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People Get Ready – A Sermon for Advent 2016

Monday, November 28th, 2016

pepole-get-ready-banner

People Get Ready – Advent Sunday 2016

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24.42-44)

As I reflected on the gospel passage for this week I kept on finding myself singing the song ‘People Get Ready’. It has been a real ‘earworm’ and in the end I decided that the only thing to do was to sing the song and then offer some Advent reflections on it.  Better than a recording of me singing it you can listen to the original version here.

People get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

People get ready for the train to Jordan;
it’s picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em;
there’s hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner;
who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner;
for there’s no hiding place against the Kingdom’s throne.

So, people get ready, there’s a train a coming;
you don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming;
don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.

 

‘People Get Ready!’ – this is the Advent message, the Advent cry.

This song by Curtis Mayfield and covered by many artists was first a hit in 1965 and became very popular especially with the Civil Rights movement in America.  The song has a strong gospel influence and the imagery of the train appears in several songs in this tradition and from the Spirituals.  The Underground Railroad was not an actual train but the name given to a network of escape routes and safe houses for slaves in the 19th century.  The stated destination of being bound for Jordan is a biblical reference to God’s people being led by Moses from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. So, get ready for freedom, get ready for liberation, get ready for salvation!  To get ready for a coming train (often in my experience) involves a lot of waiting and watching; this is not just an idle hanging around, but an expectant looking for something you know is going to come.  This is a call to Advent hope!

To go on this journey to freedom all you need is faith: to catch the sound of the train’s engines, to open the train’s doors so you can climb on board – all you need is faith.  We are saved by faith; not by our own believing but by God’s faithfulness – it is God’s steadfast love that keeps on calling to us and reaching out to us.  Advent is a time to hear afresh the call of God’s love and his longing to bring us back to himself. Advent is a time to get ready to receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is not about what we do or what we have:  we don’t need any baggage, we don’t need any ticket – we can ‘just get on board’ because our salvation is God’s gift to us.  God’s grace, God’s gift of love, God’s forgiveness is for everyone – there is room for all among those who love the most. There is room for all who love and who want to be on board this train; that is important to remember as we come to the next verse…

Judgement is also a traditional Advent theme – one that often gets lost amongst the preparations for Christmas.  Advent means coming and it is not just the celebration of Christ’s first coming to us when he was born at Bethlehem; this is also about the second coming at the end of all things.  Then all the nations will be gathered before the judgement throne of Christ the King:  the song warns us that there’s no hiding place against the kingdom’s throne.  The warning is clear to the hopeless sinner; the person who would hurt the rest of humankind just to save themselves.  There will come a time when we have to stand before God’s judgement and so the Advent call is to repent, to turn from our self-centred ways and become centred on God’s will.  In this way, we believe that no sinner is truly hopeless before God, there is always hope because God judges us not only with infinite justice but with infinite mercy.  There is pity – there is mercy – for us and for all who turn back to God.  We may feel that our chances are indeed thin, and Jesus challenged his followers to enter by the narrow gate. But as the words of one of my favourite hymns say: there is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.  We do not deserve it on our own merits but we are counted worthy by God because of all that Jesus has done for us.

So people get ready.It is Advent. Christ is coming.Wake up, watch, wait,Pay attention, look, listen…Keep faith, keep hope, keep on turning to God’s love and mercy…Get ready to get on board the train bound for God’s kingdom of freedom, justice, mercy and peace…And be thankful that it is coming and you are welcome to join the journey…You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord. Amen.

Brexit and the Kingdom of God – a sermon on 26th June 2016

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Brexit banner

Brexit and the Kingdom of God

Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Trinity

26th June 2016

Galatians 15.1,13-25; Luke 9.51-62

 

So we have voted for Brexit.  I won’t pretend that I am not deeply disappointed, even horrified, by the outcome of the referendum. Since becoming politically aware as a teenager I have been convinced of the idea that the European Union is the best way of preserving peace in Europe.  I am an internationalist and I believe that the greatest challenges the world faces at the moment can only be met if we recognize our interdependence and act together.  I and many of my friends have benefited from and enjoyed the opportunities that being part of the EU has offered, both for work and leisure.  However, I know that the voting figures nationally and for Birmingham, show that just over half the people of this country do not share that view. I am aware that whilst some of you will share my sadness at this decision, possibly an equal number will be pleased by it; so I am speaking personally and I am not criticising the way anyone here voted or the reasons why they voted that way. (more…)

90th Anniversary of St Francis Church

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

 

St Francis Church Sketch showing planned Campanile resize

St Francis Church 90th Birthday!

