Saturday, 3 August 2013


Holy Trinity Church Clapham Common - Agust 3rd 2013

This address was given in a service celebrating the emanipation of  million slaves in the Carribean in 1838. It was one of a series of 4 addresses, the others were on the themes of freedom, vision and aspiration and the multicultural church and Britain.

The text was Revelation 7:9-12

If nothing ever changed - there would be no butterflies.
The caterpillar goes through a process of transformation which is wonderful, awesome and complete.
As the caterpillar weaves its cocoon and disappears from view it experiences huge loss, it literally loses itself.
And as the chrysalis hangs from a tree branch or is hidden in a wall it is extremely vulnerable and fragile.
This process of transformation is a process involving loss and vulnerability.
But the end of this risky process is a creature of great and fragile beauty.

Change is fundamental to life - anything that does not change does not live.
And that includes us, human life inevitably includes change. Sometimes we welcome the changes and sometimes we fight against them. Some changes we should embrace and encourage, others we should resist.
And what is true in our personal lives is true also for our life together because that too inevitably involves change and some changes should be encouraged whilst others should be resisted.
We should embrace and encourage those changes that enrich human lives, those changes that are the building blocks for the Kingdom on earth. We should stand up and strive to change policies and attitudes which diminish and stigmatise people and so impoverish our communities.
But we need to resist change which is destructive, which undermines compassion and justice and pushes people into poverty and despair.
In all these changing scenes of life, we must try to discern when we should work for change and when we should resist.
 Sometimes that is easy and sometimes it is difficult. But we can be helped in our discernment if we have a vision, a vision of the Kingdom of God on earth, a vision of our lives together as human beings created in the image of God.
The reading we have just heard from the book of revelation presents just such a vision:
·       A vision of a great and diverse multitude, of every nation, tribe, people and language.
·       A vision of a great and diverse multitude worshipping God.
·       A vision of a great and diverse multitude worshipping God and recognising that salvation comes from God through Jesus Christ.
·       A vision of praise, celebration, wholeness and salvation for all - of every nation, tribe, people and language.

The change that we celebrate today and the need for continuing change that we recognise today are changes on the journey to fulfilment of this vision.
Today, as we remember and celebrate the 175th anniversary of the emancipation of nearly a million African people in the Caribbean.
·       This was a change of huge significance which was celebrated by dancing in the streets.
·       This was a change that came as a result of people recognising and working for the vision, often at great cost.
·       This was a change that contributed to the transformation of lives and society, not only in the Caribbean but in Britain and across the world.
·       This was a deeply significant moment of change but it was not the end of change, the Kingdom has not yet been established.
Another significant moment, that has become iconic in our own community was the arrival of 493 passengers from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush in June 1948. The photograph of those passengers disembarking has come to symbolise change that has enriched and challenged of all of us.
In the half century that has followed lives and society have been transformed:
·       a transformation that has involved pain and joy, loss and gain, challenge and celebration
·        a transformation that is still ongoing as we continue to learn from one another and to stand together against the discrimination and prejudice that undermines the vision of the great and diverse multitude of the Kingdom.
We stand in the footsteps of those who have recognised the need for change and who have moved towards the vision.
·       In this place we are reminded of William Wilberforce and the other members of the Clapham Sect who worked for decades for the abolition of the slave trade and emancipation.
·       Along with the Methodist people I stand in the footsteps of John Wesley who was committed to the abolition of slavery and who urged people to work for freedom. In 1774 he wrote the following words in his pamphlet, Thoughts Upon Slavery , please forgive his exclusive language, he was a man of his time:
"Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary action. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion. Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do with every one as you would he should do unto you."

