Monday, 25 October 2010

The importance of humility

Luke 18:9-14

Remember 1966? 1966 was the year the Beatles wrote the song ‘Taxman’. Already by then they had started earning enough to be placed in the top tax bracket. In fact they were in the 95% ‘super-tax’ bracket, under Harold Wilson’s government. I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about being placed in the top tax bracket. In any case, rather than income tax rises the current coalition government is more interested in deep spending cuts, despite the moral difficulties: it's said that disadvantaged children could be the ones who suffer most. But high taxes are not something that people are naturally fond of either, and ‘the Taxman’ is surely considered ‘the bad guy’ by many.

In reality tax collectors share a similar stereotype to that of lawyers: generally described as greedy and dishonest. But in today’s gospel reading, it’s the Taxman that comes out tops in the eyes of Jesus. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector clearly points to the Tax Collector as ‘the good guy’, and the Pharisee as ‘the bad guy’. And that’s not too surprising because throughout his ministry Jesus made plain his views about the Pharisees: they were hypocrites, phonies – who pretended to be righteous, but were not - Self-righteous, but not actually righteous.

The Pharisees thought they were superior to everyone else. They sought praise and attention as guardians of the Jewish laws. They prayed loudly in the synagogues so people could hear them. They made sure that people would see them giving money to beggars on the street. They wanted to be honoured for their pious behaviour, but their pious behaviour was all for show. In today’s parable, the Pharisee stands as a symbol for anyone who thinks to themselves, ‘I’m better than those other people, the riff-raff who are vile and disgraceful’. The Pharisee said, ‘I thank God that I am not like those thieves, rogues, adulterers and even that tax collector right here next to me in the Temple. Because really, I am a good person. I am at least a lot better than these other people. I go to temple every week. I give ten percent of my income. I say my prayers daily and loudly. I’m not like the riff raff of society. I’m much better than that’.

This conflict between the self-righteous hypocrites and the sinners of the world goes back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus called his first disciples. We read in Matthew’s gospel, ch. 9 v. 9, one of the disciples is Matthew, the tax collector. When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, he knew that tax collectors had a bad reputation. The tax collectors were the villains of Jewish society. For one thing, they collected taxes. But to make matters worse, they collected taxes for the despised Roman government. And they made a lot of money from collecting taxes. If anyone was considered a thief and a betrayer in Jewish society, it was the tax collectors.

So the Pharisees were deeply offended that Jesus called a tax collector to be his disciple. One day, Jesus was invited to Matthew’s home. Lots of other people were also there who were regarded as ‘sinners’: the social and moral outcasts of society. Jesus was having a meal with these people, chatting, laughing, and telling stories. The Pharisees were there, too, watching the action around the table. The Pharisees asked around, ‘Why does Jesus eat with such contemptible people like these?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have come not to call the righteous, but those who know they are sinners’ – Matthew 9:13. So from the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said that his disciples would be sinners and not self-righteous folk like the Pharisees.

In his parables, Jesus wants his listeners to discover where they fit into the picture. So perhaps we need to ask ourselves, in what way might we resemble the Pharisee? Who do we think we are superior to? Who do you think you are ‘better than’?

Let me tell you about last Wednesday. I had the most amazing day last Wednesday. It was one of the regular training days that curates have to attend, and this time we spent the day at a prison, a Young Offenders Institution for males aged 18-25. The 'restorative justice' programme offered there was a real eye-opener, and I'm sure it will influence future sermons. But thinking about prisoners and connecting it with our parable for today, the question begs: do we think we’re better than a prisoner who commits crime and deserves to get locked up in prison for months or years?

Or what about thinking that we’re better than those alcoholics that hang around our streets late at night asking for money? Or that ‘I’m better than all those people on benefits who spend the tax-payer’s money on cigarettes or in the betting shop’. How about, ‘I’m better than those Muslims, those Jews, those gays, lesbians and transexuals. You know, those abominable kinds of people (who I would never call ‘abominable’ in public, but I can think it). I’m better than them’.

