Sunday 11 October 2020

We must dedicate ourselves to justice and righteousness

Address given at the Harvest Eucharist in St Mary's, Nenagh on Sunday 11th October 2020, live-streamed in the absence of a congregation due to level 3 Covid restrictions.

The harvest has been brought in once again this year

How we miss our traditional Harvest Festival celebrations, don’t we!

Every year but this one, we bring the best of the harvest to decorate God’s house. We all enjoy the colours and the smells of the fruit and the vegetables and the flowers. We all enjoy the familiar harvest hymns. We visit each other’s churches to celebrate with them – and to assess their decorators’ skills. And we all enjoy seeing so many cheerful people, filled with a sense of accomplishment, now that the year’s work has been crowned with success.

But not this year. This year, as we wrestle with the Covid virus, there are no decorations, no singing, and now churches are closed again, and services are streamed over the internet. Even though we know the restrictions are necessary for our own and our neighbours good, we miss the old traditions keenly.

Yet the harvest has been brought in once again this year. By God’s grace we will have plenty to eat, and delicacies as well, to enjoy over the coming months. God, who is faithful will make sure of next year’s harvest too, when we may hope that we can celebrate it as we have done before.

 Let us take a moment to reflect on the sheer breadth and variety of the harvest. We have the staples: we have wheat for bread, barley for beer, oats for porridge, and forage for cattle. I asked a farming neighbour how his year was shaping up. ‘You know’, he said, ‘a farmer never says he’s happy, but I’m not too unhappy!’ He has had a good year, I reckon, though I expect he is anxious about what Brexit will bring next year.

And there’s so much more than staples for us to enjoy, isn’t there! There’s milk and butter, cheese and yogurt, fruit and nuts, blackberries and mushrooms, plums and apples, potatoes and turnips, pumpkins and marrows, cabbage and lettuce, peas and beans.

Let’s not forget the animals too – we have this year’s foals and calves and lambs, chicks, ducklings, and goslings to delight us. And we must not forget the fruit of our own bodies, our children and grandchildren born this year.

Psalm 65:12-13 expresses it in beautiful poetry, ‘The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy’.

Thanks be to God for giving us so much! Let us be sure to turn back to the Lord to thank him for all we have received, like the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus, as we heard in the Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) .

In the OT reading from Deuteronomy (8:7-18), Moses speaks to the Israelites as they wait to cross into the Promised Land.

‘The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land’, he says, ‘a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley’. Well, God has placed us in just such a land, hasn’t he? We too live in ‘a land where (we) may eat bread without scarcity, where (we) lack nothing’. It is surely right for us, like the Israelites, to ‘eat our fill and bless the Lord (our) God for the good land that he has given (us)’.

But Moses also gives the children of Israel a warning. As they enjoy all these good things, he tells them, ‘Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances and his statutes, which I am commanding you today’. For, he says, it is God who makes it possible to have all this wealth of good things. And, he adds, if you fail to keep his commandments – that is if you fail to live as God intends you to live – terrible things will happen to you. In the very next verse he says, ‘If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish’.

In his long speech to the Israelites, of which today’s reading is a tiny part, Moses restates the Ten Commandments, and expands on them at length, as a rule of life for the Israelites. Moses believes God is just and righteous. God has made a covenant with the Israelites. This requires them to behave with justice and righteousness to other Israelites. Why? Because that is how God behaves.

“Justice and Righteousness”. These two words are like mirror images, because to do what is just is to do what is right and, vice versa. These two words run right through the OT like a vein of precious metal.

In his life and teaching Jesus extends Moses’ idea of God’s covenant of justice and righteousness to apply to all people, Israelites and gentiles alike. And it is Moses’ rule of life that Jesus summarises for us when he says: ‘You shall love the Lord your God’; and ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Love of God and love of neighbour go together like two sides of the same coin.

In our Epistle reading, St Paul encourages the Corinthians to be generous (2 Corinthians9:6-15).

Paul is organising a collection for the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem among the gentile churches he has planted. He has just told the Corinthians about how generous the Macedonian Christians have been, and now he urges the Corinthians to be generous too.

He tells them what every farmer and every gardener knows – you reap what you sow: ‘The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows generously will also reap bountifully’.

He says they must not think they are under any compulsion to give more than they feel they can, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’.

But he reminds them that God has given them quite enough so that they can afford to be generous. ‘God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’, he says, ‘so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work’.

And he tells them that by being generous, not just to the needy in Jerusalem but to all others, they will both glorify God and benefit themselves spiritually. ‘You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God … because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you’.

We must, I suggest, listen very carefully both to Moses’ warning and to Paul’s urging.

Moses warns against breaking God’s covenant of justice and righteousness. Consider the situation that faces us. There is a growing crisis of inequality in our globalised world, as the rich get richer and the poor poorer, and wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And the gathering environmental catastrophe threatens to unpick the web of life on this planet on which we all depend. Could it be that both crises result from a failure to keep God’s covenant of justice and righteousness? I rather think they do. Both crises are driven by human greed - by people who always want more and more, because they reckon they are worth it – such people worship Mammon in place of God.

Paul urges generosity as a positive value. God who is just and righteous will generously supply more than enough to allow us all to flourish. But it is in our own interests to respond justly and righteously, by taking no more than we need, and by generously sharing the surplus with those who do not have enough.

