Today, we gather to Rejoice! Is it not premature to Rejoice as we still make our way through the darkness of the season into the mystery of God’s love? You may wonder!!
Come, let us explore together the call to ‘Rejoice in the Lord, Always’.
The ‘Act of ‘Rejoicing’ in the Christian worship and witness is a curious one like most of our faith in action. When we consider some of the reasons for rejoicing in our Christian Tradition in the Scriptures, we realise that they are most ridiculous. The best of them all is what our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew 5.11-12). I suspect the Lord read the Prophet Habakkuk too closely. ‘Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Hab 3.17-18)
In keeping company with our Lord Jesus and his company, I suspend all human reasoning at this point in the Christian season and rely on the Divine reason alone. That divine reason takes us through some most exciting places. We hear Psalmist say, ‘Darkness is not dark to you. Darkness and light to you are both alike!’ (Ps 139.12) In this divine reason, ‘darkness and light are both alike’ for we know, ‘for with you (God) is the well of life and in your light we see light.’(Ps 36.9)
Is this some kind of mystery language? Well this week was punctuated by some exciting moments that if you hear me speak in mystical language, then here is some liturgical reasoning. On Wednesday of this week was the first of three Ember days of Advent/winter. We fast and pray during the Embertide on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And the Wednesday Emberday coincided with the feast of St Ambrose.
Those of us who have taken time to examine the inside of ‘Ciborium’ i.e. the canopy over the Cathedral main altar would have come across the ‘Doctors of the Church’ i.e. of the Ancient Church like the Aberdeen Doctors of the Reformation Church. St Ambrose was one of the four and our first hymn today, ‘Hark, A herald voice is calling! Here we need to pause for a moment!
Hark! A herald voice is calling!
One of the central themes of the Early Church is a call to Repentance! at every liturgical season. The call to Repentance was as urgent to the Early Church as it was to the world of its time. However, our church today has grown out of this ancient Tradition of ‘Repentance’ because we have reasoned out all ‘sin’ and we have found ways of inventing new sins which can be reasoned out with the tradition. So, if we are aligned to the trends of our Church today, our Ambrosian hymn will have little or no relevance to following Jesus and live a life of holiness for we have no sin! When repentance is made obsolete, we will have nothing to rejoice in. If relationship with Jesus is our ultimate purpose and joy, the repentance becomes integral to that relationship and ‘Rejoice’ becomes a divine response. The Divine Logic links Rejoicing to Repentance. We cannot rejoice without repentance.
Today, as we come to begin our journey with John the Baptist, we note that John ended up in prison for calling Herod to repentance. He ended up in prison for his prophetic voice. In prison he suffered ‘depression’ and doubted the messianic call of his cousin Jesus. Today, as we commit ourselves to the ‘Act of Rejoicing’ , we pray for all who suffer persecution and imprisonment for calling the powers to repentance and resisting injustice and disempowerment. May our souls constantly long for the coming messiah and repent of all that distracts us away from the joy of the Lord. Rejoicing is a response to the joy of repentance.
Besides the spiritual reason for rejoicing, we have a simple reason to rejoice too. Six months ago we applied for Public Entertainment License which will enable us to resume our Cathedral @ Noon Concerts and other events. We worked in partnership with the Aberdeen City Council to comply with all requirements of health and safety. On Friday at 1pm we had the final inspection and by 3pm we were notified that we have been granted Public Entertainment License. The Trustees will now focus on restoring all events that proved to be a blessing to the city and the community.
Yesterday I met a couple who were regular at the Cathedral @ Noon Concerts and found it a source of healing in Dementia. They were thrilled at the news of the Concerts resuming in January. Thank you for your prayers and support. We have another reason to rejoice.
Come, Let us Rejoice!
Today is the first of winter Ember Days and this year it is aligned to the lesser festival of St Ambrose of Milan. And we observe this in the company of the Prophets, in the second week in Advent, living the life of a Prophetic Community.
Today people of faith with angels incorporated in their cosmology i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims, celebrate the War in Heaven reaching its climax when Archangel Michael and his army of Angels cast out the Dragon and their angels. The artwork by Les Talbott depicts the moment in vivid colours.
This War in Heaven which ended at Golgotha when the Crucified Lord Jesus pronounced, ‘It is Finished’ finds its fulfilment each time we fight war against injustice and oppression.
It is a joy and a blessing to be part of this War in Heaven which we continue to fight on earth each day in prayerful action.
May the Lord be with you and bless you today as we celebrate the Feast of Michael and All Angels.
