All posts by Judy

Living a life anointed by the Spirit of grace

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Epiphany + 3 –  Neh 8 1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Ps 19, 1 Cor 12 12-31, Lk 4 14-21

Children: Do you have a family story – a story that tells you where your grandparents and their grandparents came from, and why you live where you do now? What if you didn’t have your story? I’d feel like I didn’t belong; I’d feel lost. In today’s first reading (from Nehemiah) we’ll meet people who feel lost. They’ve come back from exile. Exile means being sent away from home and forced to stay there – sometimes for your whole life. These people’s parents had been born in exile. And over that long time, they’d lost their story – the story that could tell them who they were; God’s people. That’s why they felt lost.

2 Kings 22 tells us how a scroll containing that story was rediscovered during rebuilding work; a scroll of the first five books of our Bible. Those books tell their true story; the story of where they come from and who they are. And today we hear how the priest Ezra gathers the people and reads out their story to them, explaining the tricky bits as he reads. And as they hear their story, they learn that they are God’s people, who are called to give God’s blessing to every family of the Earth.

In today’s Gospel story we’ll hear how Jesus returns to the village of his childhood, and he goes to Synagogue – which is like our Church. Every week there, they read from the scroll of the Law, like Ezra did, and explain the tricky bits. Then it’s time for a reading from the prophets – prophets are people who remind us to keep our promises to God. Jesus stands up to read, and they give him the Isaiah scroll. Jesus finds the part we know as chapter 61. And as he reads it out, he changes it a bit. He leaves out the bit about vengeance, and adds a bit about recovery of sight to the blind. He adds bits about about poor people and blind people, but he leaves out the bit about revenge or judgement.

He tells them this is his story. We are followers of Jesus, and we tell his story today because it’s our story – so we know who we are, who we belong to. We learn it so we can give this story to people who need a kind, hopeful story of their own. Can you think of anyone who needs a story like that? Let’s listen.

Sermon. We’re most fully ourselves when we are connected – when we’re part of a shared story of God’s extravagant generosity. Today we heard Ezra tell the returned exiles: this is your story and it’s a story to be shared in word and action most particularly with those who have nothing to give back. We’re shown what this means for us when Jesus stands up in the synagogue and declares his commitment to the poor, to captives to the blind and oppressed. We are shown what this means for us when Jesus lives this story and dies to bless poor, blind, oppressed captives.

The Christian life can only be lived out in relationship; in community; in care and compassion. And central to the way we live it out is a shared commitment to the poor, to the weak and the marginalized. It’s not the work of a moment, neither is it the work of momentary grand gestures and inspiring events; though they may sometimes happen. The Christian life is lived out by ordinary people like us who can grow in our sense of belonging, care and inclusion. It’s simple, and lovely.

As we think about the handing on of stories, we remember that our children soon return to school. Can we see their return in a new way? Education is the sacred responsibility of each generation – handing on the story of how we’ve become who we are. Our children learn how and why they belong; they discover what gifts they have, and become equipped to care for their community when they become adults. Here, we seek to do that handing on of the story in the kids’ corner, and we are partners with other groups who seek to do it with us in the wider community – SJYS, Dulwich, MM, SLWS – partners honouring this co-missioning we share.

We call our community the body of Christ, so we seek to live a life modelled on his life; a life anointed by the Spirit of grace – not vengeance or judgement – grace; to proclaim good news; grace to offer this story to people who might have lost theirs; grace to release people from the prison of isolation; grace to offer Jesus’ vision to people who see no purpose, grace to offer release to people from the slaveries of our age. Jesus has this day declared free belonging and gracious purpose in this mission statement. It is his mission, and so it is ours. Amen

‘The Lord is Here’

Rev’d Susan F. Straub

 Introduction

In the season of Epiphany, we’re celebrating three major events in which those with eyes to see and understand, see God acting in the world as each event relates to us as God’s people: birth, baptism, and, today, covenant, told in the form of a wedding-story. God acting in time. Oh, the importance of God’s timing, sometimes not of our own choosing!

Seeing and understanding God in this way, is part of the wonderful inheritance we have as Christians from our Judaic forebears in faith. Not so the gentiles. Some worshipped birds or animals, their state personified in their supreme ruler, some the solar system. Those three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus and saved his life by not returning to Herod, were gentiles; astrologers who sought portents in the stars, a form of religion with the others denounced by Judaism, since God is the creator of the sun, the moon, the stars and of all that is. Yet, through the stars, God told them ‘A king has been born. Do him homage’.  In faith they set out on their long journey, like Abraham, but not like Abraham to the Promised Land, but to the Promised One, the infant king.  They were obedient to that faith even though they went first to Herod, the evil one.

