Materialism – The opiate of the people

You say; I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. REV 3:17

We live in a society where we are bombarded every moment of the day with subtle often unnoticed inducements to buy stuff. Our every whim and desire can be purchased with a few key strokes of our computers without us even venturing from our armchairs. Our lives are spent earning enough money to buy everything we feel we need.

 

Our idols are our possessions and our pride in them; also, our need for endless connections on social media.

 

The question we must ask ourselves is where is our first love? Do we spend more time in front of a screen than we do in prayer, worship and bible study?

 

Recently we have been studying the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.

 

Each letter highlights the good points and the often-hidden problem areas which characterises each church, I think the largely unrecognised problem in the Western church is our reliance on wealth and not on the faithfulness of God.

 

What we forget is that any idol is of no use in eternity, Jeremiah wonderfully lampoons idols when he describes them as worthless as scarecrows in a cucumber field.

 

Jesus underlines this problem on the sermon on the mount when he tells us that we can either serve God or money. Matthew 6 19-24

 

The sad reality is that we no longer just own our possessions but they actually own us. For example, two lovers sitting across a candle-lit table and staring into their mobile phones instead of each other’s eyes.

 

Remember the story of the rich young man who wants to follow Jesus, only to go away sorrowful unable to fulfil Jesus’ request to sell all that he had and give to the poor. Jesus commentary on the story is another wonderful hyperbole. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven. Luke 18:18-30

 

So how do we avoid the traps of materialism which are very powerful always waiting to ensnare us?  For us it seems nigh impossible but as Jesus says with God everything is possible.

 

It can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to help us to focus on the love of Jesus. All our desires have to be on Him, as the old hymn says,

 

” Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

 

As many of us have found a trip to a third world country helps us to realise that money does not buy the wonderful blessings of a loving community and helps us to have compassion for the poor, and the evils of hoarding wealth for ourselves when so much could be done with our money to bring real benefits to the poor. Love of money will be replaced by compassion for the poor, as Scrooge discovered in the well-known Dickens tale.

 

So as Jesus says, let us store up treasures in heaven.

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Prayer

Last month as part of Thy Kingdom Come and the Diocesan Year of Prayer we were praying in our new prayer room at The TRINITY Centre, 24 hours a day for 4 days. It was wonderful to take the time out to seek God for those we love, for the town we love, and the world we love.

 

Then a chance conversation about prayer reminded me that prayer is so many different things to different people. Some time ago I was seeking God to help me write a preach on the theme of prayer and I was struggling to pull it all together so I just sat down and waited on God. These are the words that came.

 

Prayer

 

Prayer is a conversation.
not one way, but feels a lot like that sometimes.

 

Prayer is having Gods undivided attention. Not engaged, not on hold, not the 27th person in the queue, prayer is getting straight through when the line doesn’t even ring.

 

Prayer is solid, dependable, words on a page, liturgical, lyrical, it’s rhythmic, routine.

 

It’s out of kilter, out of line, stand up on the restaurant table and shout at the top of your voice.

 

Prayer is a weapon, a fighting tool… 
a comfort blanket, a hot water bottle, 

 

It’s rough and ready, its harsh, it’s loud angry shouting, 
it’s quiet and soft, whispering in the ear of a loved one, it’s gentle singing, it’s worshipping the most amazing wonderful person that one could ever even begin to imagine.

 

Prayer is being tucked up under the duvet, needing a fix to even move one toe out into the cold harsh world.

 

Prayer is a longing, a desire, an unquenchable fire burning within and unable to get out.

 

 

Prayer is in the mud, in the dirt, getting covered from head to toe, in the grime, in the gutter, a desperate plea, just a few words uttered,

 

help me.

 

Prayer is stepping out of those grubby clothes, in a warm bath, bubbles, rose petals, it’s soothing, it’s gentle, soaking. 

 

Prayer is the beautiful tune of a lover singing to their beloved.  
It’s the most intimate thoughts that we share with no one. It’s the things that shame us, the things that define us, the things that no other living soul knows.

 

Prayer is the most dramatic, fantastic, all consuming, loving welcome: come on in, this house is your house, kick back, enjoy…

 

 

Prayer is a child curled up on their dads lap, arms encircling, loving, blessing, soothing, warming.

 

Prayer is crying out together in defiance. in pain, in love, in desperation. It’s standing alongside each other, battling, warriors, in unison in our pain.

 

Prayer is angry, ‘what do you want from me’, where are you?, why have you forsaken me? 

 

Prayer is sobbing, streaming, making a scene, it’s unattractive.

 

Prayer is laughter, hysterical, screaming, uncontrollable, giggling.

 

It’s wailing, longing, seeking, needing, begging…

 

Prayer is indulgent, it’s selfish, self seeking, self-serving, 
It’s soaking, enjoying, drowning in love, like a depth of love you have never known

 

Prayer is burning desire, unquenchable, out of control.

 

It’s like breathing, like water, it’s daily bread.

 

Prayer is being at one. being at peace.  

 

Prayer is: encountering God.

 

Consider The Lilies

In April I went to visit Ravenna, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in company with some of my art history friends.

We had been studying the art of mosaics, their history and how they were made, and we wanted to see the most famous examples in their original sites. Made from tiny pieces of coloured stone, they adorned church buildings, basilicas, baptisteries and mausoleums. They have survived, as bright as new, since the fifth and sixth centuries in Ravenna, which was once the western capital of the Empire of Roman Catholic Church under Theodoric, then taken over by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife the Empress Theodora, both Christian rulers, in the sixth century. They built a wonderful basilica church, San Vitale, dedicated to the glory of God, and adorned it with mosaics on walls , arches and apse, showing Christ in majesty and processions coming to worship.

 

The images are breathtaking, their colours vivid, and perhaps the most striking thing of all is how the natural world appears everywhere in the mosaic pictures. These early Christians wanted to show the glory of God’s creation- everywhere there are flowers, fruits, birds and animals, all integrated into the worship of the Creator God. Everywhere there are biblical references- the fruit of the vine (“I am the vine, you are thebranches”), doves of the Holy Spirit drink from the fountain, the source of eternal life, and I was told there are 52 different birds shown in these mosaics!

 

In those days the ordinary people could not read and did not have books, so the mosaic pictures told the stories found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as did fresco paintings in churches in other places, and even some remain here in Sussex. You may find similar references to the natural world in stained glass windows in many of our English churches, often with local scenes celebrating the riches of Gods creation with flowers, animals and birds found locally.

 

One of my favourite verses from the Bible is:

 

“Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I tell you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.

 

It was lovely to see reminders of these verses portrayed in stone and to think of the continuity of the biblical teaching from so may hundreds of years ago.

 

We also visited two other basilicas dedicated to the local sixth century bishop and saint, Apollinare. There, the processions of martyrs and saints coming to worship Christ in Majesty are also accompanied by palm fronds, flowers and birds. At Saint Apollinare in Classe, just outside the town at the ancient Roman port of Classis, Christ is shown as shepherd of the sheep, with his disciples in the form of sheep, in a heavenly meadow. Saint Apollinare’s robe is covered in bees, symbolic of his role as leader of a monastic order- monks were workers in cells like the bees! I am told there is an old custom of telling the bees if someone dies, as they will fly straight up to God to announce the passing of a loved one from life on earth to that in heaven.

 

Sermons in stones still have relevance to us today as we care for God’s beautiful creation around us.

 

Shirley Darlington
Creation Care Team

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Calamity Creek – Holiday Club 2018

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