Category Archives: Ashton-under-Lyne Blog

John 11: 1-45; Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Romans 8: 6-11. Love

How do you feel about the future? Optimistic? Pessimistic? What fills you mind as you think about the next few years?

Can you look forward with hope at this most difficult time for the whole human race? Does Coronavirus fill you heart with fear?

What about the future of the Church?

It is easy to feel despondent. We’ve been told time and again that numbers attending churches are dropping, that the church is no longer relevant. The evidence seems to support a general air of despondency. And at times many of us will have wondered whether there is any point carrying on coming to church.

I’ve heard people saying things like: “It’s dry and musty, it’s not my kind of thing, it’s just like a bag of old bones – no life there at all. Why would I want to come to church?”

And yet for others of us, Church does not feel that way at all. Somehow God has reached out and touched us through the worship. Sometimes there is a tingling inside us when we think about coming to worship – and we say that coming to church seems to give our life a sense of purpose. We have hope for the future again.

For others, the presence of the church in the midst of life is so very important. It is the bastion against all that threatens to pull us down. It is the one constant in a shifting world, a place we can always turn to in an hour of need. And this current time, with the threat of disease hanging over us, is just such a time.

The readings set for Passion Sunday are long. But they clearly have one theme in common. New life breathed into dead bodies. It was obvious in Ezekiel, just as obvious in the raising of Lazarus. Both these readings have a sense of hope and life.

Both in Ezekiel and in the story of Lazarus the seemingly impossible happens. In Ezekiel’s case it is in a vision, in Lazarus’ case the story asks us to accept that he was raised by Jesus. Both are saying to us in their own way that the seemingly impossible is possible with God. God can even raise the dead! Ezekiel wants his hearers to believe again that defeated, hopeless Old Testament Israel can again be a living, dynamic force.

And Ezekiel’s vision was taken up as a primary rallying point for black slaves in America. “…Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones … hear the word of the Lord.”

And as generations past, hopelessness was transformed into belief and action. The slave trade was abolished and later, the sporting success of a person like Jesse Owen brought dignity and hope to black people. And people like Dr. Martin Luther King took on the establishment and brought an end to official discrimination.

Hope rose from the ashes of despair.

There have been other instances in the history of the world where darkness is defeated. The fall of communism and the downfall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the end of apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s.

And in our Gospel reading Jesus speaks into a tomb and raises Lazarus, prefiguring his own resurrection which was to take place only a few months later. Martha clearly believed in the resurrection, but for her it was something remote, something which would only happen come judgement day. …  Jesus wanted her to have hope now, hope for the present and the immediate future – and so he raises Lazarus.

It would be so easy for us to relegate hope and hopefulness to the hereafter. So easy for us to think that our faith only really works as we look beyond death and pray that God will accept us home to heaven. But ‘life to mortal bodies’ isn’t just for heaven. Life and hope are for now as well as for the future.

Just as in Ashton-under-Lyne we saw, 12 years ago, a new market rise from the ashes of the old – like a Phoenix. Jesus wants us to believe that he can through his Spirit breath new life into us as individuals and new life into our churches. We might feel small and insignificant, we might feel hopeless. But our bible readings talk of God’s Spirit energising and strengthening us.

All Lazarus had to do was respond – he could have stayed in the tomb, but he chose to come out into the light. Ultimately, all we have to do is to respond to what we see God doing in our churches and in our wider communities.

No doubt the signs of new growth will be fragile. They will need tending and caring for, they might even seem small and insignificant. But God’s Spirit is at work, we need to feel his breath inside us and respond, like Lazarus walking out into the light.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,” says Paul in Romans, “he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8: 11)

This is the theme of all of the lectionary readings set for this Sunday. … God’s life can and does reinvigorate our lives.

Luke 2:33-35 – Mary the Mother of Jesus – A Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) Reflection

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Sunday 22nd March 2020 – Luke 2:33-35

An updated reflection. ………….

On Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) we give thanks for those who Mother us, for those who today and in years gone by have given themselves to and for us. For those who have made sacrifices so that we might enjoy life. In many communities now, only to say thank you to Mums, is to ignore all those who care for us. In families across our our land, grandparents, aunties, uncles, fathers, foster parents and social services carers provide motherly love and care to many children. This is a day when we celebrate all who have and do provide motherly care.

