My Body Is Not A Prayer Request

•May 19, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This is the title of a new book by Amy Kenny.

I wish I had the wherewithal to write an eloquent review of this book. But right now I don’t I’m afraid.

But, it is a book that anyone who cares about disabled people and the church should read – and probably most especially those that don’t think there is an issue!

An honest, open and real look at how disability can be treated by those in the church, and giving an account of how disability can be. It shines a light on assumptions, misusing scripture, ableism and the sometimes just crass comments. All in the context of God and what God is and is doing. It shares a vision, celebrates gifts and offers hope. It finishes with two beautiful “benecriptions”.

You can probably sum my thoughts up in “yes!”.

If you get a chance, do read it. It is available in the UK in whatever your preferred method of “reading” is. I have it on my e-reader, it is available as an audio book and as a paperback, or see if you can get it from your library.

Thank you Amy Kenny for this book.

The Scared and the Scarred.

•April 22, 2022 • Leave a Comment

I’m sharing this sermon that I have written for our Circuit’s Written Sermon Ministry for this coming Sunday 24th April 2022, the Sunday after Easter.

It is mainly based on John 20:19-31, with passing nods to Psalm 150 and Revelation 1:4-8.

Locked in the room.  From fear.  For our safety.  Hiding from who knows what.  But knowing that we could be in deep trouble.  Jesus is not in his tomb.  A dead body disappeared.  And yet, Mary had met him, she had seen the Lord.  Not so dead after all.

So now we wait.  What to do next?  What did this mean?

And into our fear and our questions, Jesus comes and stands with us.  “Peace be with you”.  The peace of God, that is beyond all our understandings, he brings to where we are.

This is very much Jesus, the one they had known, the one who they had watched die so cruelly.  For here he stood with his scars fully visible.  The scars prove that he is who he says he is just in case there was any doubt.  This is very much the same person.  But for me, as a disabled person, those scars mean so much more.

Jesus could have come back with no signs of his crucifixion.  His wounds could have gone, but they haven’t.  They are still very there and very raw.  The marks of his suffering had not disappeared overnight.  They are a part of who and what he now is – even in resurrection.  Scars are ok.  Here is a person who has suffered and still has those marks.  It is OK to have suffered and still carry the scars – for them to be there, real, and visible.  There will be marks of what has been and what is.  Things don’t have to be “perfect” in airbrushed beauty, to be useful and Godly.  This is a God who knows what it is to be broken. And that brings hope to me.

Lamar Hardwick in his book Disability and the Church, says “When Jesus returns from the dead, he returns with the marks of disability, marks that he displays as an identifier and as an invitation to a new expression of faith.” (chapter 7)  It is a wounded Christ who comes to the Upper Room.  Not someone for whom hardship and suffering have been swept away, but a real person who has been through stuff – and it shows.  That is the God we have.  Triumphant in resurrection yes, but still crucified along the way.

This is the God of life over death that Psalm 150 encourages us to joyfully celebrate, but very much a God of real life – and death.  Christ’s death has freed us (Revelation 1:4-8), but his risen life frees us too.  It is OK to be scarred, to carry the marks of the battles of life.  That does not make us a failure or imply that God has at some point abandoned us, that is life.  What matters is what we do with those scars and whether we pick at them and never let them heal.

Jesus is comfortable with his scars (in my definition that is true healing rather than scars being wiped away).  So comfortable that he is happy to show them, and indeed to let Thomas touch them when he needs to.  They are now a part of him, his life, his pain, and his journey with God.  Our scars can be an encouragement to others in their suffering and pain – if we are able to show them.

But the still scarred Jesus has come to do more.  He might be dead, even somehow back to life, but that is not the end.  It isn’t “all’s well that ends well” even though he is back in the room.  There is a job still to be done.  People need to know.  To hear the message that Jesus was bringing, God’s life he was trying to model.

And so, as the disciples sit there, no doubt open mouthed at this development, certainly glad to have him back, Jesus tells them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  It is not over; it is now getting real.  The mission goes on and now it is over to them – over to us.

Interestingly, at this point, the commission is to forgive.  That is what we are called to do.  And if that forgiveness is not offered, there will be none.  We can get tied up in all kinds of ideas about what mission is all about, but right here in this room it is about forgiveness.  Perhaps that is what the world needs more of – and the disciples are to model it God’s way.  At that point there, perhaps they needed to forgive those who had brought about Jesus’ death.  After all, Jesus himself forgave them, even in the midst of his agony (Luke 23:34), whilst enduring the biggest insult and assault that one can inflict on another.  Perhaps the disciples needed to find that forgiveness before they could move on – to make peace with what had happened, even the scars it had created, and live in the peace of what that now meant.