Methodists today, continue to work for freedom, inclusion, compassion and justice.
·       We stand in these, and other footsteps
·       We stand as followers of Jesus Christ
We must continue to commit ourselves to working for change, inspired by the vision of the great and diverse multitude of the Kingdom.
We must continue to challenge:
·       those who still judge us by the colour of our skin, by the language we speak, by our accents, by our clothing;
·       those who see diversity as threatening and not as enriching;
·       those who continue to enslave, to stigmatise and dehumanise others
And as followers of Christ, standing in those great footsteps
·       we accept the challenge, the loss, and the vulnerability of change
·       and we look forward to the transformation, to the beauty of the butterfly - to the fulfilment of the vision.
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Raspberries galore and the promise of more

The discerning will realise that this is not a well tended garden:

The raspberry canes were not thinned, cut back or tied up and they are rambling across the untended garden. In fact some of them grew up through the beech hedge which meant that I was picking raspberries from the hedge this year. I have just come in from picking the second crop this week and, even though many of the raspberries clearly needed eating rather than collecting, there is a good harvest.

Here they are:

God has provided in spite of our neglect and we are enjoying God's generosity.

However, I know that next year, when we care for the garden properly the crop could be even more abundant. I know that some of the raspberries were not worth picking this year because they were affected by mould.

Of course God can and does provide without our involvement but when we accept the invitation to join in God's work then God uses our gifts and skills to great effect. And we may find that we are called to things that we had never imagined, "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37)

Friday, 19 July 2013

Jesus the Light of the World - Good News for Everyone

 *This sermon was preached on July 13th 2013 in the Priory on The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It was preached in the context of an ecumenical pilgrimage celebrating the presence of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East. Pilgrims were given a DVD as they left which was entitled 'Good news for everyone' and featured seven places in the North as examples of ways in which the good news is being lived and shared today. Church Leaders from many churches were present and we were all commissioned to go and share the good news. It was a bright and sunny day, around 2000 people were gathered in the Priory and others were listening from the Heugh or outside the walls where everything could be clearly heard. We celebrated the Gospel.

Look around you. See the walls of this priory, each stone clear in the light of the sun. Look at the moss and grasses growing among the stones. See the hill behind us and the sky above, perhaps with a bird flying across. All made visible to us because of the light of the sun.
Now look at your hand, see the markings on it, marvel at the gift of light and the gift of life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, "Let there be light" and there was light.
(Genesis 1:1)
The first verse of St John's Gospel, a gospel of special significance for St Cuthbert reminds us of the poetic account of creation in Genesis and then we are led on to a greater truth: the truth that in Jesus, the light of creation, the light of life, was coming into the world.

God reached out to us in love.
When light comes it brings clarity.
When light comes it gives direction and guidance.
When light comes it is glorious.

Today we celebrate the gospels. We celebrate the gospel, the good news. We celebrate the good news of Jesus, the Light of the World.

When we know Jesus, we begin to see the world and ourselves differently. We begin to understand that we are loved and that we live in a world created in love. And when we know the risen Christ we understand that nothing can separate us from that love -not even death. We hear the good news that light has overcome the darkness and that death, the final enemy, has been overcome.

When we open our hearts and our minds to receive God's offer of light and life in Jesus Christ, the shadows are overcome and the disturbing shapes are transformed.

When I was a small child I would sometimes lie awake in my bedroom looking at the shadows and the shapes. Sometimes they were frightening because in the darkness things looked bigger and the shapes changed, everything was unfamiliar and strange. Then I was given a present, it was a night light. It was a beautiful china spirit lamp with a wick and it would probably be banned for health and safety reasons today! But it burned near my bed, not so near that I could knock it over, and by its light I could see the familiar objects again and the frightening shapes and shadows disappeared.

The light of the gospel shows us the true shape of our lives - lives shaped by the love of God. This is the light that gives clarity.

The Lindisfarne Gospels were lovingly created in the community here on Lindisfarne, written for God and St Cuthbert and all the saints who are on the island. The light of Christ gave shape and direction to the members of the community here. It was a community that was going through times of change and transition when Cuthbert was sent here as Prior.

Light gives clarity, it also gives direction.

