Thank You, All who contribute to the Soup Run

This Saturday evening was one of those rare occasions when I we saw something on the soup run that couldn't be easily forgotten. It also mirrored the Gospel reading and homily I had read in Church just before we went out and had to read again the following Sunday morning.

As we walked around Bristol we saw a man fall. I ran over to help him and the first thing he did was cover his face shouting “Don't hit me! Don't hit me”. Once he realised I was there to help he relaxed a little and we talked. He told me about the previous night when he had woken up in a car park with a man standing over him about to urinate on him. He confessed to being an alcoholic, and he told me that he drank to forget that he had killed a man when he was serving in the army. He didn't feel that he deserved our help.
There was little we could do to really help him, but for 10mins we were able to show we cared and when I with great reluctance left him he was smiling and said he felt a lot better. The Soup Run is mostly about showing unloved people that in fact they are loved. Homemade soup, cake and rolls show this wonderfully and practically.
I am really proud of our church, the way that everyone pulls together to help. We have over 90 people signed up and helping from all ages of 6 to 90. This weekend what you do made a difference. I man with no hope, totally uncared for felt that he was loved.
Thank You all, never stop loving the stranger and know that Jesus would be proud of you too.
Here's my thank you from after the homily on Sunday morning.

Homily – 2012 Year B – 6th Sunday Ordinary Time

This morning was quite emotional as I added to the end of this homily the experiances on the Soup Run last night. It's the first time I have seen people cry at the homily.

Audio now added, the whole thing is about 10 mins long, the last 2 minutes are not typed up below but added spur of the moment. The image of a lepar being beaten of with a strick just resonated so much with the man I met on the soup run the previous night I had to add it.
God Bless, J

Sunday 12 Feb 2012 - Homily on 6th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 31: 1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

Leviticus is a fascinating book, it can also be tedious and dull. Today we get to hear a little of both. If you followed today's reading in the missal or looked in detail at the bulletin you will find that there are 42 verses skipped in our old testament reading. These verses go into considerable detail on identifying skin diseases, burns, spots and even baldness. The next few verses go on to describe in similar detail how to identify mould and rot in clothing and fabric. It's a great insight for us to the way the Jewish people looked after themselves.

Contagious diseases could have a horrible effect on a people living closely together. They didn't have our level of medical care and quarantine was there only way of controlling the situation.

Closely woven into the thinking of the people of 2-6 thousand years ago was the connection between illness and sin. It wasn't directly stated that if you were ill you were being punished by God for your sins, in fact the story of Job tell us that they are not connected, but people often thought they were.

When you add the loneliness of quarantine to the spiritual loneliness of being punished by God you can imagine how bad it was for someone developing leprosy and being sent to live apart from their friends and family. Also add to that the pain and debilitating effect of leprosy and you have a situation that no person should ever have to endure.

It is a man in this situation we meet at the start of the gospel reading. He however is not keeping his distance and is not covering his mouth and shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” The normal reaction would be for the person he approached to beat him away with a stick. The leap of faith he is taking is extreme, you can only imagine the level of news and rumour that had reached him about Jesus, that inspired him to such faith.

Next we see an exchange of faith and love that almost brings tears to my eyes. The man steps forward, kneels and says “If you want to you can heal me.” Jesus touches him saying “Of course I want to!” At which point he is healed.

Can you imagine being there and seeing that exchange. If it happened today how long before the world knew about it via twitter. The Six O’Clock news would be showing mobile phone videos of the leprosy melting away. A million people would know within the hour, a billion within the day.

How did Jesus expect the message not to spread. Yet he hoped it wouldn't, he didn't come to become famous, He came to spend time with us, He came to teach us, He came ultimately to save us. The fame in many ways got in his way, towns and villages became so choked with people he couldn't even enter them. He was forced into countryside where people had to come to him.

Today's picture of Christ shows us a gentle man. A caring and loving man. Someone who has time for everyone, who loves everyone. Who loves the leper and outcast just as much as everyone else. Paul takes this picture of Christ as his model. Paul sees Christ as a man who puts others first, who spent his life putting peoples needs before his needs. Paul is convinced this is the way to live and he is teaching by example.

Paul was writing to the Church in Corinth but his letter to that church is as relevant to us today as it was to the Christians 2000 years ago in Corinth. It is easy for us to get upset with other people because of the way they think or act. When we get upset we can get sharp with them, or ignore them. Either way how can we spread the gospel if we push people away from us.