Perhaps our task today is to spread a little more forgiveness and hold a few less grudges.  To model God’s forgiveness in the places we are.  Because forgiveness is a good way to stop picking at scars and let them begin to heal.  And in the giving and receiving of forgiveness the world may find peace: the peace of heart, mind, and soul that it longs for.

And then there is Thomas.  God bless Thomas.  He needed to see, to touch.  He needed proof, to experience for himself, not rely on the news of others.  That doesn’t bother Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t insist he believes anyway or suggest that he’d missed knowing because he wasn’t there when he first came.  Jesus comes back, potentially just for Thomas.  It is OK for Thomas to do what he needed to do to know, to be sure.  And there was peace. Today, this week, in our times of excitement, rejoicing, confusion, despair, pain – however we are feeling, may we know the peace of God, the presence of Jesus, and the forgiveness God offers that we can pass on.                                                                         

From Now On

•December 17, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This is my written sermon for our Circuit resources for those unable to worship in the building or online for this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Advent. Where Mary travels to be with Elizabeth.

The readings are: Micah 5: 2-5a, Hebrews 10: 5-10, Luke 1: 39-45 (46-55)

We join the journey towards the birth of Christ just after two miraculous announcements. Neither of these women in the normal course of events could possibly be pregnant, but the angels tell each that they are about to have babies.  Awesome, shocking, fearful, fantastic news. 

Mary’s next step in her journey is to go and see Elizabeth.  Perhaps she thought Elizabeth might be the one person who would understand.  After all God was working in her life as well.  God had given her a special child to carry too. 

But Mary never even got chance to tell her.  Before the words were out of Mary’s mouth Elizabeth knew.  The one within her, recognised the one within Mary.  His work of showing others the Christ had begun already, as he let his mother now that something special was happening in Mary, something important was happening in the world.

Both Elizabeth and Mary seem to accept their part in God’s work. God was working – and God was doing it there and then – with them and in them. The work that the passage from Hebrews tells us Christ was willing to be a part of, coming into the body God had prepared, to do God’s will, to show humans the way God wanted and needed them to live. Jesus was willing to offer his life and all he had to come and be, humanly in the world.

I wonder how you would have reacted if God had appeared to you in the same way God did to Mary?  How would I?  How shocked we would be!  Yet, each day we are asked to be a part of God’s work in the world, showing God’s way, living God’s life.  God  continues breaking in to our lives and the world around us.

What precious thing is God wanting to do in your life?  Maybe it might not seem as radical as having God’s child, but something just as important for you to carry on God’s behalf?  Something for you to do as God in this world?  It may seem inconvenient, God asking the impossible, or beyond our wildest dreams – but it is a privilege.

Elizabeth knew that it was God who was working in Mary, bringing life and hope to the world – and she shouted about it!  Can we see that in others and encourage and nurture them, support them when it seems hard or even a ridiculous ask of God? 

Mary, in the supportive presence of Elizabeth, gets caught up in what God is doing, not just in her, but for everyone.  A  song from the depths of Mary’s heart.  God’s plan for what will happen from now.  That God has seen her, lowly and humble as she is.  She is not a person of traditional high status, wealth, or prestige.  She is who she is, but she represents the vast majority of people just getting on with their life and faith.  Doing what she can, where she is.  But God knows her and wants to work in her.  And so Mary sings:

What is happening in Mary is what happens when people honour God in their life.  God takes them and uses them in all God is doing in the world.  Human beings make all kinds of plans, but God steps in and throws our plans up in the air.  God has something so much better in store.

God will turn the world back the right way up.  The mighty will discover humility and those who know the depths of life will be raised up.  The hungry will be fed with the excesses accumulated by those who have the resources.

The God of mercy will do this.  God keeps promises.  They begin in Mary, will be seen in the lived life of Jesus and will come to fruition in his descendants forever.

How does this song work for us?  The words we know as the Magnificat, my paraphrasing (with apologies for the inevitable Hugh Jackman earworm!)

From now on, things will never be the same.

From now on, my life is full of God.

From now on, God is using me as his servant.

From now on, people will see that God has blessed me.  That God has done so much for me.

From now on, may every person know that God has blessed them too.

From now on, God within me, God around me, God in you.

From now on, may those who think they are mighty discover humility, and those treated as lowly raised up.

From now on may the hungry be fed.

From now on, may love and mercy guide us all.

From now on Lord, let it be so. From now on God, fill me with you.  Use me as you need to.  Bless others through me, and may I be blessed by your life in them.  May I play my part, your part.  From now on Lord, in me and through me.

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