God is not like that!

We met in the park on a dull but warm summer’s morning accompanied by beautiful bird song.

Our began worship with:

We gather this morning in the name of the Creator,

who creates time and space,

galaxies and stars and planets.

In the name of Jesus Christ, born on planet Earth,

and in the name of the Spirit who fills Earth with his presence.

Creator God,

in this time we call “now”

and in this space we call “here”

we worship you.

Make you presence felt among us.

We then read the following parables, which I renamed for a bit of fun!

Matthew 25: The Parable of the Bags of Gold.

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. Here take back what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


Luke 19:  The Parable of the Ten Bags of Silver.

12 Jesus told them this story: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten bags of silver. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the silver, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your silver has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your silver has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your bag of silver; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his bag of silver away from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”


The Parable of the Talents (or Bags of Gold) (Matthew 25:14-30) and

The Parable of the Ten Minas (or Ten Bags of Silver) (Luke 19:11-27).

I must have heard these passages preached on at least a dozen times and always from the traditional interpretation,  which appears to promote a master who is hardhearted, ruthless, greedy, avaricious and violent and who treats the third servant/slave very unjustly. It seems to me that the traditional interpretation is used to justify ideas that are contrary to Jesus’ teachings. I want to protest that God is not like that! I am convinced we have been reading the parable “upside down”, or the “round way round”.

Matthew 25:14 in the KJV reads:  “For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a man travelling into a far country……” The KJV translators added “For the Kingdom of Heaven is..”, they are not original, Jesus did not say these words. So these parables are not parables of the Kingdom, but parables about the state of the world.

“There is an old saying in Biblical studies that a text without a context is just a pretext for making it say anything one wants.” Amy-Jill Levine.

“If we get the context wrong, we’ll get Jesus wrong as well.” Amy-Jill Levine.

What would the crowd listening to Jesus have understood by the word Talent?

In a biblical context a “Talent” is coinage with one of the largest monetary values in the ancient world of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.  It is a colossal sum, equal to 6,000 denarii – a day labourer’s wages for about 20 years!  The lowest guesstimate for the current value of a Talent is about £500,000.   (A Minas has a current value of about £60,000).

Here Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point – the amounts are breathtaking and would probably have produced a reaction of utter astonishment from the crowds.

The returns on the investments are huge.  Could they have been achieved by just and legal means?  Or would they have required usury, fraud, exploitation and extortion?  (Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:35-37, Isaiah 5:8, Micah 2:1-2). What would have been the reaction of Jesus’ audience to these returns?

“For those listening to Jesus as he gave the parable(s), such returns on investment would have been deplored because it could only have occurred through the most predatory of means: extortion, fraud, tax-collecting, and lending money at illegal rates of interest”.  Chad Myers & Eric Debode.

“Large landowners often made loans to peasant farmers based on speculations of future crops. With high interest rates and vulnerability to poor crops and lean years, peasant farmers were unable to make their payments, and faced foreclosure. After gaining control of the land, the new owner could continue to make a killing by hiring the landless peasants as day labourers to farm his cash crops.” Chad Myers & Eric Debode.

“Whereas a modern, Western audience would applaud the first two slaves for trading and investing well, an ancient audience would have approved of the third slave’s behaviour and condemned that of the first two slaves because they profited at the expense of others.

In ancient Mediterranean cultures, seeking “more” was considered morally wrong. Because the pie was “limited” and already all distributed, anyone getting “more” meant someone else got less. Thus honourable people did not try to get more than was fair, and those who did were automatically considered thieves: To have gained, to have accumulated more than one started with, is to have taken the share of someone else. The scenario played out in the Talents’ parable of a master leaving his property in control of his slaves – was not uncommon. In the ancient world, greedy people who did not want to get accused of profiting at someone else’s expense, which was considered shameful, would delegate their business to slaves, who were held to a different standard. Shameful, even greedy, behaviour could be condoned in slaves because slaves had no honour nor any expectation of it.

Accordingly, in the Talents’ parable, the master leaves his money with his slaves in the hope that they will exploit the system and increase his riches. The first two slaves do just this, but the third honourably refrains from taking anything that belongs to the share of another.

This slave also does not invest his money at the bank, through which he would have earned interest. The master further reprimands the slave for not doing this, seeking interest from another Israelite was forbidden by the Torah (Deuteronomy 23:19–20), and, elsewhere in Luke, Jesus says that we should lend ‘expecting nothing in return’ (Luke 6:35).

Should then the actions of the third slave be condemned or lauded? Reading the Talents/Minas parables with ancient eyes suggests that the third slave is the only one who behaved honourably.”  Richard Rohrbaugh.

In the version presented in Luke we have a harsh and violent nobleman who travels to a distant land to be made king [presumably by the emperor], but whose citizens also send a delegation to ask that he not be made king because of his cruelty. Is this a reference to Herod Archelaus who was appointed king by Augustus, but was removed by Augustus in 6AD because of his cruelty and brutality.

What is the ruler like? How can he possibly represent Jesus or God?

“Why are we so keen to equate the rich man with God? What does it say about our theology if we assume that a rich, greedy, violent and tyrannical figure must represent God?”  Symon Hill.

At the “accounting” does the third slave “speak truth to power”? Is he a “whistle-blower” who exposes the fact that the master’s wealth is entirely derived from the exploitation of others? By burying the money could he have been taking it out of circulation so that it could not be used to dispossess more peasant families?  (see Isaiah 5:8).