Well this is exactly what the parable has to do with us, because Jesus doesn’t want us to be like the Pharisees - to have hardened hearts towards other people who the world considers as ‘substandard’ in some way. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because their hearts were hard. Their hearts showed no sign of the compassion of God. Jesus’ heart is full of compassion for the outcasts of society. And this is the problem: if our hearts are not compassionate to others here in our own community of New Brighton and beyond.

Jesus wants us to be a bit more like the tax collector in this parable. So let’s think about this Tax Collector for a moment. The tax collector was at the temple to pray, but he stood back at a distance. The text says that he would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ And Jesus says, ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbles, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Jesus wants us to be honest in assessing our own sinfulness, and not to secretly feel that our sinfulness is not as bad as someone else’s sinfulness. So at the heart of this parable today is the tax collector’s deep awareness that he is a sinner in need of the mercy of God. And we never outgrow the need to be aware of this ourselves. Throughout our whole lives, we need to have this awareness that we are imperfect people who need God’s grace and his mercy. None of us are worthy of God’s grace, but yet he offers forgiveness and mercy as a gift to all.

Jesus taught at the beginning of his ministry: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician. Those who know they are sick know that they need a doctor.’ On this side of eternity, we never outgrow our need for the healing touch of Jesus.

Last Easter we hosted an Easter egg hunt for the carers and tots group in church. One of the child-minders said something interesting as she came out of the church and back into the hall that probably sums up what many outside the church think:
She said she’d better get out of there quick before she was struck by lightning because she wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be in church.

I quickly pointed out that I’m not ‘good enough’ either, but really, do we think we’re better than those outside who (for whatever reason) don’t want to come in? Even Jesus said, ‘no one is good except God alone’ (Luke 18:19). But the sad truth is that we Christians can be arrogant and critical of others and to come across as “holier than thou” and this has left many people feeling hurt and angry and put off church altogether. Contrary to this, the gospel is most powerfully demonstrated when our brokenness is acknowledged, and when we engage with the world outside in humility, recognising that we have much to learn from those we should be seeking to serve - the poorest and the weakest in our community. This is the way we discover the signs of God’s reign that go before us as disciples in mission in any place or time.

The truth is, yes sometimes we are like the Pharisee, but sometimes we can also be like the tax collector, too much – despairing over our sinful condition and never getting up off our knees. Yes, we’re sinners and we’re broken, but we also have hope – the hope of Christ that lives in us - that in Christ we have been set free. Only in Christ are we counted worthy in God’s eyes. And Christ welcomes everyone to his table – so who are we to condemn?

Arrogance always robs the ‘other’ of their humanity and dignity. Humility, on the other hand, results in an openness to other person's story – to compassion for the many complex causes of their predicament (many of which are beyond their control) - and humility commits us to mutual care. Humility opens us to God’s Spirit which works among us and in us as we serve one another, allowing us to experience God’s reign here and now.

Let us pray: Dear God, whenever we are tempted to think of ourselves as better than others, more worthy, more deserving, more important to you, may your humility break in and challenge us, reminding us of our brokenness and need, and teaching us to serve and to love others with the grace and humility you show towards us. Amen.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Annual Lifeboat Service

It’s an honour and a privilege for me to address you this morning because of the great admiration and pride that all of us here have for our local RNLI station and for the RNLI as a national institution. It’s a life saving institution crewed by local volunteers showing deep commitment to what they do and great courage in the face of adverse and often unpredictable conditions.

The sea plays a big part in the lives of many people here in terms of both employment and leisure pursuits. I have a great love of the sea myself; I come from a family that loves to ‘mess about with boats’. My step-father built from scratch a 50-ft sailboat in our back garden when I was growing up in California. Later I spent around 10 months sailing around the islands of the South Pacific on an 85-ft schooner as paid crew together with my future husband, who was a professional yachtsman at the time. He was one of the eight who survived the sinking of the tall ship Marques near the Bermuda Triangle from a sudden squall in the 1984 Tall Ships Race. Many didn’t survive that sinking, because they were below deck when the squall hit, but Andy, who was on deck, managed to find one of the ship’s life rafts which kept him safe until he was rescued by another ship. That was a rescue he’ll never forget. And now here our family have a small dinghy and our two children are learning to sail. It’s a great relief to know that the RNLI are prepared and equipped for rescue operations 24/7 right here in our local waters.