Today, we will know who our next Prime Minister is. We pray for God’s anointing and blessings upon the chosen one as they take up the Office at an important moment in history. In the shadows of this historic moment, we anticipate a matter of truth in the life of our Church. In the context of this I watched a political thriller on Amazon Prime Video recommended movies, ‘Nothing but the Truth’ and listened to the song by Coby Brown. His words carry the echoes of the words of Lord Hodge to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this year.
Lord Hodge said: "At a time when political leaders in autocratic regimes, and regrettably in some democracies, have often been disrespectful of the truth and commentators accept with a resigned shrug the deliberate purveying of lies, the commitment of the Church and other churches to promote truthfulness in our public and private lies has never been more important.”
Coby Brown wrote.
Hey, baby, do you see what I see?
Hey, baby, did you hear the decree?
Hey, baby, can you look in his eyes?
And does it still make you feel high?
And are you ready to go?
Go out to, to be at your man
Do you see the sound of the stars?
Red road to Mars
One thing we share is the silence of God
We got nothing to do but wait out our trip
To the end of the way and you get used to it
And all we are asking for
Is nothing but the truth
And are you feeling a free will
And is it burning in you still
While this whole, whole world just dies
And as we move from the light
Do you see the sound of the stars?
Red road to Mars
One thing we share is the silence of God
We got nothing to do but wait out our trip
To the end of the world and you get used to it
And all we are asking for
Is nothing but the truth.
I cannot but notice that there is a sudden curiosity into the business of ‘Truth’. Here is the title for the opening session of the Aberdeenshire Theological Club received today. ‘The first meeting will be held in the Chaplaincy lounge on Monday September 19, open at 2pm for a 2.15 pm start. Our topic will be “What is Truth, and Who Cares?” The importance of truth in public discourse, a discussion led by Jim Gordon.
I wonder, if this sudden curiosity into ‘Truth’ is merely a chance occurrence and nothing to do with the public display of ‘untruth’ in the realms of a ‘truth telling community’! ‘Truth in the inwards parts’ is ‘a desire of God’ according to King David in Psalm 51. Allegri caught this moment in his ‘Miserere Mei Deus’ with the vocals chords of the Sopranos launching a note that makes us realise what King David meant when he wrote those immortal words, touched by the ‘Spirit of Truth’. He tried all in his power to conceal the truth, of abusing Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah in the worst conceivable cover up, at the hands of the ‘uncircumcised.’
Have we come to believe in the art of deception in telling the whole world that we care for human dignity while we do everything in our power to diminish it with utter contempt for it. ‘Will Mary ever sing Magnificat Again?’ Will the traumatised now taken hostage by the ‘guardians of reputation’ be ever set free to worship God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all the days of their lives?
If it were possible for King David to repent, surely it would be possible for the ‘guardians of reputation’ to stand in solidarity with him. Would it take ‘the murder of Uriah’ to bring the ‘guardians of reputation’ to repentance?
I must confess, I don’t have a clue what all this is about. It was triggered by a friend making reference to an, ‘In Camera’ event in Scotland today. I quipped, “that is good if the event is ‘in camera’ for the world to see the mind of the church” ignorantly. He corrected me gently saying that the Latin, ‘In Camera’ means ‘in chamber’ i.e. ‘In Private.’ Last time something similar happened, there was much expectation of revival in the church. However, even since the last ‘In Camera’ we have witnessed everything but the Truth.
By the way, I enjoyed the exceptional performance by Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga in ‘Nothing but the Truth’ and pray those who meet ‘In Camera’ today will excel in their performance of truth. The fight for truth and justice should continue until the ‘Coming of the Lord.’
‘Fear not Little Flock’
Today, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was full of surprises like the lady of the Feast. Her Yes to God is the joy of our Salvation in truth, justice and peace. We pray that the voice of Mary will echo in every corner of our World. May her singular voice bring and peace and justice to all those who are seeking peace.
It was blessing to say prayers at the Shrine of our Lady of Aberdeen on the South West end of the Dee Bridge. It was a joy to imaging people gather at the shrine of Our Lady before crossing. I was asking for her blessings as when we come to crossroads each time.
Today, I met a number of most remarkable people and the two stand out. I was blessed to meet Priscilla, a specialist in Landscaping from California. It is easy to be energised by such people who participate fully in the world God has given us in Creation so wonderfully. The Landscaping specialist has the honour and privilege of being God's fellow worker in recreating nature. I saw her as a partner in peace making. May God bless her and keep her a blessing.
I met Mark who recently biked 150 miles and two days. His story inspired me to develop Peace Maker Challenge!
Please watch the Space for the next Peace Maker Challenge and Donate on the Home Page.