I love the slave’s comment at the end of verse 25 in the Parable of the Talents. Some translations read: “Here, take back what is yours!”  It is interesting that the master does not refute the slave’s analysis of his world, nor does he refute the slave’s description of him as being hardhearted, greedy, and ruthless.

“The third slave names what he is asked to do as exploitation and will not participate in it. He is a whistle-blower on greed, corruption and exploitation against the abuse of power over the powerless – the poor. And like most, if not all whistle-blowers, having spoken the truth is totally vulnerable. Vilified. Shamed. Humiliated.”  Barbara Reid.

Verse 30 in the Talents’ parable is usually interpreted as the slave being banished to hell.  Is that the correct interpretation of the verse?  Or could it mean banished to hell on earth – dispossessed, and thrown out on the streets – homeless and destitute?

What is your reaction to the third slave? Could he be the hero of the parable by not taking part in the master’s world of usury and greed? Could it be that he doesn’t invest the money because that would involve him in usury?

“Interestingly enough, Jesus seems to be saying it is when we have the courage to name exploitation for what it is, rather than to seek the reward, we are re-imagining the world, as is the realm of God imagined.  Hearing the story this way can make the powerful angry and defensive, and the powerless empowered!” Barbara Reid.

How could verses 28 and 29 in the Talents’ parable possibly be anything to do with the Kingdom of God?  Aren’t they a description of the way the world works, both then and now?

Amy-Jill Levine says we have “domesticated” the parables of Jesus. Is that in order to make them palatable to the rich and powerful?

Do you think the master could represent a ruthless rich and powerful landowner, collaborating with the Roman occupation?

Isn’t it interesting that Matthew places the story of the Sheep & the Goats immediately after the “Talents”, and Luke places the meeting of Jesus with Zacchaeus immediately before the “Ten Minas”?

“Justice was at the centre of Jesus’ spirituality And he did this by inviting people to re-imagine the world to regain control over their lives and their livelihoods.  It is a conceit of conservative Western middle-class Christianity and politics “that Jesus… limited himself to spiritual matters”. Barbara Reid.

“So what if we are instead supposed to read this story as a negative contrast with the kingdom of God? What if the ruler is actually cast in opposition to the values of Christ’s kingdom? In this reading the “hero” is the “lazy” servant who refused to take part in an unjust system – who dared to defy the evil king by refusing to break God’s law. Perhaps this is why in Matthew’s gospel he follows up his version of the story with Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats and his command to take care of the “least of these” (i.e. the hungry, the poor, the sick, and the oppressed). At any rate, it is a whole new way of looking at this passage and yet one that seems to deeply resonate with a gospel of love and justice.” Mike Clawson.

Isn’t this a cautionary tale about the world and not a parable of the Kingdom?

Do you think an alternative understanding of the parable makes more sense in the light of the whole message and life of Jesus?  Doesn’t it also fit in better with the “call for justice” found throughout the Old Testament and in the synoptic gospels?

“These parables are surely a warning to the rich to stop exploiting the poor and to encourage poor people to take measures that expose such greed for the sin that it is”.  Barbara Reid.

“Understanding Jesus as a person involved in conflict with other movements of his day leads to a picture of him as deeply concerned  to transform the historical existence of his people so that it embodied the compassion of God, a passionate concern grounded in his own experience of God as the embracing Compassionate One.”  Marcus Borg.

“Christians find a basis for justice-making in their understanding of God: To know God is to do justice.” (see Jeremiah 22:16) Dorothy Yoder Nyce.

After a time of prayer – remembering those in need before God, we shared bread and wine using the following liturgy:

It would not have been God’s table.

On their own the bread and wine are nothing.

To become a foretaste and a promise of love made real,

of the Kingdom in its fullness and the world made whole,

they need a story and a people who believe…..

It would not have been God’s table if they hadn’t all been gathered around it:

the traitor and the denier,

the betrayer and the friend,

the fickle and the faithful,

the power-hungry and the justice seeker.

When Jesus poured the wine and broke the bread:

when everyone could eat –

the outcast and the beloved,

the arrogant and the gracious,

the wrong doer and the wronged –

the table became a foretaste of love made real,

of the Kingdom in its fullness and the world made whole.

And the promise is that when we are together,

when we tell the story, when we break the bread and pour the wine,

we will discover a foretaste of love made real,

of the Kingdom in its fullness and the world made whole!

Cheryl Lawrie.

Learning to see at the bandstand

Apologies for the many words used here – sift your way through for any you find useful. Steve and I were just back from a week in the Southern Lakes and this morning was a series of snapshots from our visit to Cartmel Priory, prayers from a new David Adam book from there – ‘Fire from the north’ – The life of St Cuthbert’, and visits to Blackwell – and Arts and Crafts house and John Ruskin’s house Brantwood.

We began with a prayer from David Adam:

Lord, let not the clouds hide your Glory.
Glory at the heart of Creation
Glory at the centre of the Universe
Glory in the deepest depths of matter
Glory in each of the elements
Glory in each strand of the web of life
Glory in each connection, though it be
As thin as gossamer thread
Or thick as a rope of iron.
Glory in the very depth of our being.
Lord, let not the clouds hide your Glory.
You are there waiting to be revealed.
Glory in each object and each creature
Glory in each life and every encounter
Glory in our past and waiting in our future.
Make us sensitive to your presence and your call.
Lord, let not the clouds hide your Glory.