Well, I’ve been the curate here in this parish for just over a year now, and I’ve also recently taken on the role of chaplain to the Sea Cadets, who, of course, meet just across the road – around 70 young people who are learning the skills of seamanship and the fun of ‘messing about in boats’. These young people, and many people like them who live near the coast, are naturally drawn to the sea for its sheer magnificence and for all the opportunities of recreation and employment it provides.

You might remember that the first disciples of Jesus Christ also did a bit of ‘messing about in boats’. Most of them were fishermen, who made their living on the Sea of Galilee, where conditions are notoriously unpredictable. On the night when the story from our reading from Matthew’s gospel takes place, the sea was particularly choppy because of the strong wind. The disciples were in the boat on their own, as Jesus had sent them on ahead of him to the other side of the sea. But now they were in difficulty. Professional fishermen though they were, here they are struggling with the oars, unable to make headway against the wind - a familiar sight for RNLI lifeboat crewmembers. The disciples were afraid, even though they knew first-hand of Jesus’ power. They knew his teaching and they knew the prayer that he taught them. And still they were fearful and doubtful.

One way of looking at this story is as a picture of the life of faith – and the life of faith isn’t always smooth sailing. Faith is often mixed with occasional fears and doubts as we’re buffeted by the events of life that can threaten us or sometimes overwhelm us. But at the heart of the gospel story are Jesus’ words, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’.

The disciples saw Jesus, a shimmering figure out on the water, and Peter, feeling both wonder and terror, started walking on the water towards Jesus. Peter’s eyes were focused on Jesus, and there in a moment of doubt, his attention diverted by the strength of the wind and the size of the waves, he began to sink. And so often it is with us in our lives. In the midst of our worst storms, Jesus asks us to keep focussed on him, on his strength and power, rather than on the storm that is raging around us - to take his hand and depend upon him - to trust him and to lean on him. Into the storms of our lives, Jesus says, ‘Take courage. Don’t be afraid. I am with you’. But it isn’t easy to trust.

Much of our world knows at least a little about Jesus, but to some he seems a kind of fanciful dream, unrelated to us and to our real problems. Others find Jesus frightening. Some wish he’d just go away and leave people alone. Even those who believe in him, as the disciples already did, aren’t always sure what to expect from him. Yet they are compelled to try and do what he asks, even when it sometimes seems impossible: to bring his love and his power, his peace and his hope to the needy world. But then we let our eyes drop for a moment to the waves - like a small boat in trouble on big seas, surrounded by darkness, fear and a howling gale. That’s what it can feel like when you try to bring God’s love and healing power into the wild night of the world.

There are many times when what Jesus asks of us seems impossible. How can we even begin to do the task he’s called us to? How can we manage to love others as he has loved us – and yes, even our enemies? How can we even think of giving up that sin that we really would rather to hold onto? How can we possibly develop a commitment to prayer when we’re so busy and life is hectic? That’s when we need to hear, once more, Jesus’ words, ‘Why all this doubt? Take courage. Don’t be afraid. I am with you’. We’re called to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our ears open for his encouragement (even if it does contain some rebuke as well).

While I was preparing this sermon, I do confess my concentration was distracted by the extraordinary rescue shown on TV of the 33 Chilean miners. To a large extent, that astonishing achievement was made possible by the great skill and courage and fortitude of all involved. But also the faith which the Chilean people openly proclaimed was so obviously an integral part of the rescue operation and the survival of those miners. One of them said afterwards, ‘it has been a nightmare, but I grabbed God’ hand, and I never doubted that he would get me out of there’.

I was amazed to hear those words while at the same time I was reading the words of the scripture set for today’s service, because when Peter begins to sink, the scripture says, ‘immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him’. If we would just look to him in times of trouble, Jesus reaches out his hand to us.