Last Sunday, we heard how Jesus came to John the Baptist for baptism and heard God acknowledge him as his Son.

Which brings us to the wedding at Cana in Galilee, the third event showing us Jesus, the Messiah, our Saviour, our brother, enacting a new covenant by filling up our shared feast of life with bountiful joy, finest delight.

John 2:1-11 – The Marriage in Cana of Galilee.

Mary was at a wedding in Cana in Galillee. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. The festivities would last a week and the honour of families on display in the sharing of God’s blessings in the best of food and wine. The joining of not only a couple, but two families, was part of the very fabric of the local community on every level: economically, politically and in future children.  Weddings were, and still are, part of building and strengthening society.  But to run out of food or wine in Jesus’ day was to run out of blessing, not only diminishing the honour of the families and the couple, but threatening the structure and stability of the district.

Jesus arrived on the third day of the feasting, and his mother greeted him with the devastating news:  already there was no more wine. Like all who have been faithful to God in their history, from Abraham to Samuel to King David to the prophet, Jeremiah, to Mary and Joseph, to the three wise men, now Jesus doubts and inquires before obedience in faith. For him, it’s a matter of timing!

Turning our attention to the wedding for a moment, St. John gives us signs of deeper meaning.

Jesus arrives on the third day. He would be raised to new life on the third day. That’s when new wine really starts to flow. There are six stone jars and they are specifically related to their Jewish religious significance. Six is one short of the perfect number seven. Seven blessings are read under the wedding canopy. Jesus is the one who brings the blessing missing from the faith of his people.

The water of purification has been used, as for us at our baptism, and the jars stand empty.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water” and after they had filled them to the brim, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” There was now a huge volume of the finest wine, probably about 500 litres, about 600-700 of our bottles. The blessings of God for us and humanity are so great, you could swim in them:  what joy!  What was lacking, was given – freely. As stewards of the feast of God’s blessings: Taste and see that the Lord is good!  He fills us, who come like empty jars, with a joy that comes from being acknowledged, claimed as his beloved; pleasing to Him, endowed with His own Spirit, made whole – holy – and empowered to act.

And then there’s the connection with the true Vine of John 15, and the wine of sober joy at communion.

But, do you see that the only people at the wedding beside Mary and possibly the disciples, who know what’s going on, are the servants. John makes this very clear. All the guests get to drink the wine – enjoy God’s blessing, but the only people who really appreciate what’s happened — those in the know — are the servants, who like Jesus, believed, and obeyed.

Anyone who’s ever worked in hospitality, even preparing and serving meals at home! know that it can be hard work and often thankless. Nothing’s changed. It isn’t the guests who know the full story, it’s the servants.

Jesus calls us to be servants, not to him, for to him we’re friends, and more, kin. Through Him, we’re heirs of the Kingdom, inheritors of the same spiritual DNA. His call to us is to be like him in and to our families, our brothers and sisters in faith, and to the world. So with your feet, bring the blessings of God’s love. With your hands, carry the wine of joy to those who have none or not enough. Oh, yes, the work of hospitality requires particular alertness to want, even that shown by over-indulgence or obsession. It requires nimbleness, humour, mopping up spillages, and many more things besides – well, actually nothing less than the exercise of our full humanity but filled with the joy of loving as God loves us and using our spiritual gifts whether wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of Spirits, or languages. Our Christianity is to fulfil God’s promises to the world, sign-posted by Epiphany, as serving workers who know what’s going on.

 

We’re called to enable people to believe in Jesus

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Epiphany 2022 – Isa 60 1-6, Ps 72 1-7, 10-14, Eph 3 1-12, Matt 2 1-12

We’ve just heard the story of that light-bulb moment in scripture when representatives of the whole known world come to see Jesus, the infant king. In this moment, which we call the Epiphany (manifestation), the nations meet the God of Israel; the God of the universe, revealed to them in the person of the infant Jesus. Long before, God had promised this to Abraham; that in him all the nations of the world would be blessed. (Gen 12.3) So at this moment when the nations come to Jesus, we Christians see the destiny of the chosen people affirmed. The promised blessing of the nations is being fulfilled.