Our Gospel reminds us that loving and caring in this way is a sacrifice of self-giving. A vocation to which many of us are called. A vocation which not only means a daily grind of tiredness and worry, but one which often can involve experiencing the deepest of pain – sometimes because that care is rejected by those we love, sometimes because of the hurt done to those we love and care for.

It is also a particular burden and joy at this time of the Coronavirus crisis. … It is a caring that sometimes feels completely impotent as we watch what happens to those we love.

Sept 15---SEVEN SORROWS 1.The prophecy of Simeon. (St. Luke 2: 34, 35) 2.The flight into Egypt. (St. Matthew 2:13-14) 3.The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. (St. Luke 3: 43-45) 4.The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross. 5.The Crucifixion. 6.The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross. 7.The burial of Jesus.

Mary understood that pain. At the death of her Son, she bore in her body the pain of the cross – she felt the nails being hammered into the wrists of her son, she agonised as she watched him die the most painful of deaths. She had to release her child into God=s eternal care long before his time. And as those things happened I=m sure she will have felt a mixture of all the emotions a mother can feel – anger, guilt, shame, and deep aching loss. Like any mother, her grief was unbearable.

Mary also understood the joy of motherhood – she watched her precocious child grow to be a wonderful man. She felt the joy of being part of the making of this special son.

Mothers today face all of these emotions. Today we stand with them, pray for them and celebrate their self-giving love. We pledge ourselves again, for another year to work for the stability of family life, to help those who find the burden of caring too difficult.

As we look around our world today, we reflect on the tremendous burden born by mothers, grandparents and others, as they watch the healthy younger generation around our world dying for lack of f drugs to treat those who are HIV positive; who see children dying for nothing other than the lack of clean water, or the cost of a mosquito net; as we watch families struggling to understand and come to terms with the Coronavirus which is gradually and increasingly coming to affect us all.

We see the burden of care carried by so few for so many children, we see children struggling for lack of food, their carers working night and day to bring in only just enough for survival. We see schools and their staff carrying an increasing burden so as to keep our society working.

In other ways today, our celebration is mixed with sadness and mourning.

We are aware of people important to us, whom we have lost. …. Our prayers also carry the weight of what we see each day on our televisions and what we know to be true for many around our world.

And we bring all this, the stuff of life in our world, the joy and the struggle, with us as we pray. We are acutely aware that this year we cannot approach the altar for our Communion. We cannot share the bread and the wine and we feel that loss. In the midst of that loss, we give thanks for all that our Mothers mean to us, all that our Mothers have meant to us. And as we quietly remember Jesus’ sacrifice, we try to feel the pain of those who are suffering for love throughout our world today.

Sunday 29th December 2019 – Matthew 2: 13-23

Matthew 2:13-23

If I’m honest with you, I hate this Gospel passage, I wish it had not been written. I wish I could conveniently ignore it, suggest it is untrue and set it aside. … I’d keep the bit about Jesus being a refugee. … Now that is a helpful image .. and it has been used down the centuries to infer that God understands the plight of the refugee and the homeless. And rightly so, for I am sure that God does place the needs of the underdog, the dispossessed, the homeless, very high on his list of priorities.

Yes, I like the bit about Jesus being a refugee – I could write about that now. I could use some material from Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tear Fund or CAFOD, perhaps write about the plight of those who are still unable to go home – like the millions of Palestinians trapped in what is one big refugee camp called the Gaza Strip. I could continue to talk about the refugees from the conflict in Syria, starving, this winter, in the Beqaa Valley, or I could talk of the many people who seek asylum in this country in fear of their lives who are not believed by the authorities.

But that is not what horrifies me about this passage. No, what leaves me floundering is the murder of those innocent children and God’s intervention to save his Son, while leaving others to die – at least that’s what the story seems to say. … What kind of God can save one and leave perhaps 30 or 40 (or maybe many more) to die!

Yet God does seem to intervene in favour of one & not the other…. That is the way the story of the Bible unfolds, and it is also the experience of many people around our world. So, if God is able to intervene, and if God sometimes does intervene, why doesn’t God always intervene?

I really do not like this story of the massacre of the innocents, for it holds me to account. I cannot, without discarding the story altogether, talk of a God who does not intervene at all. But if I have any integrity, I must be left with difficult questions about a God that I believe is a God of love and whose love at times seems arbitrary.

