What do we do when we fail?

Homily Marlborough College Chapel 13th January 2019
The Baptism of Christ: Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

with the help of godIt’s the middle of January, the middle of mock exams for those sitting their GSCEs this year, and although we’ve been only back for a few days, it already feels much longer. So, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one whose long list of new-year’s resolution has dwindled down to a few remaining items. Being ahead a day’s worth of planning: off the list. Unbeaten season in sport fixtures: off the list. Being kind to everyone at all times: off the list. You get the point, so I won’t go on with the things I have failed at already.

It could well be that it is different for you. Maybe you have made it to the firsts in netball, the firsts in hockey, maybe you have aced those mock exams as you thought you would, but what if not? What if we have not managed to keep the commitment we made? Should we just give up? Try to focus on the few things that are still on our new-year’s list?

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Trust, expect and be generous

The Feast of the Epiphany
A reflection for at the start of the New Year

epiphanyOn 6th January, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. It is the twelfth day of Christmas, and so traditionally the last day of this season of celebration. Epiphany literally means manifestation or appearance. The Gospel set for this day is the well-known story of the journey of the wise men, who after having followed a star find and recognise the child in Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This is Matthew’s version of the Christmas story: no stable, donkeys or shepherds, but instead a star, wise men and gifts. It is a story full of signs and significance all pointing towards aspects of Jesus’ identity: a star signalling the cosmic significance of his birth, the gift of gold indicating his royal status, and myrrh to foreshadow his suffering.

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Expect the unexpected

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 30th December 2018
First Sunday of Christmas: 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52

Jesus in the templeTraditionally, well, at least since the 1970s, this first Sunday after Christmas is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. As we hear about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we are invited to see them as a model for all Christian families, and, I suppose inevitable, reflect in how far we live up to that standard. I think whoever had the idea of placing this particular celebration just after Christmas, either did not have a family, or had a good sense of humour, or was one of those people who had the perfect family – a person I have yet to meet!

Of course, hopefully, over the past few days, most of us will have had the opportunity to spend time with family, or families in some way or other. Time with children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or with friends who have become like family. Time to celebrate, be together, and eat together – often a bit too much. But, no matter how much we have enjoyed our celebrations, I think we also realise that the perfect family – whatever that may look like – does not really exist. For many of us, this time will also remind us of the more painful moments in our lives, often connected with what has happened to those nearest to us, or between us and them.

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Christmas: An image of home

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 24th December 2018, 11.30pm
Christmas Midnight Communion: Isaiah 9.2-7 & Luke 2.1-14

Earthrise
“Earthrise” taken by Apollo 8 on 24th December 1968

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered”. They are familiar words for many of us, and I guess that whenever we hear them, we think of Christmas. Just as when we hear the opening chords or “Silent Night”, smell the sweetness of mulled wine and Christmas pudding, or see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree through a window.

Apart from the things we have in common, we will also have our own rituals: things we say or do to mark the start of Christmas. It may be a particular meal for Christmas Eve, a film you watch year after year, or indeed, coming to Church tonight.

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Taking stock

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 23rd December 2018, 8am
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5.2-5a & Luke 1.39-55

annunciationWe have come to the fourth Sunday of Advent. As Christmas itself is approaching, the season of preparation is coming to an end. So, maybe today is an opportunity to take stock: what difference has Advent made for us this year? What have we noticed, and how has it changed us?

Over these last few weeks, we have been accompanied by readings from the Prophets, and our Gospel readings have been speaking about judgement, asking us the question how ready we are to receive it. In those readings, we have been told how God prepared people throughout the ages to welcome the Word made flesh. Through them, we have been invited too, to see ourselves as part of the continuing story. However, now as people who are not only expecting a Messiah, but as people who have encountered the risen Christ.

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Care more, worry less

Sermon St John the Baptist Mildenhall, 16th December 2018
Third Sunday of Advent: Philippians 4.4-7 & Luke 3.7-18

advent-wreath-3The readings set for this third Sunday of Advent seem to be not quite the same in their message. Whereas Paul tries to reassure the Christians in Philippi by saying “Do not worry about anything”, John the Baptist, on the other hand, seems to have completely the opposite message: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” So, what should we do? Worry, or not?

I think the answer is ‘both’, which makes this message particularly suited for this season of Advent. As we draw nearer to the 25th of December, many of us will have started worrying about the logistics of Christmas. Have we ordered the turkey? Have I got my presents? Am I still on time for posting my Christmas cards? And, what will the weather be like for those of us travelling? Indeed, lots to worry about.

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The last day of term

Address for the Lower School
Marlborough College Chapel, 12th December 2018

end of termHere we are, on the last day of this term. It has felt like a long term, and the lists we just had, were a good reminder on how much we have achieved in these last few months; of how much you have been giving to this College community over this last term. As I said at the carol services, I think it is worth repeating, that at Christmas we have an opportunity to celebrate who we are, the gift we are, and to say thank you for this. Maybe in many ways, not unlike the lists we just had.

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