During his early ministry Christ wanted to get close to people, families and communities. He wanted to teach them not only by preaching but by example. The fame surrounding him hampered this and he asked people not to tell of the miracles he performed. That changed on the cross, his mission accomplished, he needed everyone in every time, to know Him, to understand Him and to learn of His message. That's why Christ sent Paul, and that's why Paul sent the Corinthians, and that's why you are sent today.

I have never met anyone with leprosy, but I meet lonely people and sick people all the time. Some I can give practical help to like the homeless we meet on the soup run. Some people I spend time with just listening to them. Some people just simply become friends. I seldom lead with direct Christian teaching, although sometimes when I think it's appropriate I do. Mostly I try and be helpful, I try to care, I try to give them some time. I know I don't always get it right, I can get angry and frustrated with people and I can drive them away. Sometime I am to wrapped up in myself and I don't even notice them or their needs.

I wish I was like Paul, with the faith to say follow my example. I am not, but I do try to follow Paul's example and Christ's example. And that is my challenge to you this week, try to use Paul and Christ as your model. Try not to be offensive to anyone, try to be helpful to everyone. Try put put others, not yourself, first. If they see Christ in you, they can meet him personally, and once they open up to Christ and ask if he wants to help them, you know he is going to step forward with open arms saying “Of course I want to!”

Advertising Standards Bans Healing Prayer Claims

I have just watched a local news program featuring a story about a how Christian group have been banned by advertising standards from claiming that God and prayer can heal people. They then asked the viewers to email and tweet their thoughts, from a quick look through the twitter comments I guess 3 out of 5 people were strongly against prayer for healing, describing it as irresponsible, misleading and unfounded. 1 out of 5 were neutral and the last 1 out of 5 were Christian supporting or quoting examples.

I am worried about the majority view, I don't see myself as irresponsible and I would hate to mislead anyone, but I do believe that prayer can heal. Many or all of the major world faiths believe in Devine healing. Christian scripture gives us many examples of healing by the prophets, Christ himself and the apostles and believers who came after Him.

I think what worries me is the assumptions other people are making about my faith. There was an assumption that prayer should be used instead of modern medical care. I find that assumption quite ridiculous and therefore agree with several of the tweets of people who are against healing prayer. It would be irresponsible to stop someone seeking medical attention with a claim that prayer could heal them instead.

I believe in God and his son Christ as my saviour. I am also fascinated by science and our our desire to understand the world arounds us. I see no conflict between the two. A doctor can cut out a cancer and drugs can stop an infection. Let's use these wonders to save lives.

But if you have a faith, and if you are open to it, prayer can also help. I can't prove this, I don't want to even try. My faith is just that, it's not built on proofs, it has developed from love, from smiles, from relationships with Christian friends and is getting stronger as I spend more time with God. I can't see or touch or hear Him, but I have built a relationship with Him and I trust him to guide me in my life here on earth.

When my dad got cancer I prayed for him, I prayed for him to be cured. I also was very glad he got the best possible care from the medical profession. He died three years later, a horrible and painful death, he wasn't cured miraculously. Does this mean medicine doesn't work, no it means we don't know enough yet to cure all cancers. Does this mean prayer doesn't work, no all it means is that my prayers weren't answered as I wanted. I do know that I was supported through out his illness, and I think in some ways my dad was as well.

Prayer being sold as a guaranteed miracle cure is wrong. Prayer is a conversation with God, if you want to start that conversation it can and will take you to many wonderful places, healing could be one of them but that is not guaranteed. I know personally that I couldn't be without prayer and God in my life.

I am really sorry some people are worried by the Christian faith, to me it makes sense. Its not about magic, miracle cures and the moral high ground, it's about love and caring and that shouldn't worry anyone.

Job - Homily - 5th Sunday Ordinary Time - Year B

First: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm: 146
Second: 1 Cor 9:16-19,22-23
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

This morning I preached without the normal notice period so I hadn't had the time to prepare as I normally do. The advantage is that the Homily is preached from notes rather than scripted. That gives the Holy Spirit much more scope to direct my words as I am delivering the homily. The disadvantages are that I have much more opportunity to waffle, and cant' include the detail and crafting I like to. It also means it's more difficult to post the homily here as it was never writen down. I did however type some very quick notes this morning before heading to church, and as I was using the iPad to read the notes I was able to record the homily so if you would like to hear what was said please use the link below.
As you can see and hear the notes and the audio are related but I very quickly moved away from from the notes.

