Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I went on a PCC weekend to Ampleforth this weekend. It was quite interesting really, as I've never been to the place before in my life, although I've driven past once or twice.

Its an incredibly beautiful place, and I even made it to one of the monastic "offices" on the Sunday. (Our timetable was a bit too full to make it to any of the other ones). Actually I was really struck by the contrasts between the informal , guitar-based worship we began our meetings with which included some creative prayer too, and the echoing Roman-Catholic chant of the monks. Yet there were quite a few of us who did a bit of both.

The other thing that struck me, was just how easily the atmosphere of peace and tranquility soaked itself into our souls and made our discussions peaceful and tranquil, yet honest (even when they involved money!) . That combination of honesty and gentleness seems to me to be a precious rarity. Often we compromise truth to gain peace, but how people react all depends on how we tell truth, with gentleness and and air of exploration, valuing the other, or with uncompromising brutality.

I think I'd like to visit Ampleforth again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Lost sheep.

I was down to preach at a fairly traditional church service last Sunday morning. The bible text for the service was the story of the Lost sheep "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.". Here follows an extract from the talk, because people quite liked the story and so I decided it was worth blogging.

"In the best tradition of the tale tellers and the parable givers, l’ll begin with a story.
Not so long ago, and not so far away, there was a sheep farmer. He had a flock of 100 fine sheep, who grazed on the Yorkshire hlls and soaked up the Autumn sunshine. Anyway, one morning he went to inspect the field the sheep were currently grazing in, and counted them, as he had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

Anyway, sure enough, it turned out that one sheep was missing. So he went to look for it.....Actually he didn’t go very far, he just poked around the ditches at the edge of the field, had a quick check underneath the brambles in the corner, and then looked in his pocket, (not for the sheep,his pocket wasn’t that big) but for his mobile.
“I’ve lost a sheep.” he said. “Will the insurance cover it? Great!”And off he went back home, having written the sheep off as an insurance loss.

Meanwhile the poor old sheep was sitting halfway up a clifftop a mile away, bleating pityfully. Eventually a walking party spotted it, and rescued it, and it wandered off to join the nearest herd, much to the puzzlement of another local farmer, who one morning counted his sheep and found one extra.

Thats what our society is like these days. We right off sheep as an insurance loss, and we right off people too in a kind of similar way.

The desert fathers, who were monks who lived in the desert in the first few centuries, had a reputation for being wise, and there is a story told of one of these desert fathers which goes like this.

A soldier asked Abba Mius, if God accepted repentance. After the old man had told him many things, he asked him this question:Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?"He replied, "No, I mend it and use it again."
The old man said to him, "If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?"

Its a wonderful story, but extra poignant these days, because I think if someone asked the soldier the same question now, “would you throw the torn cloak away?” he would say “Yeah, I’d bin it cos I can pick a new one up from Tescos for a tenner”. But God doesn’t do that. God does not consider us disposable. God takes the time and the trouble to mend us instead.