God bless you.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Matthew 7.18
On Wednesday the 10th of August I was in Pennan, the village of the Local Hero. The breath taking beauty of this tranquil little village on a warm sunny day could be regarded as heaven on earth. The kindness of a dear friend made it possible for the family and I to spend a couple of days away in prayer and rest. Prayer is rest and rest is prayer for we believe in the God of Sabbath.
We returned home that evening to a huge excitement because someone had found an Oasis, a pool of water in the desert. I was so out of touch with the excitement of something that seemed to have happened that day that I said to a friend who was delighted to have found an oasis after a long period of wilderness in the desert, that it could just be a mirage.
How could one even dream of an oasis in the desert where mirage is the only virtual reality! Why do we, the human beings ever dream of justice, peace, truth and love when we experience nothing but injustice, oppression, violation of human dignity and trauma in exchange for kindness? As if this is not true in real life, all we see at the heart of our homes and our places of prayer is that solitary Man hanging on the cross. Somehow, this has come to be the symbol of love, forgiveness, peace and rest for many. No wonder many contemporary churches prefer a white wall to a decorated front with a cross in the middle with a solitary Man hanging on it.
It is true of our virtual generation to create the reality we believe in or dream of and deny the reality that confronts us. We would rather talk about Human Dignity while we do everything in our power to deny it.
Contemplating on this Oasis which turned out to be a Mirage I went to ‘the place’ of comfort, the place where Mary sat, at the feet of the Master! A place where you can still hear truth and dream of Mary sing the Magnificat again! The words of the Master was flowing from his sweet lips … Blessed are the Peace Makers … for they shall be called the children of God. My thoughts must have drifted at that point that when I heard him again, I couldn’t believe my ears when he said,
‘A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’ Matthew 7.18
Jesus saying something deterministic! How could he call people to repentance when he knew too well that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. How can a whole people of God believe in truth and justice when the core is corrupt! How can a mirage ever become an oasis?
It was good to encounter an energised young man turn up at the house of prayer recently talking about a mirage of mitres. It was quite refreshing to see young people see something for what it is and not be tempted to believe that a corrupt tree can bring forth good fruit? There is nothing new under the sun, says the Preacher! We can do nothing but pray, ‘save us in the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one.'
What is man that you should be mindful of him ...?
What is Woman that you should be mindful of her...?
I believe, the General Synod of the Church of England this year had, 'What is woman?' for debate.
It would be wrong of a man to define, 'What is a woman?'
I have been mindful of one news today. It is the pure sense of joy at the victory of the England Football Team of Women.
My soul must have been in search of celebrating something and our amazing footballers lifted the spirits of the nation for the first time in over two or three years and in turn mine. What a delight and a joy!
As I rejoice at the triumph of these incredible women, how I wish and pray for the day when another group of women I am praying for, who are fighting for justice and truth elsewhere, would give me the news of their triumph over their adversary!
What is Woman that you should be mindful of her?
Today, I also read about the shortest day recently. On the 29th of June, the earth spun on its axis 1.59 millisecond less than 24 hours. There is plenty written about this. And I was thinking of where I was and what I was doing. Firstly, it was the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and secondly I was kindly invited to preach at the Festal Eucharist at Sheffield Cathedral. I was travelling on train from Aberdeen to Sheffield. I was met by Dean Abi and was treated for a wonderful Italian supper before the liturgy and preached on, 'Becoming and Being the Beloved.' It was a joy to spend the evening at the local with the wonderful people of God at the Cathedral.
It was the most memorable journey of discovery on the train from Aberdeen to Sheffield, contemplating with Peter and Paul, their own journey with Jesus, their Lord, Master and Saviour. Two most difficult men made captive to the love of their Lord is a story of transformation. The time between their first encounter and their intimate knowledge of Jesus is a journey of discovering that they are the beloved. We know from their lives that neither religion nor natural instincts helped them but the encounter with Jesus, day by day made them into 'the Beloved'.
Now I dare to locate myself on the shortest day in the Universe and discover the most incredible truth that, you and I, are the beloved of God.
My heart is troubled even unto death.
The Father’s House is without music and dance.
The Elder son is staying out!
The Younger is happy eating the pig’s pod!!
When will I hear the Lark sing again!
Who will play the music and sing.
I hear him cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
I hear him say, ‘Peace be with you.’
Therein lies the mystery of love.
No greater love than the one laid for friends.
Would the brothers ever be friends again?
Would I ever hear my sisters sing again?
Would Mary sing Magnificat, again?
Would the bearer of Christ make music again?
There is no peace without repentance.
There is no joy without forgiveness.