This was followed by reflection on our lack of seeing and words from Ruskin:

Sculptor of landscapes
Soft wind shapes the hardest stone.
What need of iron tools?
Quietness and time prevail
As cold hearts to gentleness.

Steve wrote about the huge window in Cartmel Priory and read to us:

Light flooding in a traditionally dark place, light often obscured by thickly, dustily stained glass – released, light without the accretion of ages, light without the mediating interpretation of tradition, light transforming, light allowing fractured images of the outside in, pure light without colour, glassy, translucent, semi-transparent, diaphanous, gossamer thin strands of light, opaquely revealing. Light.

We then walked with the following words and the task to gaze on beauty that is necessary and to find God in it:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and to tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion – all In one.

Unto this last.
As the art of life is learned
It will be found at last
that all lovely things are also necessary
the wild flowers by the wayside
as well as the tended corn
and the wild birds and creatures of the forest
as well as the tended cattle;
because man doth not live by bread only
but also by the desert manna;
by every wondrous word and unknowable work of God.
Happy in that he knew them not
nor did his fathers know
and that round about him reaches yet into the infinite
the amazement of his existence.                                                          John Ruskin.

Jesus says:
“I am the light that is over all. I am the All. The All came forth out of me. And to me the All has come.”
“Split a piece of wood — I am there.
Lift the stone, and you will find me there. The Gospel of Thomas

Back to the bandstand to pray for the nation and for those we knew who need Jesus now using more words from David Adam:

Lighten our darkness
We beseech you O Lord.

Lord, open our eyes
That we may see your Glory.

Lord, open our ears
That we may hear your call.

Lord, open our minds
That we may know your mysteries.

Lord, open our hearts
That they may vibrate with your love.

Lord, make us alert to you
That we may discover your presence.

Lord, make us sensitive to you
That we may learn your purpose.

Lighten our darkness
We beseech you, O Lord.

Using an image exhibited at Blackwell (sadly copyright) we reflected on the art work ‘The initial And of Mark XV 42 by Eric Gill and the words it was based on:

42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

Then recollecting Jesus’ words we read the following from Ruskin and shared bread and wine:

Drink from this cup, it is warm and worn
Listen to these words, they honour you
What use a shrine if we do not remember?

Finally we commissioned ourselves with more words from David Adam:

In you I live and move
And have my well-being:
God in my thinking
God in my working
God in my sharing
God in my caring
God in my deepmost soul.

In you I live and move
And have my well-being:
God in each meeting
God in each greeting
God in each turning
God in each learning
God in my deepmost soul.

In you I live and move
And have my well-being.

The Divine Dance

Following last weeks Third Space I tried to use as few words as possible and allow some time for contemplation. We were also going to be very Franciscan so we began with:

The Canticle of the Creatures

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
to you be praise, glory, honour and all blessing.                                                                                                                         

Only to you, Most High, do they belong
and no one is worthy to call upon your name.

May you be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir brother sun,
through whom you lighten the day for us.

He is beautiful and radiant with great splendour.
He signifies you, O Most High.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister moon and the stars,
clear and precious and lovely, they are formed in heaven.

Be praised, my Lord, for brother wind;
and by air and clouds, clear skies and all weathers,
by which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for sister water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, mother earth,
who sustains and governs us
and produces diverse fruits
and coloured flowers and grass.

St. Frances of Assisi 1224 (abridged) 


I am making the whole of creation new . . .  It will come true. . . It is already done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. — Revelation 21: 5-6

Who is speaking here at the very end of the Bible? Whoever it is offers an entire and optimistic arc to all of history. It is a historical and cosmic message for all time. It offers humanity hope and vision. History appears to have a direction and a purpose; it is not just a series of isolated events.

So is this the Universal Christ speaking? Does Jesus of Nazareth talk this way?

Colossians 1:15-23 New International Version (NIV)

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together … whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

Is Christ simply Jesus’ last name?

Is Christ a revealing title that deserves our full attention?

How is Christ’s function or role different from Jesus’ role?


What was God up to in those first moments of creation?

 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1

“God’s “first idea” and priority was to make the Godself both visible and shareable. The word used in the Bible for this idea was the word or Logos, taken from Greek philosophy; I would translate Logos as the “Blueprint” or Primordial Pattern for reality. The whole of creation—not just Jesus—is the beloved community, the partner in the divine dance. Everything is the “child of God.” No exceptions. When you think of it, what else could anything be? All creatures must in some way carry the divine DNA of their Creator.

This is why I can see Christ in my dog, the sky, and all creatures, and it’s why you, whoever you are, can experience God’s unadulterated care for you in your garden or kitchen. You can find Christ’s presence in your beloved partner or friend, an ordinary beetle, a fish in the deepest sea that no human will ever observe, and even in those who do not like you and those who are not like you.”

In Christ the physical universe has become a holy thing and the material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on earth, by revelling in it, loving it and respecting it and joining the divine dance.

With thanks to Richard Rohr.

As you walk through the park contemplate and join with the Divine Dance. Love, respect and Revel in those things you see and hear that you feel are “good” and which you can see as part of the “divine dance”.

And … It is much more



As with all theological stand points more questions are raised than questions answered.

If the Divine DNA is in all things then what is happening when there is conflict between creatures of any kind?

Pray for the Godself to become foremost in ourselves, and between all God’s creatures.

