All change

Pentecost 5c – Sunday 23rd June 2013
Luke 8: 26-39

Wow. Oldham is changing. I think it was four years ago now that the trains between Oldham and Manchester ceased as preparation work began on the Metrolink Tram System extension from Manchester to Rochdale via Oldham.

Mumps Bridge OldhamFor years the gateway image of Oldham had been the Seton Tubular Bandage Bridge at Mumps Roundabout … but that was demolished to make way for the tram.

A year ago the trams between Oldham and Manchester started running on the old rail route … whilst the new town centre route was being created. That creation is still ongoing, and the main thoroughfare through Union Street is unrecognisable. It has caused chaos. Shoppers have deserted the town centre because of the difficulties faced in getting into town, retailers have moved or gone to the wall. The price of change can sometimes be very high.

Will all the upheaval be worth it? I’m wholeheartedly behind it. I think it will be a tremendous boon for the town, improving transport links and ease of mobility, will enhance retail, leisure and business opportunities. I’m very optimistic … I’m all for change!

Many would not disagree with that sentiment … and with regard to the arrival of trams most would say change has not been quick enough. It slowness has taken its toll.

We often get caught in the middle of this change debate … should it be quick or slow, all or nothing?

This is why I love this passage from Luke gospel. Eugene Peterson in The Message version of the Bible quite wonderful entitles this passage “The Madman and the Pigs”. I shall enjoy preaching on this passage this weekend, the whole story enthrals me. And for me, the real story comes right at the end.

Later, a great many people from the Gerasene countryside got together and asked Jesus to leave—too much change, too fast, and they were scared.

How many times have you heard that said? Too much change! Too fast! Church Meetings, Town Planning Meetings, Football Clubs, the Hairdressers, you name a place, it’s been said there!

So Jesus got back in the boat and set off. The man whom he had delivered from the demons asked to go with him, but he sent him back, saying, “Go home and tell everything God did in you.” So he went back and preached all over town everything Jesus had done in him.

Change had to come at the right pace … so Jesus pushed off and left his man in place. And that’s the lesson for us all. We are God’s game changers. He is continuing to work his miracle in our lives and we have to tell others about it. We have to change things. We have to accept the change God wants to make in our lives, and we have to help change the lives of those around us. Fantastic stuff, can’t keep it to myself.

Got to go. Got a tram to catch.

Happy days

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It’s raining tears

Pentecost 4c – Sunday 16th June 2013
Luke 7: 36-50

“Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

One of the most horrific events of recent times happened on Wednesday 22nd May at approximately 2.20pm when Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was attacked by two men as he walked back to his barracks in Woolwich, South London. He was hit by a car before being attacked by knives, and dragged into the road where he died of his extensive injuries.

Amongst all the sorrow of the day, one of the most iconic images that will remain with me is that of the three women who confronted the two men who attacked Drummer Rigby. They went to his aid, they went to be with him. Perhaps it would have been dangerous for any men to have attempted this. But the compassion and courage shown by those three women is beyond description.

So many in this world walk by on the other side. With shame and regret I admit that there are many times when I do so. I look on with envy as there are many who display selfless acts of faith and generosity whilst I wallow in my own self-pity and self-imposed busyness. It’s raining tears. It certainly rained tears the day Drummer Rigby died.

I think this is a fantastic story from Luke’s gospel. And yet I find it so hard to read because I know it is so challenging, so convicting, so courageous. One thing I’m certain of, faith grows. It develops. It flourishes. It dies back. It revives. It changes. It goes in new directions. Mine is still only a short way into the journey. That’s why I’m so glad that faith and grace walk hand in hand. Women. So often they lead the way!

There’s very few words I can add to this story. Just the hope that we all find the confidence and courage to live out this gospel message.

Happy days

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