So what does that mean for us? Christian history is filled with this Epiphany mission – both us taking the Gospel out to the world, and people coming to us. Taking the Gospel out has had its unfortunate side. Mission and foreign policy in the form of colonisation have been mixed together in ways that have had good and bad outcomes. And the other process – people coming to us – church signs all saying ‘everyone welcome’ – has seen a steady decline over the past half century. And even within and between churches, there is disagreement about how the gospel might be shared – how people might be blessed by an encounter with Jesus.

Some of my ancestors were missionaries. They went out to far-flung places intending to carry Jesus out to the heathen. But like so many other missionaries, they were surprised to discover that Jesus had got there before them. As missionaries learnt more of the language, the customs and the traditions of their intended converts, they discovered local stories and teachings that bore remarkable resemblances to the gospel of Jesus. Adnyamathanha elder Rev Dr Auntie Denise Champion has written books which give beautiful examples of this happening.

So where does that leave us? I believe we’re called to enable people to believe in Jesus. But it may be that they’ve met him already. They may have been introduced to him in unfortunate ways which have confused Jesus’ message with particular politics, values or behaviours, and discouraged them from pursuing the relationship any further.

I believe that we can be part of a healing, Epiphany process. If we each pray and read scripture daily, we open ourselves to the Spirit to transform and renew us. And if we know that Jesus is already reaching out to people we meet, then we can be part of his outreach –both to us and through us. I like to think that we participate in this Epiphany process every day; through respectful, open and life-giving interactions with others and through actions that reflect Jesus’ passion for justice, mercy and faith. Through our lives, Christ will continue to be manifested in the world. May God grant us grace to be people of an on-going Epiphany. Amen

Commit to an inclusive, open, creative community

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Christmas 1C – 1 Sam 1, Ps 148, Col 3 12-17, Lk 2 41-52

Christmas is a time where families gather and reconnect. So it’s a bit of a surprise that, on the face of it, our readings and collect prayer today seem to challenge family ties. The collect challenges our Christmas family focus profoundly. It says God’s call to us takes precedence over our family ties. It sounds like the sort of thing you’d expect of one of those exclusive cults that turn up on the news from time to time. So it confronts us. Yet it reflects the message we’ve heard in the stories in today’s scriptures. Samuel was dedicated to God’s service before he was even conceived. And twelve-year-old Jesus stunned his parents with a declaration of God’s prior call on his time.

The collect prayer says God is ‘God of community’ – and then goes on to unpack that community word by saying our primary family as Christians is our faith community, not our family of origin. I struggle with this; I want to find a balance to what it’s saying. And I think I find my answer in our baptismal liturgy – our christening services.

Baptism is where this confronting picture of Christian community is redeemed. Our baptismal teachings understand community and families as embracing each other; weaving our families together with everyone whose lives are linked with ours in a community of support, respect and love.

God’s community is one which embraces – it doesn’t exclude. That’s why the Psalm has us calling the whole creation into communion with God. That’s why the reading from Colossians is so focussed on the empathic, welcoming, forgiving choices and decisions we need to make to treat another person with respect. Because that’s what it takes to build a transforming, Christlike community.

Col 3.12…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

At our baptisms, these are the choices we are encouraged to nurture in our families. Then our new Christians can grow into outward-looking people who can bring the peace of God to the world. Our families are meant to belong to the Christian community and our Christian family is to belong in the whole world; God’s world.

In the end, I think that’s what our collect prayer calls us to do; to commit to inclusive, open, creative community. Far from being an exclusive cult, we’re called to have open borders with wonderful gifts to share and receive, and a genuine desire to do just that.   Thanks be to God for this call!  Amen.

God came in Jesus to offer peace and healing

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Christmas 2021

With the omicron variant mucking up everyone’s plans again, the really big story has been how we all just want Christmas to be normal. Everyone longs to be safe together in a simple gathering of friends and family; longs to simply celebrate our love for each other and by sharing gifts, to show our thanks for each other. But then there’s this terrible adversity which separates us and controls us. A lot of people are feeling allergic to government control. Something in us rejects pressure to think more widely than just our own circles; our own needs and wishes – to reject pressure to shape our behaviour around global priorities.