The Peace

May deep peace be in our thinking

May deep peace be in our hearts

May there be deep peace between us and God’s good earth

And may the deep peace of Christ be with us.


Sharing bread and wine

As we share bread and wine we are mindful

Lord Jesus that you laid down your life

so that we and creation could be made new;

Mindful of how you took your life up again,

so that we and creation could be filled with your abundant life;

Mindful that we cannot earn or purchase this privilege,

but that it is your grace which calls us,

and your grace which ensures that all creation may be one and whole.

May your Spirit work in these fruits of earth, this bread and wine,

so that they may become for us a sharing in Christ’s body and blood.

May your Spirit work in us, who are children of earth,

so that we may be transformed into the likeness of Christ,

taking his life, his care, his compassion, & his justice to all creation. Amen.


(We share the bread & the wine)



In this moment we have remembered

That the whole creation is held in the hand of God

and that the whole creation is filled with the life of God;

That the whole creation will be renewed according to the promise of God

and that the whole creation reflects the glory of God from eternity to eternity.

And so we go in the confidence that comes from knowing that

Christ’s limitless grace,

God’s infinite love,

and the Holy Spirit’s relentless companionship,

always encircle us. Amen.

With thanks to Brian McLaren & John van de Laar.


Celebrating St Brendan at the bandstand

Once again we drew inspiration from the Celtic saint, this time using words adapted from the brilliant book Celtic Worship Through The Year by Ray Simpson. We began:

Leader: In the name of our sending God
In the name of the pilgrim Jesus
In the name of the wind-like Spirit
In the name of the Three-in-One.

Leader: High Monarch of land and sea;
All; Wherever we go, is yours.
Leader: You led our forebears by cloud and fire:
All: You lead us through the days and nights.
Leader: You led St. Brendan by sign and sail:
All: Your presence goes before us now.

Leader: Brendan was willing to leave all and sail out into the unknown:
Forgive us for putting safety first.
Lord have mercy
All: Lord have mercy.
Leader: Brendan sought to be of one mind with his brothers and sisters.
Forgive us for acting as if we know best.
Christ have mercy
All: Christ have mercy.
Leader: Brendan built communities of faith and love:
Forgive us for fostering self-sufficient attitudes.
Lord have mercy
All: Lord have mercy.

We read from Jonah 2 and then, reflecting on our own journeys we used these words:

We journey into your love
Reader: Forgetting what is past, we look to things unseen
All: We journey in your light
Reader: We leave behind our ties
All: We journey with single hearts
Reader: The sun shall not strike us by day, not the moon by night
All: We journey in your shielding
Reader: We look not to right nor to left, but straight towards your way
All: We journey in your truth
Reader: The rough places shall be smoothed and the pitfalls shall be cleared
All: We journey in your power
Reader: The proud shall be brought low and the humble shall be raised up
All: We journey in your justice
Reader: The hungry shall be fed and the poor shall have good news
All: We journey in your love
Reader: No final home have we on this life’s passing seas
All: We journey towards our everlasting home.

We took time then to wander around the park with the story of Brendan and to reflect on it, using the symbolic action at the  river as suggested:

The Life of Brendan the Navigator
Brendan was born in Tralee Bay in the south west of Ireland, not far from Cork, around 486. Patrick had been born a century earlier and Christianity was well-established in the majority of local communities, with monasteries everywhere. Whilst pregnant Brendan’s mother, Annagh, dreamed that her womb was full of pure gold. On the night of his birth, Erc the local bishop, saw the village all in one great blaze’ with angels in shining white garments all around it. Realising that this child was special, he asked a nun called Ita to foster the boy and, when Brendan was six he was sent to a monastery and taught the Bible and about the Irish (Celtic) saints. He went on to be ordained a priest by Erc himself, become a monk and to create a new monastic community. Brendan was deeply touched by the promise of Jesus that whoever left family and possessions for his sake would receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life. Increasingly, he yearned to leave everything he knew behind and it was this that led to his famous voyages which inspired storytellers for centuries and were written down in the 10th century.
Inspired by a friend who had stumbled across a monastery on an island and who had spoken of the monks being radiant with the light of Christ, Brendan determined to set sail to find this land of promise. With fourteen brothers (and three unbelievers who joined them at the last minute) in three large coracles, piled high with provisions, they set out to see where they might be led to. They visited some islands, skirted around others, met holy hermits, overcame terrifying whirlpools and rode on dolphins! The most well-known adventure at this time was of them landing on an island and only after disembarking finding it to be a huge sea creature!
After a return to Ireland, a second voyage searching for Paradise took them into hair-raising experiences, illness, death, fellowship with other island hermits and a rapport with creatures of land and sea. Some tales may be references to Iceland with descriptions of what sounds like volcanic eruptions and pillars of ice. After seven years, they came across a land where they met a native who was entirely unclothed. Brendan believed this to be the island of paradise, with this man being an innocent Adam. The man, deemed ‘holy’, eventually persuaded Brendan and the brothers that they should not stay: if they did so, they would spoil the innocence of the land. The brothers left, but Brendan did so reluctantly and seems to have become angry with his disappointment in being sent back after yearning to find this place. If this was America, as some have suggested, it is fascinating to consider how prophetic this advice was, from the point of view of the Native Americans.
Stories tell of Brendan taking out his disappointment and temper on others, struggling to come to terms with his shadow side… He was advised to travel and did so, visiting monasteries in Britain and Brittany, meeting the likes of Brigid and Columba who perhaps acted as spiritual guides. In so doing he began to mellow and grow into a significant (if unsmiling!) spiritual leader. He founded the Clonfert monastery, which attracted 3000 brothers and wrote an inspired Rule for Life which others adopted for several hundreds of years. The week before he died, he spoke of God calling him to the eternal kingdom and of his resurrection. He died at exactly 93 years old.
Reflection ideas: Give thanks for Brendan… Give thanks for your birth – that was just as special to God; Give thanks for those who you have found to be alive with God’s reality & love; Reflect on the 3 unbelievers who hopped on the coracles at the last minute – what message might there be in that? Reflect on your faith journey, its disappointments and surprises, the ups and downs…Find a leaf and think of it representing the coracle of your faith journey through life. Reflect on where you have come from and how your future is unknown to you – but known to God. Go to the bridge to drop it and see it taken along by the water. Pray that you will grow in faith in the years to come and be able to share God’s love and good news with those you meet, just as others have before you.