I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that anyone here, or listening to me on the web, is greedy or ungenerous - though none of us is perfect. But it is plain for all to see that greed and lack of generosity are deeply embedded within the globalised world we live in. To change this won’t be easy, but it is necessary. Both as a society and as individuals, we need to cultivate justice and righteousness; we need to know when we have enough, we need to recognise when our neighbour has too little, and we need to listen when God calls us to share generously what he has so graciously given us. If we can’t do that, our future is dire.

So, let us rededicate ourselves to justice and righteousness.

Let us love God and thank him for his good gifts. Let us also love our neighbours and share his gifts with those in need of them. And let us pray that all without exception may have enough.

In this way we can join together to pronounce a blessing on all our communities:

Blessed are we when we sing God’s praises 

and walk together faithfully on God’s earth.

Blessed are we when we proclaim God’s justice 

and share together the fruits of creation.

Blessed are we when we are guided by God’s wisdom

and live together in harmony with God’s world.


Tuesday 6 October 2020

A Reflection on St Francis of Assisi

A reflection recorded in Killodiernan Church at Morning Worship for the Community of St Brendan the Navigator on Monday 5th October 2020.

St Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, by Giotto

Most if not all of us must know at least the bare bones of the life-story of St Francis of Assisi. A gilded youth, dedicated to pleasure, he received a vision in a dilapidated church, in which he heard Christ say, ‘Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruin’. He renounced the wealth he would have inherited and adopted poverty as a lifestyle. He repaired the dilapidated church with his own hands. He travelled the countryside, calling those he met to penance, brotherly love, and peace. His example drew others to him. They lived together following a simple rule, ‘to follow the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ, and to walk in his footsteps’. This was the nucleus of what was to become the Franciscan Order, a preaching order which still flourishes.

Francis believed that the world was created good and beautiful by God, but needs to be redeemed because of human sin. He saw God reflected in the natural world around him, and he gained a reputation for his closeness to nature and animals.

The communion of all creation with a loving God is the focus of his distinctive spirituality. This is beautifully captured in a hymn he wrote, the Canticle of the Sun. Let’s listen to it.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honour, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name. Praise be to God.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility. Amen.

This creation spirituality makes Francis more relevant than ever to our own times, challenged as we are by the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and the plight of the poor. It is no accident that Pope John Paul II declared St Francis to be the Patron Saint of Ecology. Nor that the present Pope chose Francis to be his papal name. Nor that Pope Francis chose the words from the Canticle of the Sun translated as ‘Be praised’ as the title of his environmental encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, a great gift to Christians of all traditions.

Let us give thanks for the life and witness of St Francis, 8 centuries ago. And let us commit ourselves to the care of God’s creation and the good earth he has given us, our common home.

Monday 5 October 2020

A Liturgy for the Community of Brendan the Navigator



Go raibh an Tiarna libh.

Agus leat féin


The Lord be with you

and also with you.

O Lord, open our lips

and our mouth will proclaim your praise.

God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen.

Praise the Lord.

The Lord's name be praised.


Let us hear the Lord’s blessings on those who follow him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.



Let us recall when we have fallen short, and the mercy of God (Seasonal kyries may be used)


Father, source of all being

A Thiarna, déan trócaire.

Lord have mercy.


Jesus, walker with us

A Chríost, déan trócaire.

Christ have mercy.


Holy Spirit, tuner of our hearts

A Thiarna, déan trócaire.

Lord have mercy.

A priest, if present, pronounces the absolution.

Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,

have mercy on you,

pardon and deliver you from all your sins,

confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,

and keep you in eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Acclamation (the following, or a Canticle may be used)

The Lord is here.

His Spirit is with us

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.


Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna is the highest!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna is the highest!


Reading (from the Old or New Testament)





We believe in God the Father

the maker and shaper of our pathways;

who sent Jesus to show us the narrow way,

and who is the beginning and end of our travelling.

We believe in Jesus Christ his only Son

the sharer of our flesh;

who entered and experienced the human journey,

and who walks beside us on the road.

We believe in the Holy Spirit

the midwife and nurturer of our potential;

who drove Jesus out into the desert,

and who calls us now to cast off from the shore.

We believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God,

the shaper, sharer and stirrer of our journeys;

and we commit ourselves

to follow his Way. Amen



We Believe in one God,

who is Father creator, Son redeemer, Spirit sanctifier. Amen



Prayers for the day in the BCP, these, or others may be used

Father, we pray for your holy catholic Church, that we all may be one.

Grant that every member of your Church may truly and humbly serve you, that your name may be glorified by all people.

We pray for all bishops, priests and deacons, that they may be faithful ministers of your word and sacraments.

We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world, that there may be justice and peace on the earth.

Give us grace to do your will in all that we undertake, that your glory may be proclaimed through our lives.

Have compassion on those who suffer from any grief or trouble, that they may be delivered from their distress.

We praise you for your saints who have entered their eternal joy,

may we also come to share in the fullness of your kingdom.

We pray for our own needs and for those of others:

Silence. The people may add their own petitions.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven:

hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory

for ever and ever. Amen

A collect and/or St Brendan's prayer

Help me to journey beyond the familiar

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,

and somehow, make my obedience count for You. Amen


Going Out

The Lord be with you

and also with you.

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

be with us all evermore. Amen.


Go raibh an Tiarna libh.

Agus leat féin.

Beannaímis ainm an Tiarna.

Buíochas le Dia.


Go raibh grásta ár dTiarna Íosa Críost

agus grá Dé agus cumann an Spioraid Naoimh linn go léir. Áiméan.