All this can give us a new insight into the holy family and the many adversities they faced at this Christmas time. Where we face lock-downs, they were away from home and on the road because of an over-controlling government. They couldn’t find lodgings at a critical time in a pregnancy thanks to that interfering regime’s lack of compassion and flexibility. They had to improvise managing the danger it all posed to their child’s health and well-being, not to mention their own. Their tense relationship with authority and safety is the experience of so many people around the world now that it sounds almost subversive to tell their story.

Yet this experience we share with them may help us see for the first time how God really, really became one of us with all the adversities we face; facing all the barriers to our desire just to be allowed to live a normal life. The infant Jesus didn’t come into the world in a sanitised palace. Jesus and his family weren’t spared the adversities and inconveniences that normal people endure every day. And yet we believe that this Jesus is God. How do we piece that together? Maybe we begin by thinking of this baby Jesus as a picture of how close God is prepared to be with us; immediately exposed to our struggles and our vulnerabilities.

God came in Jesus to offer peace and healing – full connection between physical being and divine eternity. Christ’s incarnation – Christ’s taking flesh is the opposite of the virus coming among us. Wonderfully healing, his coming into physical being is the epicentre of a divine healing spark which grows exponentially in us, through us and between us to infuse the whole of creation with its healing glow. Christ’s incarnation transforms all life, all physical being by introducing the divine spark into us Earth creatures. The virus is one of many counterfeits of this. But knowing this, seeing it in the light of this story, we get to glimpse the staggering significance of the incarnation; Emmanuel; God with us. Thanks be to God! Amen

Encouragement as we wait for Jesus

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent 4 –  Magnificat – Luke 1.26-45  Encouragement as we wait for Jesus

In Advent, we get ready for Christ’s coming, and Mary’s Song is a wonderful model for getting ready. Her soul and spirit erupt in a spontaneous outburst of wonder and delight. This morning, as usual, we recited her Song out of context. We might have found her delight surprising; an unmarried, pregnant teenager in Roman Palestine!? But today’s Gospel gives us the context of her Song. And the context is a wonderful affirmation of Mary’s calling from her wise, faithful old cousin, Elizabeth.

It’s people like Elizabeth – someone very like a lot of you – who have the power to enable young, vulnerable people like Mary to open their souls and spirits to the coming of Jesus. We can be enablers; people who recognise it when God is calling someone to an extraordinary task; we can help them greet their calling with joy.

Elizabeth freed Mary to give her testimony: that God cares for her: You, Lord, have looked with favour on your lowly servant. Elizabeth set Mary free to recognise that she was called to join in God’s greatest work.

The God we meet in Mary’s Song is a God who is involved. God’s acts described here are at once vigorous, political and tender. God is a tempest raging through the petty conceits of our inner worlds; God is disgusted by oppression and willing to fight it. But God is passionate for the restoration of the lowly; that the hungry must be fed.

Mary proclaims a God who is trustworthy and unchanging. God’s promises made to people centuries earlier remain good to all their descendants forever. Just so now; where we see a Church filled with praying, attentive, open-hearted elders who discern and encourage the gifts of their young people, we see an outpouring of all the marvellous blessings Mary proclaimed as she waited for Jesus to come!

Mary’s prophetic song is a wonderful model of prayer and proclamation to emulate. Acting on what God says, giving testimony, praying prayers that reveal God’s heart; these were the right things for Mary to do while she was waiting for Jesus. They are still the right things for us to do as we wait for him to come again.                  Amen.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!  

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent 3 – Zeph 3 Isa 12 Phil 4 Luke 3

We’ve just heard Zephaniah preaching to a people who faced imminent disaster. Soon, their city would be destroyed and almost everyone carted off into slavery far away. Yet Zephaniah’s message is one of rejoicing; of rescue – particularly for the disabled and for refugees. Their day will come in God’s good providence. We also heard Paul write from prison to a community that was struggling with envy, rivalry and selfish ambition; yet his message is to rejoice! And I preach under the combined shadows of pandemic and ecological threat. Rejoice? Yes!

Today is Gaudete Sunday – Rejoicing Sunday. Advent 3 always has readings about rejoicing, and they’re always ambiguous, like today. We’re at the half-way mark in a season of penitence and preparation, and in its wisdom, the Church has decided that we need encouragement, not rebuke. And come to think of it, I doubt that we’d move forward well as a parish if I got up like John the Baptist this morning and called us all a brood of vipers.