Returning to the bandstand, we shared our the names and circumstances of others and ourselves who needed our prayers. After silent prayer, we joined together with the following words, which felt incredibly pertinent:

Reader: We thank you for the ways you have led us. We ask for your help as we journey through difficult places.
All: Father be with us on every road
Jesus be with us on every mound
Spirit be with us through every stream
Headland and ridge and round.
Reader: Protect those who work on the seas, those who travel by night, those who serve us in space. Protect our brothers and sisters who are making difficult journeys of faith, those battling persecution and doubt, those walking with grief and despair
All: Be in each sea, each town, each moor, each lying down, each rising up;
In the trough of the billows, in the wastelands of emptiness,
Each step of the journey we take.

Steve wrote the words for the sharing of bread and wine, reminding us of the story of Brendan and brothers landing on the giant sea creature which allowed them to have communion on its back, when they believed it to be an island (!):

And so we companions arrange our table, bedecked with Jesus – bread and wine
Imagining the ground is solid, the terrain is safe, we are secure
In our imagining
So thought Brendan and his companions stepping onto that island
But we trust not in this fleeting world, life’s passing seas, the grass that withers
We join St Brendan in looking elsewhere – to bread and wine – contingent on harvest and human toil and the hidden magic of yeast
Praise God we eat this bread which is for evermore: Jesus with us
And drink this wine which is for evermore: Jesus with us

We finished with a blessing:

Jesus who stopped the wind and stilled the waves
Grant us calm in the storm times;
Jesus victor over death and destruction, bring safety on our voyage;
Jesus the purest love, perfect companion, bring guarding ones around us;
Jesus of the miraculous catching of fish, and the perfect lakeside meal,
Guide us finally ashore.

And if you have read all that then you deserve a cup of tea!!!! For us, with certain news shared, it was poignant and special for all it was wordier than usual!


Christmas morning at the bandstand was accompanied by the most beautiful festive birdsong.

May we…

Liturgy for Christmas Day……….

As the light begins to shift
and a crack appears in heaven.
As stars slide across the darkness
and angels clear their throats.
As an unborn agitates
with the labouring of love

may we…

as incarnation moves from promise
into life.
As words of prophecy
spill into every empty silence.
As you, O Love, shift restlessly
and begin to let go

may we…

as the world turns
and the rumour goes unnoticed.
As grandiose words are spoken
yet never contain the word.
As the longing and waiting and calling
are missed

may we…

may we shift restlessly along with heaven
at the breath-taking vulnerability of hope,
speak  justice into the silence of injustice,
move towards those, others move away from,
may we forgive in order to bring new life to the world,
prepare to change as all of heaven changes now,
live towards what is right and away from what is wrong.

May we pull on the hope of Advent
live on the cusp of incarnation
and proclaim with our lives
the Good News
of promise
of hope in a messy world
of Emmanuel…..

may we…
may you
make way
for birth

for God with us!

(With thanks to abbotsford.org.uk)


For God to become a baby he had to
Squeeze himself into a small space
Confine himself into a fallible body
Restrict himself to humanity
Reduce himself to limited movements
Become weak and vulnerable
Rely on humans to take care of him
For Christ to become one of us
He had to be born like us
The light was hidden within the womb
The thirst quencher received refreshment from the breast of Mary
The bread of life had to learn how to eat
The one who holds us, first had to be held
The Lover was loved
The way had to learn to walk
The word had to learn to speak
The creator taught how to create
This is our GOD

James Hawes


It was the first Christmas and

God giggled
God farted
God burped
God gurgled
God needed a cuddle
God was a baby

Christmas reminds us:

That we don’t have to find God, he finds us in our humanity
We don’t have to go up – he came down
We find God in the physical, in our bodies, in material, in humanity.
God became one of us!

James Hawes

Our Christmas morning gathering in the park ended with a rendition of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.


This morning as the rain poured down on a very grey day we were glad to be meeting in the bandstand. Advent which means “arrival” is the beginning of the Christian year.

We believe in a creating and amazing God,

who has been to the depths of despair;

who has risen in splendour to fill the cosmos;

who decorates the universe with clear white light and

sparkling colours, twinkling stars and swirling galaxies,

over and over again.

We believe that Jesus is the light of the world;

that God believes in us and loves us,

even though we make the same mistakes,

over and over again.

We commit ourselves to Jesus and his way of shalom*,

to one another as sisters and brothers,

and to the Creator’s business in the world.