At the same time I was also making a connection in my mind between the rescue that I was witnessing on TV with the Chilean miners, and the purpose of the RNLI, because of course, the RNLI is in the rescue business. And it’s a measure of the very best of humankind when people work together, using their skills and time to rescue others. Courage in the face of adversity is something the RNLI lifeboat crew have to face every time they are called out. And it is my belief that all who are involved with the RNLI - either in the front line or in supportive roles - are working alongside God, because God is also in the rescue business. God’s work is being done when people are compelled in their hearts to reach out sacrificially to rescue people from trouble and despair. It’s God who upholds us, and he can equip us with the inner strength and resilience that we need when the going is rough.

It has been an eventful year for our local RNLI. 2010 began on a sad note with the passing of one of the station’s most inspirational members... But of course, the task of the RNLI goes ever on, and over the spring and summer months the lifeboat crew were called out many times. And with grateful thanks to The Lifeboat Fund, the new lifeboat is now in service, which will enable the lifeboat crew to carry out their life saving work more effectively than ever before.

Here in this service we thank God and we praise God for all the people who make this work possible: The Lifeboat Fund, our local fundraising guild and all those who support the RNLI financially; the local RNLI Management Group; the lifeboat crewmembers, who sacrifice time with their families or at work to go out and help people in trouble on the sea; and we thank the families and employer’s who support them in this calling. So let us pray:

Loving God, our God of rescue,
We thank you that you put it into our hearts to want to help others in need. Thank you for the RNLI: for all who contribute in so many ways to its effectiveness in saving lives.
And we thank you that by the example shown to us by Jesus we know just how much you want to save and help us. Help us to trust in Jesus. Help us to live and work hand in hand with him, to your praise and glory. Amen.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A Grateful Attitude

Luke 17:11-19

I know that some of you use the social networking website called Facebook, and I know that because I'm 'Facebook friends' with some of you, but even if you aren't on Facebook, you’ve probably at least heard of it. I use Facebook mostly to keep in touch with friends and family that live in far away countries. Not only can you add ‘friends’ on Facebook, you can also join groups. I found out recently there’s a group on Facebook called ‘Attitude of Gratitude’, and nearly 3000 people have joined that group. The purpose of the group is to encourage thankfulness and gratitude, which is an admirable purpose. Their information page says that ‘Having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to transform your life’! Well, I have to agree with this group that gratitude is powerful and transformative, but I’m not so sure that it is easy.

The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther considered gratitude to be “the basic Christian attitude” – that gratitude is the basic attitude Christians should have. I know that when I do remember to be thankful, it makes me feel more positive about life, even when things aren’t going well. But it’s not always easy to remember. It actually takes effort and it takes discipline.

When a child receives a gift, more often than not, the parent prompts a response from the child by asking, ‘Now what do you say?’ and hopefully the child responds with a ‘thank you’. We want children to learn to be grateful for gifts given, and we begin to teach them from a young age. I was taught to write thank-you notes when I was growing up, and I try to encourage my children to do this as well. But often it takes weeks to get around to writing thank-you notes. Why is it we find ourselves so easily distracted from showing gratitude, not only to other people, but even more importantly to God, from whom all blessings flow? We have so many blessings from God it’s impossible to count them all. But we often forget to be thankful; we often take for granted all that we have.

Our gospel reading is about the importance of gratitude. In the gospel story, ten lepers have an encounter with Jesus. Leprosy was the dreaded disease in Jesus’ day. Leprosy was and still is highly contagious. Today it’s treated with a long course of antibiotics, but in Jesus’ day, whether it was mild or serious, lepers were kept in isolated groups separated from their families and friends, sometimes for the rest of their lives. If you had leprosy, no one could come within twelve feet of you. You were untouchable and ‘unclean’ under Jewish law.

Jesus had already healed at least one leper before, and the news of that healing had spread. So these lepers, too, were hoping that Jesus would come by and perhaps one of them would be healed. Well Jesus did come by, and the 10 lepers began shouting to him: ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us’. Jesus very calmly and simply told them ‘Go, and show yourselves to the priests’. So on their way, the ten lepers noticed their lesions began to disappear and they knew they were being healed. Well of course, they were elated! Off they ran as fast as they could to see the priests, to be officially declared ‘clean’, and then they could return to the family and society they hadn’t seen for who knows how long. As fast as they could go, they were so happy to be well after all this time. But one remembered, one turned back and fell at Jesus’ feet, worshipped him, and thanked him.