Some years ago my husband and I were on holiday with friends and one afternoon my friend and I decided to go for a walk. We didn't take a map because we knew where we were going but then we decided to take a different route back, thinking we knew where the paths would lead. We didn't. We got lost and it began to get dark. We were heading back to a canal and we found ourselves on a steep, dark path and didn't feel safe at all. We had no torches because we hadn't intended to be out so long so we phoned our husbands who came with torches and led us home - and they've never let us forget it!

Light helps us to find our way.

All that Jesus said and did, all that Jesus was, pointed people to the love of God. A love without limits. An overflowing and abundant love. A love that respects human dignity and freedom. Jesus helped people to live their lives as those shaped by the love of God.

Jesus challenged people where their actions or words or traditions worked against the love of God. The good news of God's love is good news for every age. It was good news for the northern saints who in their way and in their time challenged those around them.

So Aidan walked and refused to ride the horse that was given to him because he wanted to align himself with the poor.

So Cuthbert reconciled a divided community on Lindisfarne through persuasion and patience.

So in Britain and in the North East today Christians challenge the injustice of a society where one in three children are living in poverty in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. 

We challenge the injustice of a society where increasing numbers are dependent on food banks because they cannot afford to eat.

And in a society where many politicians and media encourage a rhetoric which blames the poor for their poverty, Christians are challenging the lies and shining the light on the truth.

The Gospel is a living gospel. The good news is for today and you will find examples of the living gospel in the North East on the DVD that you will be given as you leave the Priory.

The light of the Gospel gives direction.
The light of the Gospel gives clarity.
And the light of the Gospel is glorious.

If you have been here at the end of a day you may have seen the glorious sunsets over St Cuthbert's bay. In Jesus, the Light of the World, we see God's glory.

Eadfrith and the community of Lindisfarne created a gospel book of great and enduring beauty to celebrate the glory of God.
The glory of God is seen in the careful formation of each letter.
The glory of God is seen in the elaborate carpet pages, with the cross integral to each one.
The glory of God is seen in the unusual depiction of the evangelists as human beings (rather than using symbols to represent them) - this is glory among us and for us.
The glory of God is seen in the beautiful title pages and in illustrations drawn from the beauty of creation.

The glory of God is what we celebrate here today:
God who has reached out to us and come among us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World;
God who challenges us to respond and live as people of the light;
God who gives light and life to the world.

The glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the Light of the World is what we are called to share.
This is good news for everyone.
To God be the glory!
Revd Ruth M Gee July 2013

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The long wait

On the Sabbath, they rested.
On the Sabbath they waited.
They waited to anoint your body.
They waited to bury you properly.
They waited to finish the death.
They waited to begin the mourning.

Today, we have rested.
Today,  we have waited.
We have waited as members of your body.
We have waited to welcome you.
We have waited to finish the death.
We have waited to begin new life.

Stay with us Lord as we wait.
Stay with us through the long night.
Stay with us, light in our darkness.

© Ruth M Gee April 2001

Friday, 29 March 2013

From a Frequent Blogger

Frequent blogger?

The District website announces that I blog frequently.
Evidently I am not managing to do so - or at least the frequency is about 4 times per year.
Why don't I blog?
It isn't because I don't value blogs, I read other people's blogs frequently (in the proper meaning of the word).
It isn't that I don't want to communicate. I do want to and I know that social media is effective, relevant and essential for a serious Christian communicator.
It isn't that I can't write - I do it all the time.

Why don't I blog more often?
Because I am a perfectionist.
I don't like to publish anything that is less than perfect and so blogging feels threatening. I know it will never be perfect. There is always more I can do to improve a post.
I would like to include fantastic photographs, beautiful poetry, and thought-provoking reflections on every occasion.

Perhaps, Good Friday afternoon is the time to recognise that I am not and never will be a perfect blogger - or a perfect human being.

But perhaps I could aim to be a frequent blogger.
Perhaps I could communicate better.
Perhaps I could take the risk.

Shall I press 'publish'?