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Tea and Theology

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flourish

Invitation to Abundance

As I prepared my sermon for today around the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, I was prayerfully transported back to Cuddesdon. Only months earlier we had used this passage for a Eucharist with children. They had designed, or at least had a say in, most of the service; they had chosen to focus on the abundance of God. All week I have been pondering God’s abundance, and signs of that abundance, across the parish.

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If we’re considering material abundance, then perhaps the parish in which I serve does not offer a life of plenty. This week Church Times have included a few articles on the need for the Church of England to become more relevant to people who live in parishes just like mine. Whilst I absolutely support the sentiment behind this thinking, I would also question whether people in more deprived areas are withdrawing from church, or just withdrawing from organised church services. In a little over a month I have encountered so many people who wish to share deep aspects of their lives with me and be prayed for. Material abundance is something that they may be able to see but is completely out of reach, much like these blackberries which grow behind bars, impossible for anyone to reach and benefit from.

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A life of plenty is something in the distance that many will fail to see because they are too busy or too preoccupied with the here and now.

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And yet even in these places where hope is difficult to find, there are small reminders of this abundance springing up in very unlikely places and flourishing on very little nourishment.

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I am inclined to believe that it is not material abundance which God offers, neither is it an abundance which we can see but is far out of reach. Instead God offers a rich abundance which may at first be difficult to identify or describe.

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As Isaiah 55:1 says, “You that have no money, come, buy and eat…without money and without price.” Isaiah and the feeding of the five thousand offer an invitation from God to this abundant life where, in sharing the little that we have, what we have grows beyond all recognition.

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What we have to share may not be material; it might be our time, hospitality, friendship, care and prayers. As small as these may seem, when we offer them out they grow in our hearts and the hearts of others.

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When we don’t offer out the gifts that we have, or share what we have, the imagery of “The Old Shopping Bag” can soon become a reality.

The Old Shopping Bag

Do you remember the time when we met
I was new, vibrant and perfect without blemish
You were much younger then
You hadn’t yet met your man
And the children were mere stars in the sky
Those were the good old days
You would meet your friends and take me too
We would go to all kinds of places
You would give me items for safe keeping
Far more than I could carry – I didn’t mind though
I was just happy to be by your side
Sharing in the joy feeling alive

Do you remember the day the pennies ran out
You had met your man by now
I could see how much you loved him and he you
But things were different
We didn’t go out together so much
You didn’t see your friends often
Giving me items for safe keeping
Almost never led to a day out
It tended to result in a visit to one place
The same place again and again
My sides were rarely bulging when we left
And I was beginning to show signs of neglect

That debt came shortly after your first child
How beautiful she was and so very placid
You spent your days loving and mothering
And he would bring home the bacon
Your man the bringer of happiness and laughter
Came home in the middle of the day
He slung his boots hard on top of me
It was miserable and wet anyway
Yet his return seemed to bring
More anguish and distress
I had never seen you like that before
Little did I know it was to become the new normal

The trips out became fewer and fewer
I was now looking positively shabby
With threads dangling and my once vibrant print
Now scuffed and barely recognisable
To add insult to injury one of my straps hung loose
Even the lighter loads that you now entrusted
Into my care were too much to bear
I was tired but that was nothing
In light of your sheer exhaustion
Desperation and insatiable hunger
You asked and you received but never enough
Kind as people were…it was never enough

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Sorrows and joys

#444 As part of #eveningprayer this evening we were invited to #symbolise giving our #sorrows and #joys to God by releasing stones to represent our sorrows and petals to represent our joys. The stones sink in the water, in the same way that God envelops and surrounds them for us and with us. Equally the petals float, just as God holds our joys with us and encourages us to flourish in them. Tonight I #pray that all those with sorrows on their heart might be held and #comforted by God, and that those with joy would be encouraged to #flourish. Amen.

Encouragement

#309 With this week being focused on half of our community leaving, it is difficult not to feel at least a bit #alone. #endings are so hard and I’m beginning to notice how much I have avoided them, even talking about them, in the real world. Ending as a parting of ways, or as a passing from this life to the next, are so very difficult. We have various rituals to #endwell as we leave school, university or work which remind us of what we are leaving behind. Whilst I have wished that time be frozen for some of those endings, it is within these rituals of release that we seem to empower people to flourish, as we send them out with confidence in their abilities and well wishes for their future. Perhaps sharing what we love about one another more would enable greater flourishing in our everyday lives…

#129 #encouragement is such an important part of #christianfellowship and it is so lovely to be encouraged by friends and colleagues. In our college group the other day we wrote a line of encouragement for one another and it made me smile all day to think about the lovely things people said about me! Let’s #encourageoneanother in their strengths and gifts and watch each other #flourish! (at Ripon College Cuddesdon)

#17 The parable of the sower…some seed fell on the path and the birds ate it, some on rocky ground without enough soil and more fell among the thorns. Some seeds however fell on the good soil, and grain came from it. Lord help each of us who minister to stay strong and encourage others to flourish.
#parable #sower #flourish

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