What happened to the other nine? Why didn’t they also come back? When they needed God, they were close to God; but when they didn’t need God, they were off busy being well. The ironic thing was that their healing drove them away from God. So what does it take to heal the human heart of ingratitude even greater miracle than healing the skin of leprosy?

The nine lepers became so busy being well... rushing off to see mum and dad, brother and sister, aunt and uncle, and the garden and the farm and the shop and the fishing boat, all those people and places they hadn’t seen for so long. They were so busy being well, they had no time to express appreciation to Jesus. And perhaps we understand this - being too busy to live gratefully; being too busy even to pray. We hit the floor running each morning and fall asleep exhausted at night - Who has time for words of thanksgiving or feeling gratitude? Busy, Lord. We’re very busy being well. The tragedy of the gospel story is that the nine lepers got the healing, but not the healer; they experienced the miracle but not the miracle worker; they received the gift but they didn’t acknowledge the giver.

We can become so busy with life that we forget the God who has given it all to us, who came to be with us in Jesus, who died for us, and who lives in us by his Spirit. That’s the tragedy of the nine who didn’t turn back: they missed out on the true blessing.

But let’s focus on the one - the one who came back to say “Thank you” - the Samaritan, the foreigner, the outsider. The one who came back wasn’t a Jew; he was an outsider to the faith. In several gospel stories it’s an outsider, who shows great faith and great gratitude. If we’ve been on this faith journey for some time, we can become used to God blessing and caring for us and we can begin to take God for granted; we can begin to expect his blessings as God-given rights. But those who’ve only recently found faith are often deeply grateful to God for the smallest of gifts, for the littlest of his blessings. With familiarity, we can take things for granted - we experience that in our family life sometimes, don’t we? And we can do that with God. So in our bible lesson it was an outsider to the established religion who was the only one to come back to Jesus to say ‘thank you’.

And what was Jesus’ response? "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Jesus’ response seems almost bad-mannered. He’s not even directly addressing the one who returned; he’s speaking over that guy’s head to the crowd listening in. Jesus points out that the thankful man is a ‘foreigner,’ because the whole point of this story (which only occurs in Luke’s gospel) is to chastise those among the Jews in Luke’s day who have not shown gratitude and acceptance to Jesus and his mission. Only the foreigner remembers the giver of the grace he has received.

But of course, Luke’s context is not our context. So how can this story about gratitude impact on us today? Why is gratitude such an important attitude? Well of course, it’s more than just a show of good manners or discipline. Gratitude is crucial for our well-being; for our health in mind, body and spirit. And that’s something God’s very interested in. A person can be physically and even mentally well, but if we’re not spiritually well, we’re not whole, and we’re not living the fullness of life that Jesus came to give us.

But with gratitude our inner focus is re-directed, and that radiates out to our whole life. But we have to put it into practice – we have to develop the habit of gratitude as a rule of life. Monks and nuns dedicate their whole lives to this pursuit. Their frequent prayer times help to develop this continual thankfulness. But none of us live in a monastery, as far as I know. But in our better moments, we know that a grateful heart, full of thankfulness to God, is the secret to contentment, satisfaction and joy.

I’m going to finish with a little exercise. Don’t worry; it’s not physical exercise – just a little easy mental & spiritual exercise. Let’s close our eyes to block out distractions, and think of something or someone that you are grateful for.

It could be simply the air that we breathe, or this new day.
It could be we’re grateful for our faith, or a relationship.
It could be a particular person.
Just hold the situation or the person in your mind and in your heart.

Now we’re going to gently move our focus from the gift to the giver.
We’re going to focus on our maker – the maker of heaven and earth,
and of all that is, seen & unseen.

And we’re simply going to say,
either silently or out loud if you wish,
those two simple words of gratitude to the Lord: Thank you.


