Tag Archives: prayer

Choices and Consequences

apple logo

I wonder how many of you own an iPad or an iPhone, or perhaps an Apple Mac computer.  Although the book of Genesis does not say what the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil was, for some reason the apple seems to have been adopted as the fruit – and so we have Eve’s pudding and men in particular have an Adam’s apple. And then there’s Apple computers with their logo of an apple with a bite (byte?) taken out of it. In the film The Matrix, the lead character, Neo, acquires various skills and abilities simply by downloading them via a computer interface – much as we download ‘apps’ onto our phones or tablets. There are so many useful apps – ones which track what exercise you take or help you with a diet, providing so much information and analysis. On the radio the other morning, there was a discussion about university courses being available on the internet so that people could study for a degree from home and what people might be missing out on by doing so.

Learning via the ‘apple’ route appears far easier and cheaper (the internet university modules are free) than years of studying books in a classroom, doing extensive research or practice. Adam and Eve give in to temptation – with spectacular consequences. Jesus resists temptation. We are rarely tempted by the ordinary, the ugly or the boring routine.

Temptation is always presented to us  as something attractive, something which will give quick results, a shortcut to a desired outcome, something which will improve our lives – whether it’s the knowledge of good and evil via a piece of fruit, or some labour-saving device, wrinkle-banishing beauty cream or alluring perfume – we are susceptible. It’s not that these things are wrong in themselves.

Eve was tempted by fruit – good, nourishing, by the gift of knowledge. In our gospel reading, the devil tempts Jesus with making food, winning influence, getting people’s attention.

Temptation often takes the form of an easy option rather than a hard one. One option might involve cutting corners to get where you want to be – or even where God wants you to be – while the other option involves completing the course, regardless of the terrain, to get where you need to be. And so competitors are tempted to take a shortcut in a cross country race on foot or horseback.  The problem with cutting corners is that you often fail to learn anything from the experience and/or we wonder what satisfaction there could possibly be in winning a race, knowing you have cheated. As an extreme example, the person who gets a friend to take their driving test for them may have a licence but will lack the skill to drive and be a danger to themselves and others.

Jesus’ example of resisting the temptations he was faced with in the wilderness shows that overcoming temptation not only makes us stronger but is bound up with issues of integrity, morality and mission.

It is a question of doing things God’s way rather than our own.

Doubtless we could think up many different ways in which we might grow our churches on this peninsula. Psalm 127 : “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain”. We face choices between many good things – all the good things we could achieve in our communities.

But unless it is God’s way, it will ultimately not succeed. And so we must pray continuously, every step of the way so that God’s way will be made clear to us. Prayer must be at the heart of all that we do and decide as we look to the future. For that reason, the team clergy decided some weeks ago that we would offer the opportunity for us to pray together for that vision of the future to become clear.

The first of these weekly meetings is this coming Tuesday evening (11th March) at 6pm at St John the Baptist church, Butley. It will be for no more than 30 minutes and will be at the same time and in the same place (nearest the geographical centre of the benefice) every week. If you feel unable to come in person, please consider making time to join us in prayer in your home or wherever you happen to be. Resources will be provided.

As well as meeting in prayer, there is also the opportunity – open to all – for us to explore our vocation as a church in learning and discussion. Please put in your diaries now the first 4 Thursday evenings or Friday mornings in May when there will be a series of meetings led by the Rural Dean, Clare Sanders and the Diocesan Director of Ordinands and New Ministers, Mark Sanders.

The Thursday evening meetings will be at 7.30 in Boyton Village Hall and each session will be repeated on the Friday morning at 10am in Barts Hall, Orford.

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Good to be here

It’s good to be here in church! At least I hope it is.

It’s good to be here with our friends, our families, with the family of the church, with God.

These days, there are so many other things we could be doing – shopping, gardening, sleeping, playing sport. But we have chosen to be here. Like Peter, James and John, Jesus has called us to this place so that we may glimpse his glory, his true nature as the Son of God.

It is good to come away to a special place, away from all the distractions of daily life; somewhere where we can forget for a while that the car needs washing, there’s homework to finish, the lunch to make. These things we can leave behind as we come to this special place.

No wonder the disciples wanted to build three dwellings to preserve that sense of special-ness.

Mount Tabor - the mountain of the transfiguration
Mount Tabor – the mountain of the transfiguration

If you have ever visited Mount Tabor,  the mountain of the transfiguration in Galilee, you will know that those dwellings – indeed a large church with separate chapels for Elijah and Moses have indeed been built. You can marvel at the beauty of the church with its elaborate decoration or wonder at the incredible view from the top of the mountain. Both acknowledge and declare God’s glory.

 

The Church of the Transfiguration
The Church of the Transfiguration

The early Christian church met in each other’s homes or in the Jewish synagogues and it was only in the time of the Emperor Constantine who was converted to Christianity that Christians were free and encouraged to build churches which were the best and most beautiful they could afford and which used their talents and artistic abilities to their full.

We are so fortunate to have these beautiful buildings to worship in. The churches of this peninsula, this diocese have been built and maintained for the worship of God and to His glory. It was a difficult decision to select just 100 treasures to include in the book produced to celebrate the centenary of the diocese. There were many others which could have been included, many of them from this peninsula.

Yes, it’s true we can worship God anywhere – in a garden, down at Shingle St, on top of a mountain. But our churches are special places. They are not just ancient buildings to be preserved but places where we glimpse God’s glory. They are places steeped in prayer, they are places of transformation; places where we can gather together in worship and be transformed by the person of Jesus Christ into his likeness, his image, together. The apostles and new believers of the early church were ‘united in the breaking of bread and the prayers’. They worshipped together as we do today; they broke bread together as we do today. Jesus meant his followers to meet together for worship.

Jesus took his disciples away to a special place for an experience which enlightened them and he brings us here today so that we can glimpse something of his light and warmth and glory before we begin the more austere time of Lent, with less singing in our service, the removal of flower displays from many churches. A time of wilderness.

Jesus took his disciples away to a special place and the tradition of pilgrimage – of going on a journey, perhaps to a special place – is well-known in Christianity as in many other religions. Often with pilgrimages it is the experience of travelling, of journey – with others or with our own thoughts that is valuable rather than arriving at the special place.

Here on the peninsula, some members of St Felix church at Rendlesham have begun a series of pilgrimages to our various churches – walking, cycling – not all churches at once but in stages over a period of weeks or months. They are inviting anyone who wishes to to join them on that pilgrimage and they are hoping to produce a booklet with each church being the destination on a particular Sunday. More details will follow.

The final, and arguably the most important aspect of pilgrimage is coming home again. There is the journey, the arriving but also the return and we return, hopefully transformed by our experience – whether it is an experience of a long pilgrimage or an hour in church on a Sunday morning. We return home – as the disciples did – different people to when we started out. We return transformed by our experience, our encounter with God and with one another.

We leave behind the special place, the special encounter but the one thing that should stay with us is the voice from heaven which commands us to listen to Jesus . The special places are important; we should value our buildings but not at the expense of listening to Jesus. His voice, his command, his will, his guidance must be our top priority.

Lord, it is good to be here in your presence.
Help me today to glimpse your glory in the little things,
that I may know you are close and rest in your presence,
your beloved child.
Amen.