Simple healing, no big event not ceremony, he took her hand
Everyone came, the whole town
A quiet place to pray
The human side of god, the personal view
Prayer said by the deacon while preparing the wine "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
Doing what you are called to do
Enjoying your work, do what you enjoy
But there will be time where nothing goes right
Job had loss everything his family, his farm, his wealth and his friends and the elders were lecturing him on what he must have done wrong to deserve it
Job though sad, grieving and depressed in today’s reading stayed with his faith and was in the end returned to good times
Staying strong in faith and doing what we feel draw to do compelled to do is todays message.
Christ came to heal, preach and ultimately save us
Paul came to tell us about Christianity
Job is and example of struggling to understand but staying with his faith
We all have gifts and talents, use those gifts and talents for God

Writing Music - Guido D’Arezzo

Did you know that until the 11th century music could only be taught and learned by hearing it. That's the main reason we dont know what music the psalms were originally set too. No one could write music down on paper as we can today. The very confusing patterns of dots on lines I am struggling with right now were originally developed by an Italian monk called Guido D’Arezzo, as a way for music to be learned without ever hearing it. He wrote in a letter to a friend:

Pope John, who governs the Roman Church, heard of our song-school’s reputation. He heard in particular of how, by means of our antiphoners boys could learn songs they had never heard. He was greatly astonished, and sent three messengers to bring me to him… The pope was most glad to see me… and asked a great many questions. He turned over the pages of the antiphoner as if it were some great prodigy… He did not move from the place where he sat… until he had learned to sing one versicle that he had never heard
Guido also gave us the naming for the notes in a musical scale, by using a hymn in praise of St. John the Baptist, ‘Ut Queant laxis’ where each line began with a new note of an ascending scale. The syllables sung at the beginnings of each line could be separated from the hymn and made to represent each note of the scale:

UT queant laxis
REsonare fibris
MIra gestorum
FAmuli tuorum
SOlve pollutes
LAbii Reates, Sancti Johanne

If like me you don't speak Latin here is the English version of the hymn.

So that your servants may, with loosened voices, resound the wonders of your deeds, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John

These notations do, ray, me, fa, so, la, (te came much later as it wasn't part of the medieval scale) allowed more complex compositions to be distributed to a much wider audience and ultimately to Julie Andrews and an Austrian family running around singing in clothes made out of curtains.

The letter from Guido is quoted from The Story of Christian Music by Andrew Wilson-Dickson, (Lion Publishing: England, 1992).

Learning to Sing

I love music. Brice Springsteen to Beethoven and Amazing Grace to Living on a Prayer. Music is special, music is a gift, and music adds something special to words. I love the way music and songs capture feelings. They can lift your spirits and let you soar, they can bring tears to your eyes and pain to your heart. They wind themselves around your memories so much that a song you haven't heard for thirty years can take you straight back to the moment you heard it. Songs bind people together, couples have songs, countries have songs. We sing songs of love, songs of worship. Music can be happy and sad, funny and inspiring it can even be educational. I love music, but I can't sing or play a note. Which is a problem as this year I have to sing the Exultet, a 10 minute plain song, singing the praises of the Easter Candle.

So I have to learn to sing, which means practice and some very frustrating hours for my teachers. I have been amazed at how I can't hear differences in notes that they can. I'm flat here or sharp there. It all sounds the same to me. Then we go right back to basics, just like they did in The Sound Of Music, and I started practising scales. Do, Ray, Me, Fa, So, La, Te. Only five notes to start with, C to G. I downloaded a piano app for the phone and a frequency analyser for the iPad. When I played the notes on the piano I could see them appear on the iPad as lines, then all I had to do was copy them with my voice. An hour later I could copy the 5 notes, two days later I can manager 7 notes. I need nine for the Exultet, I have 2 months I'll get there.

I have practised every night this week, and I can feel my voice getting stronger. I can almost hear the difference between a good note and the normal bad ones. I am having fun and like a small child I love the surprised looks on the faces of those around me when I get things right and improve. Learning something new, learning something as wonderful as singing is a joy and a privilege. I don't think I will ever be a great musician or even an average one, but God has given me a voice, he's given me a love of music, and he's asked me to sing for him. Lucky me!