*shalom encompasses: harmony, wholeness, well-being, generosity, kindness, non-violence,

peace, justice, equality, completeness, welfare, safety, tranquillity.


Sharing Bread and Wine
Long ago our tradition says, Jesus came in the humble birth of a child,
a child of divine love,
a child of Mary’s ‘yes’ to you,
a child of Joseph’s acceptance,
a child of our humanity.
Long ago our tradition says, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said:
‘This bread is broken, as my body will be’. And he handed it to his friends inviting them to eat.

Long ago our tradition says, Jesus poured a cup of wine, gave thanks for it and said:  ‘This wine is poured out as my life will be poured out’.  And he gave it to his friends inviting them to drink.

May this gathering of this community of faith
be comforted and challenged this Advent season.
And may people see in us the compassion, courage and generosity that characterised the life of Jesus. Amen.



Dear God,

As we journey down this Advent road,

Grant us the courage to make peace.

Peace in our hearts,

Peace in our homes,

Peace in our communities,

Peace in our world.

Amen.  (liturgyoutside.net)

Our arrival at Cool River for coffee was a few minutes before the cafe was due to open, but they were kind enough to open up early so we could get inside out of the cold and wet!


Advent Hope

On a beautiful but chilly Sunday morning we met by the river in the park.

Lighter of lights – illumine us 
Fire of fires – thaw us 
Power of powers – strengthen us 
Lover of lovers – warm us

Teller of tales – encourage us 
Destroyer of darkness – save us 
Touchstone of truth – examine us 
Summoner of stars – amaze us

Wellspring of wisdom – weather us 
Water of life – refresh us 
Dancer of days – delight in us 
Breath of the universe – bless us

Ruth Burgess

Advent Hope.

In the first 1200 years of Christianity the greatest feast of the year was Easter. But around 1200, Francis of Assisi taught that we didn’t need to wait for Easter for God to love us by the cross and resurrection. He thought it started with God’s  love being demonstrated first and foremost by the incarnation and he popularised Christmas as the greatest Christian feast. The Franciscans realised if God had become flesh, taken on materiality, physicality, humanity, then the problem was solved from the beginning. Francis said, “Every tree should be decorated with lights to show that it’s filled with light anyway.” And that’s exactly what we do 800 years later. But remember when we speak of Advent or waiting for Christmas or preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. That’s already happened 2000 years ago. We’re in fact welcoming, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is for ever being born in the human soul and into history and into the whole cosmos. We do need to make room for that, because right now in our world there is no room at the inn for such mystery. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material. The dualism of the spiritual and material is precisely what Jesus came to reveal as untrue.  Jesus came to show us that these two seemingly different worlds are and always have been one. The  Western Church – both Catholic and Protestant – has always had difficulty in understanding this truth. The Eastern Church understood that through the incarnation God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. They understood the mystery of incarnation in a universal sense, and that’s what you and I, I think, are still preparing for. That’s the eternal advent. It’s always advent. We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new kind of image in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens you’re celebrating Christmas. Christmas became the greatest celebratory feast of Christians because it’s basically saying it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to have flesh and blood bodies, it’s good to have intellect, it’s good to have sexuality. We shouldn’t be ashamed of any of this. This is what God loves.

Richard Rohr.

We ended with the following prayer, and then went to Cool River for Fairtrade coffee and lots of chat!

Bright God of Advent:
Blaze in our darkness.
Incinerate our iniquity.
Light up our road.

Riddle the ashes
of our desires.
Rekindle in us
your justice and love.

Ruth Burgess





Bring and share at the bandstand

It was our first rally chilly morning for many months but it was dry and we were happy to meet Jeremy and Sue and to discover several people we have in common – it really is such a small world!

We began with words from Ecclesiastes 3 about time for everything which Fiona had found so pertinent in a very busy and demanding couple of weeks. Wendy read verses from Hebrews 10:19-25 and we reflected on the knowledge that we were able to be in God’s presence here and now and then to encourage us she shared a story of a wonderful answer to prayer. It mirrored the story of Elisha and the widow’s oil – when we do everything we can and can do no more, God can intervene and save the day!

From the bandstand we were sent off with bird seed thinking of Jesus’ words about worrying and remembering that God feeds the birds of the air and cares far more for us. Walking through the park we shared with God our worries and then went to feed the ducks in the pond. It really was very helpful to throw our worries with those seeds and be reminded of the perspective we need in difficult times.

Back at the bandstand we blew bubbles as another symbol of letting those things go and then watched a short film from the Work of the People to lead us into sharing bread and wine.

Thanks to all who brought something for today – as ever it held together and spoke. Next week Soulspace!

The Wonder of Fungi

On a beautiful, but cold autumnal Sunday morning we met in the park for worship:

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows’ flight and moonlight rays

In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls, frost’s first kiss

Just take a few moments to reflect on creation and in so doing worship the Creator.

Our Generous God

We praise and thank you for:


for changing seasons,

for life and love,

for incarnation and new life,

for unending undeserved love.


We rejoice in your persistent song,

yearning and calling,

waiting and welcoming,

gathering and loving,

making us whole.


We thank you for peace promised,

for the hope of kingdom shalom,

here and now

the three in one

God with us.

The wonder of fungi.