I do not like the story. And I’m not sure that I want to try to ‘justify’ it. What I want to do, in just a few short words, is at least to help us reflect on it.

There are two questions that many people ask about faith: Firstly, “Why does God treat some differently to others?” And secondly, “If God could do something, why didn’t he?” … Honestly facing these kind of questions, has to be part of living by faith. … At times, being a Christian is about ‘Arguing with God’. It is about tenaciously holding him to account for what we see as wrong. It has, at times, to be about ‘wrestling with God’ like Jacob did at the Brook Jabbok. Sometimes we argue for ourselves: “Lord, you are treating me like dirt. How can I continue to believe in you, when you allow me to face such injustice?” Sometimes on behalf of others: “Lord, I watch the injustice persistently meted out on the Palestinian people and other refugees – why do you not intervene?”

There is injustice in our world. While human beings exist there will always be injustice. Lust for power, greed, fear & insecurity are all motivators to self-protection. We protect ourselves and our own even at cost to others. And evil is magnified as it is played out on a world stage between aggressive, powerful men (And it is most often men!). Powerful tyrants, who are also insecure & afraid of being deposed. … Herod was just one of these. So insecure that he saw a baby as a threat. So numbed by previous acts of evil that he saw no problem in killing a few young children to extinguish the threat.

One child escapes Herod, and goes on to be God’s answer to the actions of tyrants throughout history, God’s answer to the ugly evil which invades all our hearts. Not an immediate answer. Not a rescue mission to protect the innocents. Not even a political solution that restricted the action of evil people and evil forces. Not much of a solution at all, if you were to judge it by the standards of the world.

God’s answer, to the massacre of the innocents, to all the injustices in life, was to allow the child, that escaped the massacre, … to die. The Bible suggests all history points to this moment – to the death of Christ. “I’ve heard all your questions,” God seems to say, “here is my answer. The death of my Son.”

It’s almost as though God draws a line under the discussion. “This is my answer,” God says. “No ifs, no buts, it’s my last word. I’m happy for you to judge me on this basis – it’s my final word.”

And we shout out, “but it isn’t enough, I still don’t understand.” And God uses no more words, but continues silently to point to the cross. He draws our attention to a shattered, tortured, broken body which has taken the worst that humanity can throw at it. … Even that seems inadequate – just one death among so many. Yet God invites us to question him only in the full knowledge of the suffering of Christ, and on the basis of that suffering. Whatever else we may accuse God of, we cannot accuse him of not caring. We may not want his answer. We may not like his answer. But it is the one he gives us to ponder on.

There is a debate throughout the Old Testament about why God chose Israel – with different authors struggling to understand that they were chosen not for their own benefit, but so that God could use them for the benefit of the whole world. That they were chosen to serve. That they were special because they were chosen, not chosen because they were of themselves special. The New Testament places Jesus at the centre of the story, and he himself says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” … We are left with our questions, even with our anger, staring at the cross and pondering the love which meant that God had to die, pondering the love which meant the break-up of the relationship at the heart of the Trinity.

The Christ-child was chosen, was rescued, in the story of our Gospel this morning, not ultimately for his own benefit, but for ours. The events of the first Christmas are just as messy as the events which ended Jesus earthly life. They are just as messy as the world has ever been, just as messy as our world today.

God calls us to continue struggling with the realities of life in our world, and to do so in the context he provides for us. The death and resurrection of Christ. That is God’s invitation to each of us as Christains, to place the reality, the mess of our world in context, as we come to Holy Communion and as we encounter once again the self-giving love which is at the heart of our faith.

Holy Trinity, Ashton-under-Lyne

A very small congregation in a Church of England Church in Ashton-under-Lyne has been having a dramatic impact in its local community.

Holy Trinity Church in the West End of Ashton-under-Lyne meets for worship on Thursday afternoons. Its regular congregation is less that 10 people.

Visionary leadership resulted in the completion of a Community Centre in the church nave, and has resulted in the Centre being used extensively by the local community.

St. Peter’s Ward, in which Holy Trinity Church is situated, is in the 2.5% most deprived wards in the UK. The area immediately around Holy Trinity Church has a history stretching back to early Victorian times. Throughout much of its history the neighbourhood has been a diverse place to live.