This Weekend it is the 90th Birthday of St Francis Church (consecrated on 21st November 1925). You are warmly invited to join in the celebrations.

  • Saturday 21st November 3.00 – 5.00 p.m. Afternoon Tea and a visual presentation.
  • Sunday 22nd November 10.00 a.m. Dedication Festival Service.

The picture is the architect’s sketch of how the completed church was intended to look – the bell tower (or campanile) has not been built (yet!).

Ageing Well Group

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

wooden cut texture

 

 

THURSDAY MORNINGS

15th Ocotber onwards  FROM 10.30 – 12.15

AT THE ST FRANCIS CENTRE,
SYCAMORE ROAD, BOURNVILLE B30 2AA

Meeting to explore ideas and to share practical wisdom about ageing well.

The topics we looked at included:
• New steps and challenges
• Keeping mentally and physically active
• New and existing relationships
• Facing fears and feeling safe
• Money Matters
• Any Questions
• Legal issues
• Your health and the health services

Just come along to find out how it went and about how to join in for the second run of the course.
ST FRANCIS CHURCH: 0121 472 7215 ext 2
Or e-mail: admin@bournvilleparishchurch.org.uk
Ageing Well is funded by Awards for All and co-ordinated by Bournville Parish Church

The Kingdom Kaleidoscope: A poetic response to Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

kaleidoscope

The Kingdom Kaleidoscope

By way of a sermon this morning I gave this poetic response to this morning’s Gospel reading from Matthew 13.31-33; 44-52 (the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 27th July 2014)

 

A cascade, a cascade

of word images tumbling one over another

Simile after simile –

the Kingdom of heaven is like this, is like that,

is like the other;

something completely other…

Jesus holds up a Kingdom kaleidoscope

for those who have eyes to see;

it is a heart-and-mind-changing vision

of the world turned upside down and

God-ways up.

 

For those who have ears to hear

these little stories

there is much to think about.

He throws them out, indiscriminately

scattering images before us

like a sower sowing seeds

trusting that some will land in our soil

and take root.

 

They are riddles,

teasing our ears with truths told

sideways and slant, sideways and slant:

stretching our imaginations;

confounding our reason;

expanding our horizons;

catching us by surprise

with unexpected meanings.

 

The Kingdom comes on earth as in heaven;

it is amongst and amidst

the everyday, ordinary tasks of our lives.

God’s work is to be glimpsed in our work –

so Jesus says:

in sowing, kneading, banking, trading, fishing,

even scribing…

 

The Kingdom is the seed of a weed:

tiny, hidden, sown-unknown and grown

along with the corn,

becoming something so much bigger

than seems probable.

Birds come to roost and rest and make

their nests in its branches…

in the middle of the farmer’s field a hungry flock

now making themselves at home

amongst the crops.

 

The Kingdom is a culture of yeast.

A woman mixes the leaven into the flour

where hidden away in the dough

it lives and works and slowly grows

It raises the whole loaf and gives its life

as the bread is baked and broken for the feast.

 

To discover the Kingdom is to find

hidden treasure and to experience

the joy of unexpected, unearned riches,

suddenly yours if

you will trade everything

to own the place the treasure hides.

 

It is just like finding a gemstone –

much-prized and precious, much-prized and precious;

you would sell everything, give all you have,

to be able to keep this Kingdom jewel.

And holding that pearl of great price

you would find yourself

in a beautiful poverty;

made utterly poor by the giving to receive.

 

This Kingdom is like a net:

weaving, wending and working

to gather everyone in – all are welcomed.

We are a mixed bunch;

we are good and we are bad

together caught by God’s Grace.

In God’s good time and in God’s gentle justice

all will be sorted, sieved and saved.

 

Do you understand? The teller of these tales asks.

Yes… our hesitant and hopeful reply.

Do you really understand?

Yes. Really? If so, then…

 

Be writers of the Kingdom

on the pages of your own lives;

Be tellers of truth stories

for those who are hungry for good news;

Be beggars showing other beggars

the way to the banquet’s open door;

Be livers of a Kingdom life

filled with old wisdom and fresh hope…

That others may see and hear and awakened be

to the eternal possibilities of new life.

Update on repair and redecoration work 4.2.14

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Progress report on repair and redecoration work 31-01-2014

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Progress Report on Repair and Redecoration Work

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Mothering Sunday Prayer Stations – Photo Gallery

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

More Blossom

Friday, April 30th, 2010