No; our readings tell me to proclaim that God’s purpose is to rescue all who suffer. Zephaniah proclaims God’s preferential option for the disabled and the refugee. John the Baptist proclaims God’s advocacy for the hungry and naked, and for anyone who’s been cheated or bullied. And that is Good News for most of the world; that is the Missio Dei – God’s charge to us to work together in a movement that strives to end the dominance of greed – to end the culture of only looking after number one. The Good News on this Rejoicing Sunday is that acts of kindness and love are inspired by God who came to dwell among us as the Christ-child; Christ who dwells within us and who’s coming again. Our kindness and compassion are signs that God is with us; God is within us and amongst us.

By God’s grace, our small acts of gentleness – a tiny gift of hope, a cheering song of joy have the power of the butterfly effect. We can unleash a transforming storm of joy and courage and hope through the grace and love of God working with our little offerings. What a difference God’s grace can make; what a cause for joy. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!    Amen.

God’s hand draws us back through life-giving water to healing hope and wholeness.

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent 2 C – Malachi 3 1-4, Luke 1 68-79, 3 1-6

Advent is our season of getting ready for Jesus to come to us; Jesus the child of Bethlehem; Jesus universal judge and Saviour, coming at the day of reckoning; the day of Jesus Christ. The Hebrew prophets said it’s a day we’d have to prepare for if there was going to be anything left of us afterwards; we’d be like metal in a refiner’s crucible being purified; and as the planet heats up, we can’t but suspect that Malachi was somewhat on the money. But did Malachi expect what did happen? There wasn’t fire; there was water.

Malachi said God would send a messenger to prepare us for that fearful day. We believe John the Baptist was that messenger. He came to prepare people to meet Jesus. People went out to John to be purified; to receive his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of their sins. John exercised this ministry in a very significant place. He called people down into a most hostile wilderness – the region around the Jordan River; a searing desert where it seldom rains. Its desiccation and lifelessness was a picture of the spiritual state of their lives, and called them to do something about it.

John called people down to the Jordan. They couldn’t miss the fact that they were going in the opposite direction to their ancestors who’d crossed the Jordan into a new life in the Promised Land. John called people back down to remember the vows sealed between God and their forbears – promises they’d betrayed time and again. In this special place, and filled with those associations, John recalled the people to their truth and washed their lies away. Then he turned/repented them; or as his father Zechariah sang, he gave God’s people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

They discovered the tender compassion of our God. That’s something I think of when I recall the choice of the Jordan as the place of John’s ministry. Down there, the Jordan is the only source of life. Like the Jordan in the desert, God comes to us in the low, dry places of our lives. God flows down to be with us in these places. John’s baptism was one of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But the forgiveness was already there. The call was to turn around and bathe in it not fire, but water. It was and always is there and waiting.

God offers us healing of our depression and dryness – offers to drown it for us in a river that brings life and hope. God sends it to flow down into our desert. God’s hand is already stretched out to rescue us from that deep dry place; God’s hand is held out to draw everyone back through life-giving water to healing hope and wholeness. And in this season of Advent, the question is, Will we take this hand?     Amen.

Love / joy/ peace is flowing like a river, flowing out through you and me, flowing out into the desert, setting all God’s children free.

Prepare to stand before Jesus and meet his gaze

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent Sunday C – Jrm 33 14-16, Ps 25 1-10, 1 Thess 3 9-13, Lk 21 25-38

A brief homily.

I can hardly think of an Advent Sunday where the Gospel cry for justice and grace has spoken more plainly to this world. Those apocalyptic images from the Gospel – 25…on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People…fainting from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world – it seems no exaggeration to imagine that this time is upon us. You may disagree.

But people hear this message quite differently from each other. Think of how these Gospel images have been heard in Pacific island churches earlier this morning; or how Jeremiah’s promise of justice and righteousness is heard among peoples excluded from our rich-nations club. The islanders are living the environmental apocalypse right now. And they and others in the ‘developing world’ are living the Covid apocalypse without access to enough vaccine for their people while we muse about booster shots.

The islanders bore the prophetic cry for justice to COP-26, but they were met with obdurate rejection by our nation and many others. Can we hear the cry to God from today’s Psalm as they would have heard it a few hours ago; 2 God, let none who wait for you be put to shame: but let those that break faith be confounded and gain nothing. They must place their trust in the one who is coming, because the world has broken faith with them. And we are part of that world which has broken faith.