After the Second World War the local community had a high proportion of Ukrainian and Polish Immigrants. More recently the area has hosted a cosmopolitan mix of different nationalities. The local Church of England Primary School has a delightful mix of children for many of whom English is not their first language. Predominantly children come from families that have their roots in Asia.

Church members in the later part of the 20th century became aware of the changing demographics and decided that the building needed to be a place for the whole community.

A series of grants were obtained to allow major work inside the building. Since the millennium, the very small congregation has first enabled significant projects funded by others to use the building and then more recently has sought grants and employed its own staff to address some of the needs identified by the local community.

Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre was awarded its first ‘Reaching Communities’ grant from the Big Lottery in late 2016 for a project to enhance prospects for women in the immediate community. That project has been running since April 2017 and has just received the news from the Community Fund of the Big Lottery that it will receive a further 3 years of grant funding.

Outreach workers employed by the church have been making a significant difference within the local community. Tameside College is now partnering with the Centre to provide much needed education at a level below usual college entry requirements. The local social housing provider, New Charter (Jigsaw), is funding a number of different projects with the aim of empowering local people and developing skills. Other partners provide, or fund, youth-work, martial arts, sewing classes and slimming classes. One group knits to support the work of neonatal units is a number of local hospitals, another provides much needed community space for older Asian women. The centre provided essential advice and guidance, in a number of languages, for those navigating the increasingly complex, often on-line, world of benefits and asylum claims.

The work at Holy Trinity is visionary by its very nature, as no attempt  is made to dictate to the local community. The work is founded on the understanding that a local community has all the skills needed to make its own decisions. Provided wider society, particularly local and national government and the National Health Service, is willing to provide sufficient resources without dictating to the local community then real change is possible. For many people this seems counter-intuitive, but this (asset based community development) approach has a proven record of success.

Dynamic project leadership is resulting in local people effecting real change.  Community members are growing in self-confidence, local people are developing their skills through being at the Centre and through volunteering. For some, moving on through a process we call ‘Grow Our Own’ into employment with the Centre or in the wider local community.

There is real hope and joy in the faces of many involved with this project.

This is Christian Mission at its best! The Kingdom of God is growing. Christians, those of other faiths, and others who profess no faith, working together to bring hope to one local community.

The grant award  secures this work for a further three years, until April 2023.

Harvest 2019 – John 6: 25-35

This is a shortened version of a post from 2015. ….

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” – John 6:35 .

These words from Jesus follow the story of the feeding of the 5,000. …

We have all probably experienced what is is like to be physically hungry. Just as those 5,000 who were fed by Jesus did. However, in the context of that miracle, Jesus talks about our hunger and thirst – not so much physical but spiritual.

Just as we feel hunger, all of us experience deep longings at the core of our beings which need to be fulfilled. Longings to be accepted, to be loved, to count for something, to make an impact, for others to see us as significant, as important or as strong.

Often these longings are well hidden away, but at times we encounter them in powerful ways. Perhaps in grief over the loss of a loved one, perhaps in the dark of the night when we are less in control of our emotions, perhaps at the point where everything seems to be going so well for us, yet something seems to be missing.

So many of us are driven to fulfil these longings for significance, for meaning in our lives. Perhaps we become workaholics, or we become demanding and jealous in our relationships, or we pursue success at the cost of everything else, or we turn to alcohol or drugs, or … some of us, to add a little levity,  even go shopping.

It’s part of the human condition! We long for our deepest needs to be met and we search for ways to make this happen!

Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Or to put it more succinctly, “I am all you will ever need.”

All those desires for meaning, for hope, for significance, for love – those thirsts, those hungers. Pursue me, get to know me, spend time with me – and I will meet them. This is not just some idle promise made by a preacher looking for something to say on a Sunday evening. These are the timeless words of Jesus. They are Jesus promise to us.

And note: he doesn’t say “I’ll find you something to do for me, and then you’ll feel better” No, Jesus is talking about our very being, the very core of who we are, the bit no one else can see. Right at the core of who we are, that’s where Jesus will be – meeting our deepest desires for wholeness. And not just sparingly, but overwhelmingly, generously, and, just as in the story of the feeding of the five thousand, there’ll be plenty of leftovers, flowing out of hearts that are truly loved. For once we really know that we are loved, we can really begin to love others.