Of all life on Earth, there’s something more mysterious and more vital to our survival than anything else. Much of its life is hidden underground. And only at the end of its life cycle does it reveal its identity. The mushroom. They have a secret life so magical, so weird, that it almost defies imagination, to create new medicines and even clean up polluted soils. The  story of fungi is so strange it seems almost alien, yet they are crucial to all life on Earth.

The only place many of us encounter mushrooms is in the supermarket. Cultivated edible varieties like these, are all most of us think about when it comes to mushrooms. We British can’t get enough. It’s a multimillion pound business in the UK.  But there’s so much more to mushrooms than the examples in the vegetable section. The mushroom is just one species from an enormous kingdom, the kingdom of the fungi, and fungi are hidden away in all kinds of food products in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Blue cheese, and the blue is a fungus. A lot of soft drinks and fizzy drinks have citric acid in them, and that’s produced by a fungus in huge quantities. Many detergents also contain citric acid, just like fizzy drinks.  Here’s soy sauce, bread, QuornWild red salmon, the red colour, is sometimes due to a fungus called Phaffia. Some of the protein in pet foods, is actually produced by fungi. Then there’s alcohol. The fermenting activity is due to Saccharomyces, turning sugars into alcohol and CO2. Alcohol is therefore the metabolic product of yeast in beer and wine making.

Our supermarket shop wouldn’t be the same without fungi. They’re hidden away in all sorts of ways in the products, due to them having a  whole series of biochemical tricks up their sleeve. The global trade in edible fungi is worth £32 Billion a year.


Some may think they look like any other plant, but in fact, they’re a different organism altogether. Fungi have evolved as a kingdom in their own right, distinct from plants and animals. They evolved into a distinct kingdom over one and a half billion years ago. It’s thought that in variety, they outnumber plants by ten to one.

You may not realise that what we call the mushroom is, in fact, just one type of fungus. It’s the form that we are most familiar with and the easiest to recognise. The head of a mushroom is the cap. This is the stalk. Look underneath the cap, and you’ll find a set of sharp ridges known as gills. And it’s from the gills that the spores are released. A mushroom, is a fruiting body, it is the reproductive structure of a fungus and its sole purpose is to produce spores. Eventually, when the spores are fully ripened, they drop off into that air space between the gills, and fall from the mushroom, they are then carried away by air currents.

We can do something called a spore print. Every mushroom has its own unique spore print. These spores are like the seeds of a mushroom. They do create  a rather beautiful pattern on the paper. They’re just like the silhouettes of a mushroom, and that colour of the spore print is unique to that type of mushroom.

Fungi have the power to affect our lives in unexpected ways. One of the most striking displays of their power to affect our lives is through – the most widely-used type of drug on the planet – antibiotics. Antibiotics are tremendously important in our fight against infection. Up to about 30% of patients in hospital can be on antibiotics at any one time. They’re used to treat things like pneumonias, skin and soft tissue infections and prevent surgical site infections post operatively.

The invention of antibiotics has been a game changer for medicine and humankind. And we owe it all to fungi.

So far we’ve just been thinking about  the fruiting body of the mushroom, most people think that is the mushroom. But it’s only part of the organism. To understand how fungi relate to other organisms on our planet, we have to realise what’s going on underground. You might think that what we see above the ground is the main part of the fungus but the vast majority of the organism is hidden underground. It’s made up of a huge web of tiny threads, hyphae, spreading out in search of food. This network of fungal filaments is called  a mycelium.  A mycelium is the scientific name for the fungus’s feeding network. And the only way many fungi can get what they need, is by attaching themselves to other organisms, and engaging in a two-way exchange of nutrients. Symbiosis. It’s a process that results in one of the most complex, and important relationships in the natural world. It’s estimated that about 90% of all wild plants on Earth will form very special associations with fungi. The fungi will attach themselves to the plant roots, they then form sheaths on the outside, that envelop the root like a kind of glove. This is where the nutrient exchange takes place between the fungus and the root. This nutrient exchange works both ways. The fungus feeds on sugars from the plant that it needs to grow, and in return gives back water and minerals that the plant is unable to absorb enough of itself.

A healthier plant and a healthier fungus mean healthier soil. All this is invisible to us, but it’s all around us. It’s going on in every park and in every field and in every woodland in Britain. Without this relationship, plants wouldn’t thrive so well.

While some fungi are parasitic and feed on living organisms, others only eat things that are dead. These fungi are able to break down and digest organic waste and in doing so, recycle it. These fungi are called saprophytes. They are  vital for the natural world. Every dead leaf and twig and branch in this park is being consumed by fungal mycelia, which break down the cellulose and lignin and other complex compounds. So even dead wood can be digested by fungi. Were it not for the constant activity of fungal mycelia,  the whole planet would be covered with a mass of scrub and leaf. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the fungi  that digests dead plant material. They have successfully recycled the world’s natural waste for hundreds of millions of years, making entire ecosystems habitable for animals and plants.

Another amazing ability of fungi is to break down toxic waste. Fungal mycelia can break down the hydrocarbons present in much chemical waste. It’s a process called bioremediation. The fungi literally eat away the pollutants. As an experiment a heavily polluted petrochemical site in the US  was seeded with an oyster mushroom mycelium, it was later found that the soil had been transformed by the fungal mycelium and was teeming with new life, with lots of worms and insects. The  decomposition process that the fungi started is continued by other soil micro-organisms – bacteria and slime molds, and you eventually end up with soil that’s richer than it was to begin with.  The oyster mushroom mycelium can not only digest chemical waste – it can also create an entirely new soil ecosystem where plants and invertebrates can thrive.