Sunday, 3 October 2010


Luke 17:5-10

Suppose you are in a room with two windows on opposite walls of the room. One window is very small, and the other is large. The large window looks out on a cold landscape characterised by chaos, conflict and hostility. The other window, which is very small, looks out on a land of justice, mercy, love and peace.

Faith can be compared to a window. It doesn’t matter whether the window is 6 ft or just 6 inches. What matters is what the window looks out on, and whether we choose to look there. If we’re looking to the God who loves us, who has compassion on us, then even the tiniest little peep-hole of a window will display aspects of the justice, mercy, love and peace of God. In a world where the daily news keeps the knowledge of evil at the forefront of our minds, we know life is often a struggle and sometimes very tragic indeed. It’s no wonder that we sometimes cry out to God to increase our faith so that we can make it through the day.

But as we heard from Luke’s gospel, even faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mulberry tree. Matthew and Mark’s gospels put even more emphasis on this, where faith ‘as small as a mustard seed’ can move a mountain. The primary message is that it’s God who empowers our life of discipleship and with God, all things are possible. So if you sometimes feel as if you haven’t got enough faith, remember this: It’s not great faith we need; it’s faith in a great God. Its faith and trust in a God who will hold us and help us.

I read this story the other day: A tourist was hiking in the Lake District. She fell over a precipice. As she plummeted down, she grabbed the branch of a small tree. She looked up to the top of the rock face and cried out, “Help! If there is anyone up there, help!” Suddenly a voice from heaven said: “I am here. I will help you. Let go of the branch and I will send the holy angels to hold you safe in my supporting arms. Have faith. Let go.” The girl looked up, looked down to the jagged rocks below, looked up again, and asked: “Is there anyone else up there?”...

It’s not an easy thing to let go.

In some places in our gospels, people are praised and even healed by Jesus for their strong faith in him. But here in Luke 17, Jesus reassures his disciples and us that he knows we aren’t always capable of sustaining a fired-up faith. He knows that sometimes in place of a flame there’s just a small spark. He knows there will be times when we will doubt his faithfulness to us, as even his first disciples sometimes doubted. And this is ok, because our God is a great God. He can handle our weaknesses. He loves us, and he can take it.

But what God doesn’t like, and this is illustrated by the second part of our reading from Luke 17, what God doesn’t like is when we get arrogant about our faith – if we begin to think of ourselves as privileged. Here’s that part of the reading again:
"Suppose one of you had a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 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.' "

Does the servant get special thanks for doing what's expected of him? No. By this little parable, Jesus shows his disciples their need for deep humility. We don’t deserve any reward from God for our faithful service. No matter how hard we work for God, God is not in debt to us. Jesus came among us as one who serves, and his followers are also called to be servants. We hear it said (and how many more times is it thought): ‘I’ve done all this, I’ve given all that, I’ve worked so hard – surely God (and my fellow church members) will be satisfied with all that I do, and I will be honoured. The reality is that all genuine service to God is done from gratitude, and not to earn anything at all. God is never in our debt.

Likewise, in spite of all the work we might do for the Church, we must not hold fellow members of the body of Christ in our debt.

Jesus asks all his disciples to uphold the kingdom values of justice, mercy, love and peace. But so difficult seem the teachings of Jesus that his disciples ask for greater faith, to which Jesus points out and affirms that even the little faith they have is adequate enough. It’s interesting that Jesus uses the mustard seed image here in relation to faith, and in Matthew 13, he uses the mustard seed image in relation to God’s kingdom. Listen to that passage:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

How reassuring it is that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough for God’s Kingdom to grow within and among his people. And going back to the imagery I used at the beginning, where faith is like a window looking out on a kingdom under God’s rule, even a very small window of faith is enough for the living Lord to work with. The more we let go and trust, the wider that window becomes. But even Jesus’ closest disciples were forever doubting and confused. How often did Jesus say to them, ‘O you of little faith’? But our generous God takes our little faith, and grows it like a seed within his kingdom and into his kingdom - his kingdom of embracing love and hospitality, of welcome, of inclusion, and of more grace than we can ever imagine. It’s not what we do; it is what he has done. To God be the glory. Amen.

(With thanks to Tom Wright for ideas!)