Our thankfulness to God will overflow in love towards others. This is ultimately what our Harvest Thanksgiving is all about. We express our gratitude to God for God’s love and provision for us and as we do so we seek to make a difference in the lives of others. … We give because we have ourselves been given so much.

Faith or Faithfulness? Luke 17: 5-10

What does it mean to ‘have faith’?

Jesus says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted and plated in the sea’, and it would obey you.”

Jesus seems to be saying: “If you can screw up enough faith, if you pray hard enough, if you really believe, then you’ll be able to do powerful things. You’ll be in control of life and God will be able to work through you! If you are just prepared to leap across that chasm believing that I will miraculously get you to the other side, then you are my disciple!  ”

But is he really? ……  Or is it rather the case that we hear him saying what we think he is saying rather than listen to him properly. After all, what do we say when things go wrong for us? …… “What have I done to deserve this?” “Why is this illness happening to me?” … It is as though we do really believe that we have the power to make our circumstances right, just be being better people, by having more faith?

And so, when we hear the word ‘faith’ we so often think of something rather like the flexing of spiritual muscles, or determinedly screwing ourselves up to believe. “If only I had more faith,” we say. “If only I really believed.” … And so many of us fail to achieve this … and as a result so many turn their back on ‘faith’: “It does not work,” they say.

And so when we hear those verses in Luke 17 we hear Jesus saying something, perhaps quite sarcastic: “Faith, don’t talk to me about your faith, you have not even got enough to fill a mustard seed, if you had you’d be doing all sorts of marvellous things in my name.”

But when we do so, we miss the point.

called_chosen_-faithful_part3-680x300What Jesus is actually saying is something much more like this: “Faith is about trusting in an all powerful God, it is about living faithfully to what you believe, it is about faithful service. Just a tiny little bit of that kind of faithful living will change the world.”

Where is the evidence for reading the Gospel this way?

Firstly, there is the whole of the reading above. In the first two verses Jesus talks about faith – but then he goes on to talk about masters and slaves. He could be talking about the way in which the physical world should obey its masters, those masters being his followers who have faith. But I don’t think he is. Let’s just focus on Luke 17:10 which tells us so much about ‘faith’ …

Jesus says: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

‘Faith’  is all about being ‘faithful’. We are slaves, servants of our master, and the greatest and the best thing that we can say of ourselves is that we have lived faithful to that calling – we have served our master, we have lived faith-fully.

Second, there is that word ‘faith’; ‘pisteo‘ in the Greek. It is used consistently through the Greek version of the bible for being faithful, trustworthy, sure and true. Just here in Luke:

Luke 12:42                faithful and prudentfruitosp_faithfulness

Luke 16:10-12          faithful, faithful, faithful

Luke 19:17                trustworthy

In each of these cases, and throughout the New testament, it is the same root word,  ‘pisteo‘. So when Jesus uses the word ‘faith’, he is not asking us to screw ourselves up to believe, but he is asking us to live faithfully to what we believe, to be his trustworthy followers. To be faithful and prudent. “Those who live this way,” says Jesus, “Are people of faith. … And, (in the figurative language that he is using) it won’t just be a mulberry tree that is uprooted, even the gates of hell will not prevail against them.”gar-19

Angels and Mirrors ….. John 1: 47-51 … Michaelmas 2019

First, I have to say that I believe in Angels … both as God’s messengers and as beings that sometimes intervene.

A true story. … A few years ago now, my wife, Jo, my mother-in-law, Elisabeth and I were travelling back from West Wales to Leominster where Elisabeth lived. The A-roads in the area are relatively narrow and they twist and turn with high hedges either side. It was late in the evening and dark. Just after rounding a sharp 90-degree bend, a tyre blew on our car. It was a dangerous location and the road was too narrow to be changing a tyre without some sort of ‘protection’. Jo headed round the bend with a torch to flag down drivers and let them know of the obstruction ahead. We all tried our mobiles. … There was no signal. We tried to work out where the nearest house was but could see nothing.

At that moment a Range Rover stopped near Jo and ask what the problems was. The driver left his vehicle beyond the bend with hazard lights flashing walked over to our car, changed the tyre, shook our hands and left. We did get chance to say thank you. But before we knew it he was on his way and gone. We encountered an angel!