Watching a TV programme about fungi a few weeks ago I was amazed at how far the mycelium from a fungi spread under the ground, unseen, unsung and yet doing something absolutely crucial and amazing. It reminded me of the many unsung heroes who bring the love of God to others. Those who feed the hungry, stand up for justice, who are peacemakers, people who work with the unloved, the lonely, the homeless and all others in need. So often we come across organisations or individuals who are working selflessly, often in very difficult circumstances to show the love of God and yet they are usually unrecognised in a world that celebrates the rich and famous.

Using a stone mushroom I made something to represent the mycelium underground and we wrote the names of individuals and organisations that were bringing the love of God to others. We then wrote down the names of places or people who needed to know the love of God at this time.

Sharing bread & wine 

In this bowl with the bread
We place our hopes and dreams:
Those who are closest to us,
Those whose lives are bound up with our lives………….

And with these, we unite those more distant to us:
The whole of anonymous humankind
Scattered in every corner of the globe;
Our distant brothers and sisters remembering you in bread and wine today
A multitude of people, each reflecting your image, each needing your grace……….

And not only the living, but also the dead
We remember those who have loved us and inspired us and gone before us………

The Bread of life…………..

Into these cups of wine we pour

our sorrows and suffering,
our failings and fears,
our pain and sadness………..

The wine poured out…………

May all life – past, present and future, near and far –
Now be brought together  in this sharing of bread and wine,
And in the hope of your coming kingdom of shalom.















Of birds and hippos at the bandstand!

Out time together in stunning sunshine and falling leaves and birdsong began with us writing three words describing our week. These were laid on a table – a sign of what was important to us that we had come with. We then focused on what we had come to…

Considering the beauty of our surroundings, we read part of God’s parading of creation to Job from chapter 40:15-24 in the Message – a captivating account for the hippo! With that we had a copy of Ann Lewin’s poem ‘Consider the birds’ from her wonderful book ‘Watching for the kingfisher’. We took it away to read and in search of birds we could hear and ducks in the river or pond to allow a response to the poem and to added words of Jesus – see below:

Consider the birds.

That’s one command
I have no problem with.

I held a swallow once,
Knocked senseless by some accident;
Fragile body, tiny beating heart
Cupped in my hand. The, restored,
With flirt of feathers,
Off to freedom flight.
I who have scarcely
Stirred beyond these shores,
Held one who, twice at least,
Had flown four thousand miles.
No map, no compass,
Only unerring inner certainty
Carrying him over land and ocean.
A moment to treasure.

Then there are sparrows,
So common we don’t notice them;
Eight a penny, or perhaps ten
Since decimalisation.
I wonder why you didn’t tell Job
To look at sparrows, instead of
Parading the juggernauts of your
Creation. After all,
Anyone could make a hippopotamus –
No finesse there, a lump with
Four legs and a great big head –
A child’s production.
But a sparrow, there’s craftsmanship:
Those shades of brown and gold,
Arranged and sculpted into
Subtly beautiful plumage,
Each one different;
The stocky bodies full of energy,
Brisk, going about their business,
Fighting, squabbling,
Caring for their young, chirping
In incessant cheerfulness.

In contrast to the heron,
Standing more still than a
Contemplative, alert,
Waiting for the moment.
And no-one could watch ducks,
Or better still, listen to them,
Without believing in your sense of humour.

Kingfisher’s glory, blackbird’s song,
The marvel of flight itself…
The list is endless.

And we more precious.
A mystery to ponder.

Ann Lewin

Matthew 6 26 Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…
33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Back at the bandstand we brought those we were carrying to the table, writing their names there too. This led into the sharing of bread and wine with words written by Steve for the occasion:

Noah’s Ark Communion

And the animals came in two by two
Convened and expectant
It had been a harsh journey for sure
They surrounded the table
Who was to be the one?
The Lamb stirred uneasily

“This is all their fault” they agreed
The Hippo – out of kindness – began to make excuses for them
Then silence
We do need a restoration of that which was given
To put right what was wronged
To set right all relationships
They are at war with the very dust out of which they were crafted
The very fabric of what was given and this dispensation has to end.

It was the old Orangutan – so closely related – who spoke
“They have proclaimed themselves Wise when they are so dim; they have wrapped themselves with gold to cover their nakedness; they have destroyed more than they have built; they have despoiled so much of what they have touched. And therefore a willing volunteer from amongst them must come to this table and recompense for their abomination.”
Murmurs of assent in every animal tongue.

“And if this happens – the price paid – the world renewed – the red earth and the blue waters restored, we will welcome them once more at the table to eat and drink with us the gifts given.”

And then another quieter voice: “It is done. Once for all. And behold I shall make all things new.”

And so we come today because we are permitted – to this table – to share the bread within the matrix of God’s created order, with the talkative and the inarticulate, with the noisy and the silent. And we give thanks that we are invited to eat this bread.


And so we come today because we are forgiven – to this table – to share the wine within the matrix of God’s created order, with the talkative and the inarticulate, with the noisy and the silent. And we give thanks that we are invited to drink this wine.


And in those times the Lion will frolic with the Lamb, and there will be no more sorrow or tears, no more war and no more plunder because the order of the Kingdom and Queendom of God will rule for ever and ever. AMEN

And all this with golden leaves falling and swirling around us… SUCH a pleasure to be out in the midst of nature for our worship!