A sermon for Trinity Sunday Marlborough College Chapel, 16th June 2019
In the Church year, today, the Sunday after Pencecost is known as Trinity Sunday. So, obviously, I have spent most of Shell OA week [a week of outdoor activities in the Brecon Beacons] not thinking about my wet feet, or my wet sleeping bag, or how to make the best hot chocolate for the New Court Shell, but about the best, least boring, way to explain the Trinity this morning. Thus, in the middle of the caves on Thursday, again water-soaked, I realised that maybe there is a comparison to be made between going to Chapel and caving. Hence, as Mr Clark still seems to be employed after comparing Pentecost to Love Island last week, I decided to take the risk. But more about that a bit later.
The Trinity, the belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one God, is possibly the most complicated concept of Christianity. Hence, most Christians theologians agree that it is impossible to fully comprehend it, just as it is impossible to fully comprehend God himself. Of course, those sceptical of Christianity may reply that the fact that the concept of the Trinity defies logic is of itself proof that God cannot, and therefore does not exist. Followers of other monotheistic religions accuse Christianity of heresy by claiming that God is three persons in one.
A homily for the Feast of Pentecost: Acts 2.1-21 & John 14.8-17
It’s the Feast of Pentecost, and not surprisingly we hear this morning the remarkable reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit, and they begin to speak in other languages. Of course, those who hear the noise are bewildered, and they go and see what has happened. To their astonishment, each one of them hears the disciples speaking in their own native language, and telling them about God’s deeds of power.
Although on some level, this means that everyone is able to understand what the disciples are saying, not everyone does fully comprehend: some sneer and accuse Jesus’ followers of being drunk. This raises the question about which I would briefly like to think this morning: “what do we need to understand?” From our reading we gather that being addressed in our native tongue alone is not enough, so what else do we need? To answer this question, I would like to look at our reading this morning in two metaphorical ways, two additional layers of meaning without intending to deny the reading of the events as historical. Continue reading “Speak love; hear truth”→
The Feast of Pentecost has always had a particular significance for me, as it was the day on which I was baptised and confirmed at the age of seventeen. Apart from the embarrassment of spilling the wine when it came to the Lord’s Supper, what I most vividly remember is the feeling of both joy and apprehension at making this public commitment to the Christian faith.
Joy and apprehension, I suspect, is what the disciples may also have felt on that first Pentecost – literally the fiftieth day – when they became filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in different languages. Both the disciples themselves and those living in Jerusalem were caught by surprise, because although Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit would come, at the time his followers did not know what this meant or what it would look like. It is also a moment of commitment, both demonstrating God’s loyalty to His people as well as the charge given to his followers to proclaim His message to all people, in all languages.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. (…) The Israelites wept for Moses for thirty days; then the period of mourning was ended. Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses has laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34.4-5,8-9).
Our friendships are not limited to the people we meet. We can meet friends in books, films and poems: fiction or non-fiction, and occasionally feel a connection with them just as we would feel with those we meet in person. In this reflection, I will look at the way in which those who are no longer with us can continue to influence our lives in a similar way that our friends can. This ‘type’ of friendship is not about getting stuck in the past, but acknowledging that our present and future are shaped by it. Whether we have known a person well or not, their stories and memories can teach and influence us, inspire and guide us not unlike our present friendships can.
Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 2nd June 2019
Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost
This year is the third year in which Churches throughout the world are joining in an initiative called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. It started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to use the eleven days between Ascension Day and Pentecost as a time to renew our commitment to prayer. Since then, the initiative has grown into a worldwide, ecumenical movement with Churches from over 65 different denominations in 114 countries around the world. One can wonder of course if it is a good thing to even have 65 different denominations, but it shows the scale of the movement.
Traditionally, Christians have focussed on the renewal of prayer during the time between Ascension and Pentecost, following the example of the first disciples. As it is written in the first chapter of the book of Acts: [After the Ascension, the disciples] “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Prayer has been at the heart of the Christian Church since the earliest days.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
Yesterday, it happened to be Ascension Day, I made a flying visit to Berlin. The occasion was a sad one: the funeral of a beloved friend of many and associate priest at St George’s, but as so often it is an opportunity to meet friends, to share memories and to be thankful for not only what she meant to us, but also what we mean to each other. In a subsequent reflection, I will write some more about the friendship of those who have gone before us. However, here I would like to focus on the friendship offered by a hugely diverse group of people.
Until 1994, St George’s was the Garrison Church for the British military stationed in Berlin. When the Allies withdrew from Berlin after the Reunification, St George’s became a civilian church. By the time I arrived in 2010, so in about a generation, the congregation had turned into an eclectic mix of Brits, Germans, Americans, Africans and many others of different nationalities and backgrounds such as myself. As soon as I walked through the door, I felt welcome, and I was not the only one. The fact that St George’s has produced a steady stream of ordinands is only one of the signs of its ability to welcome and nourish people in their faith.
“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.” A third reflection on the nature of friendship, looking at the importance of sharing our experiences.
One of the first things one learns when undertaking any pastoral training, is never to say “I know what you are feeling”. None of us know what someone else feels, particularly not when they have experienced something we have not. However, I suspect many of us have also been in situations when we did have the sense that the other knew what we felt, and were indeed much comforted by this experience.
In those conversations, our experience mirrors the encounter between Cleopas and the other disciple as they are on their way to the village called Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35). It is the day of the Resurrection as they are discussing everything that has happened in the last few days. Presumably still scarred by the reality of the Crucifixion, the two disciples are trying to make sense of the events and seek their significance. Continue reading “The Road to Emmaus: Companionship”→