Let’s set aside ‘Angels’ for a moment and think a little about the Gospel reading set for Michaelmas in 2019. … John 1: 47-51.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? … Do you like what you see?

I am still surprised by the age of the person who looks back at me out of the mirror. I feel as though I am no different than I was twenty years ago but the mirror does not lie!

Many of us when we look in the mirror can be quite critical and wish that a different face was looking back at us.  And yet, if we say these things to someone else, they often wonder what we are talking about!

If we see an image that we wish was different – others don’t seem to see the flaws that we can see.  Those close to us see the face of the person they know and love – yes, not perfect – but certainly not someone who needs to worry about their appearance!

I am always surprised when I read a column is the glossy magazines that come with weekend papers, and hear someone famous or beautiful, or both, talking about themselves. It is as though someone who seems attractive and self-confident has looked in the mirror and as a result they are surprisingly over-critical of the face that looks back at them, the person that they see.

And it’s not just our looks, is it. … We can underestimate our abilities, our gifts and skills; we can be reticent about trying out something new because we think that we’ll be no good at it; we can even get some kind of distorted sense that it’s wrong to think about the things that we’re good at, in case we’re thought to be overconfident or boastful!  Sadly, so often, this holds people back from reaching their God-given potential – using their gifts and talents to help others and being comfortable with who they are.

Many of us keep parts of ourselves hidden even from our nearest and dearest.

Nathaniel, in our Gospel reading, was probably no different – he assumed that he could control what people knew about him. And then he met Jesus. … Jesus seems to know all about him, without having met him.

Jesus sees Nathaniel coming towards him and says ‘Here’s a true Israelite – without a false bone in his body.’ Nathaniel is amazed ‘How do you know me?’ he asks. ‘Ahh… says Jesus, ‘One day before Philip brought you to me, I saw you sitting under the fig tree’.

Jesus seemed to know everything about Nathaniel – from just having seen him under a fig tree. … From that glance, Jesus was able to decide that here was someone he wanted in the group of his twelve closest companions. No lengthy interview, not gathering of references – Jesus just knew.

We see this throughout the Bible, that God, that Jesus, knows things about people that enable God to give those people a new direction in life.  Jesus, meeting the woman at the well, surprises her because he knows about her past – and instead of feeling embarrassed, she runs off to tell her town all about this man. They put their faith in him – she’s an unlikely evangelist!

God is not a distant authoritarian figure judging us from afar, but a God who is tender, who is loving, who knows and experiences the messy-ness of life.  God knows us, warts and all, and keeps on loving us. God sees the good and the bad in us, and keeps on loving us. God is saddened when we stray from the way of living that he knows is best for us – but he’s not there with a notebook putting down another note about our failings, he’s longing for us to recognise where we get things wrong and to turn to him to show us how to live differently.

God lovingly ‘created our inmost parts and knit us together in our mother’s womb’ and who is saddened when we don’t like the way we look, because we’re rejecting his gift of creation.

God made us who we are, giving us unique gifts, and is saddened when we don’t use them, as if we’re saying that we know better than him.

What do we see when we look at ourselves in a mirror, or in our weakest moments? Is it an image that we have developed ourselves, is it based on rude and unfair comments made by someone in the past, or is it going to be based on what God thinks of us. A God who knows me and loves me.

In the grand scheme of things, that is all that really matters.  That knowledge allows me to be truly me, the me that God has created, known and called.

What does this have to do with St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and Michaelmas?

Just this, I think. …. Angels are messengers. The most famous are Michael and Gabriel. They bring God’s message to his people. They speak the words of God. Overwhelmingly in the Bible we see Angels bringing words of hope, encouragement and blessing, whether it is to Abram and Sarah, to Jacob or to Samson’s parents, or to Gideon or to Joseph or Mary or Zechariah, or to us.

Angels are truth-speakers and overwhelmingly their message to us will be encouraging and up-building, they see us and speak to us through the eyes and mouth of God. They see us as children of God.

Michael and Gabriel, and Jesus, all call on us to be the people God intended us to be, loved and loving, blessed and blessing others, full of grace and gracious towards others.

And finally. ……………………. Angels drive Range Rovers!