St Andrew Cathedral Church is the Home of the Father who has two sons! The Elder son is Orthodox and the younger one is Radical. The Orthodox stays at home, does the right things and enjoys the comforts of the Father’s House. The Radical is addicted to gambling, ready to take risk at the expense of others and never sure of himself. The Father has enough and more for the whole world and yet neither of the sons enjoy the blessings of the Father’s House. The Elder believes in servitude to enjoy Father’s love and affection. The younger seeks the pleasures of the forbidden fruit and breaks the heart of the Father.
When I am with the Father, as I contemplate, there is a deep sense of peace, tranquillity and above all, love. The face carries the marks of pain and hurt and yet it also reflects deep love in that dim light!
The sons too have love at the heart of all they do and say. But, it is evident that the love of the Father has a distinctive substance and texture which is not in the love expressed by the sons. It is hard not to see the pain in the Father’s heart.
While praying for the gathering of some bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion in Lambeth, I cannot resist making comparison with the Home of the Father and his two sons. My vocation to serve at St Andrews is one that is full of joy and now a deep sense of peace is added to it since my Platinum Jubilee Walk during Eastertide. I did not see the significance of this walk as I received the call to the work of a Disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ in proclaiming the essence of His message, ‘Peace be with you.’ It was an experiment of Truth. What happens when I walk the length of this Great Britain pronouncing, ‘Peace be with you!’ Besides meeting some great people along the way, experiencing first hand the kindness and generosity of people of all Faiths and no Faith, the warmth and generosity of total strangers, I simply felt the echo of my proclamation, ‘Peace be with you.’ It was a realisation that the Peace I pray for and long for others will be given to me in greater measure than I had intended for others. Such is the nature of the ‘Peace’ that the Risen Lord proclaimed.
And yet, the news updates that comes from Lambeth is none other than the sad state of the Church in the United Kingdom, lost and troubled like the younger son. It seems to be seeking affirmation in rebellion and finding distress and trauma. And the Orthodox elder son is staying out of the Father’s House, successful, growing and flourishing yet without the joy of the Father’s love.
Here at St Andrew Cathedral Church in Aberdeen, I feel blessed to have the honour and privilege of being part of the band of custodians of this Father’s House in readiness to embrace both the Orthodox Elder son and the Rebellious Younger, praying earnestly that this will come to pass in the fulness of time.
My heart is torn to see the Bishops in Africa unable to join their brothers and sisters in Britain and beyond. Equally I am troubled to see those hiding behind the Lambeth Calls while violating each one of them!
The above lament, composed as a Psalm was nailed to the door of St Andrew Cathedral Church, on the Sunday before the Lambeth Conference.
We offer this lament with the painful realisation that some of our bishops from our extended St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) family will not be in attendance at this global gathering while the College of Bishops of our own Province will be using this occasion to seek emancipation from the burden of accountability.
It is extremely distressing to read the LAMBETH CALL ON SAFE CHURCH: Safe Church/Safeguarding is about working to ensure the safety of all members of the church community, with a particular emphasis on children, young people and adults made vulnerable by circumstance or relationships where there is an imbalance of power while some members of the St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) family will continue to suffer trauma and plead for help. The Lambeth Call states further ‘We, the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered at the Lambeth Conference 2022, make this call to promote the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults, within the churches of the Anglican Communion.’
Please find the Statement from the College of Bishops here: Preparing for the Lambeth Conference. Also, please find here: The Lambeth Calls.
I find myself in deep distress as I found the above Psalm nailed to the door of St Andrew Cathedral Church, Aberdeen (SC 001058). It seems to carry the significance of the 95 Theses nailed to the Doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517.
In today's gospel the Disciples asked, 'Lord, teach us to Pray' and the Lord taught them: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
We shall reflect on this first step of Discipleship - Prayer and in the problem of calling God, 'Father' in the context of 'Human Dignity.'
There is clear evidence of excitement in the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Lambeth Conference going by a Statement made by the College of Bishops. And yet we have a lament nailed to the door of our historic St Andrew Cathedral Church (SC 001058) mindful of our place in the Anglican Communion. Do we hear a call to lament over the Lambeth Calls?
We shall continue to reflect over the coming days, pray and lament the state of our Church which is ready to make a Statement on 'Human Dignity' while 'it is written' (three times, like the Temptations of our Lord) that it is being violated by the words and deeds by this troubled body of Christ? Why is this community called again to be prophetic? It made a prophetic proclamation in 1784 by Consecrating the First Bishop to the Free and Independent America? It is called again to make a Prophetic Proclamation today in these Lambeth Laments!