Advent Sunday begins the season when we get ourselves ready for Jesus to come; get ourselves fit to stand before Jesus and meet his gaze. Are we ready? This is not about individual, personal piety or anything so banal. The readiness in question means making sure that we as a church are hearing the Gospel, living it and in a voice that won’t be ignored, proclaiming to power the Gospel cry for justice and grace for the least of Christ’s children.

I get letters from charities which ask me to direct the church’s charity to oppressed Christians in other countries. I feel uneasy that Christians are singled out as the only ones we should be helping. Jesus made no such faith distinctions. It seems to me that we as a church – a rich church in a rich economy – that we should be very obviously doing the Gospel work of living and proclaiming good news to the poor, bringing release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and setting the oppressed free. Lk 4.18

It’s a huge task, but whether we make big inroads or small steps on this journey, that is most definitely the road we must be travelling when he comes to meet us.  Amen

Welcome the Reign of Christ here and in our own hearts.

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Christ the King / Reign of Christ B – 2 Sam 23 1-7, Ps 132 1-12, Rev 1 4B-8, Jn 18 33-37

If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet, you’re missing out on one of the great English-language Christian epics of the past century. The central setting in the stories is the British boarding school for witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts. The Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, has a particular gift for making his school one where the most unlikely people can have a place to call home. There are several incompetent staff and some very unpleasant members of the community, some quite psychotic. Yet they all remain unquestionably part of the community. Dumbledore resists all efforts by people to have any of these troubled ones ejected from the community. In time, their true gifts and qualities are revealed, and Dumbledore’s bewildering loyalty to them is vindicated.

It’s an image of the Reign of Christ as it might be on Earth. The reign of Christ is not a democracy, but it’s a community where every individual is accorded the courtesy and presumption of belonging; a community where lasting judgement is suspended in favour of patience and mercy. It’s no utopia; humans are human; people get hurt; people are ill-treated and misunderstood by one another. But no-one is outside as far as Jesus is concerned; and anyone who tries to give that impression doesn’t understand the way things work in the Realm of Christ.

It’s very appropriate that we’ll hold the annual general meeting of St John’s Youth Services on this Christ the King Sunday. St John’s Youth Services is an organisation whose reason for existing is to proclaim by word and deed that every young person is worth believing in, and to see that every young person might safely call somewhere home. It’s an ethos that springs directly from the values of the Reign of Christ. Jesus has a very special care for young people; a particular concern that they should never stumble into a barrier that suggests they don’t have a place of their own; a particular concern that they encounter his care for them as a gateway to abundant life.

St John’s Youth Services sprang from this parish – its basic ethos expresses the values that the people of this parish share with the whole Christian community. We seek to embody the Reign of Christ by asserting that everyone belongs under the protection of Jesus. We try to do this because Jesus wants us to go out of our way to make sure everyone does belong.

A lot of us people have trouble belonging in the wider world because of where we come from – what race or country or educational background we come from, what emotional baggage we bring with us.

But in Christian communities, living under the reign of Jesus, we seek to live the fundamental truth that he wants us all to know we belong. We might have trouble belonging in the wider world, because of our age, or because we’re too sick, or we’re a bit different. But in this and in any Christian community, we seek to live the truth that Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus is King here; Jesus is in charge – and he’s not someone who’s influenced by bigotry or jealousy or ambition or rivalry or selfishness or concern with prestige. He calls his communities to be places where everyone is safe from those poisons.

It’s something that’s learned slowly – this belonging; something that has to be passed down the generations; something that has to become quite natural. We need to pray that anyone who encounters this belonging among the community of Christ will be protected from our sharp edges – they’ll always be there – sharp edges caused by our own frailties and insecurities. But then Jesus experienced them from us too. Today’s gospel reading has him on trial precisely because of those insecurities and frailties in his community.

I believe we’ve been offered a vision today which can help us welcome the Reign of Christ in this place and in our own hearts. Everyone has an image of the effect a true leader can have. God gave King David just such a vision on his death bed; a true, Godly leader – One who rules over people justly, ruling in reverence for God, 4 is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. 2 Sam 23.3-4

Can people in this community experience such contentment – as though we arrive to the light of morning, … the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land .

On this Christ the King Sunday, I pray for a communal vision that we and all who come to this, or any Christian community, are always greeted by Christ’s blessing, and always feel at home and at one in this place of frailty, contentment, struggle and love.   Amen