. To at least one person in that congregation the words that I had said had been more important than the way that I said them.

Sometimes when I speak I will get stuck and stammer, whilst therapy and techniques might help reduce it, it will always be there. However, I need to remember that that is not the defining thing about what I am saying. It is the words that I say that are important and should be listened to, not the way that I say it.

from my LiveJournal, Jane Williams - The Wombling World of Madness