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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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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Wait and see

Marlborough College Chapel Morning Address
Advent: Simeon and Anna

simeon and annaAs some of you who know me, may have realised by now: I am not very good at waiting. Fortunately, I have discovered since I have been here, that I am not the only one, as many of you are not very good at it either. Although, I guess, it does have something to do with age, so I should at least have learnt a bit by now.

The poem on which this reflection is based, Wait and See by Richard Bauckham, mentions two people, two very old people, who have spent their whole lives waiting. They are Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna are not a couple, but they are two individual people who lived at the time that Jesus was born, over two thousand years ago. What they do have in common, is that they were waiting for Jesus to be born. Simeon had been told in a dream or a vision that before he would die, he would see the Saviour of the world.

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Christmas: Wait for it!?

An early Advent reflection, written for Marlborough’s Tower & Town

Advent_candle_1It is late November, and Advent will be upon us soon. Advent: a time of preparation for Christmas. However, for many of us, the preparations already started weeks ago. Looking at the shops, listening to the radio, and walking down the High Street, it feels more like Advent being the beginning of our Christmas celebrations, not a time of preparation and expectation.

Of course, there is a practical aspect to it. We need to give Royal Mail their time to deliver our cards, and those of us who are not on Amazon Prime, will have to get our Christmas presents in good time. We may also be worried that if we leave it too late, there will be no mulled wine, no mince pies, and no turkey left. Also, for many of us, the evenings fill up quickly: concerts, receptions and drinks parties. We’d better get our own event in the diary early, before people have already committed to something else. Continue reading “Christmas: Wait for it!?”

“I feel what these plants feel”

A reflection for the season of All Saints’ and Remembrance

Today, 1st November, we celebrate All Saints’ Day. Today, we give thanks and remember the lives of the saints and tomorrow, on what is called All Souls, we have an opportunity to remember all those who have died, particularly those who have loved, encouraged and inspired us. So, this week marks the beginning of a time of remembering in Britain, as, coincidentally, it is also the time that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the House of Lords on 5th November 1605, and the First World War ended on 11th November a century ago.

poppies

Why do we remember? What is the point, is it not something that prevents us from looking forward, as we continue to look to the past? I found a moving and profound answer to these questions in a recently published book, which I read last week.  It is called “War Gardens” and it is written written by Lalage Snow, a writer, filmmaker and photographer. Over a period of about six years, she went to different areas of conflict, such as Kabul, Ukraine and the West Bank, and interviewed people who had a garden. She asked them why they kept a garden going at a time of war and oppression, and what their gardens meant to them.

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The sound of an invisible God

Ringers as a reminder of God
AGM of the Marlborough Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers

It was lovely to be able to lead a short service preceding the AGM of the Marlborough Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October. Some of the ringers had come from a wedding earlier in the afternoon, whereas others had travelled from Dorset to Marlborough to join the local ringers.

church bells

Thinking about a Bible reading appropriate for the afternoon, obviously there are no direct references to bell ringing in Scripture, as there were no bell towers in early Christianity. Moreover, change ringing – the art of ringing a set of tuned bells – is typical English, starting after the invention of full-circle ringing in seventeenth century England. There is only one such bell tower on the Continent, which is situated in ‘t Klockhuys in Dordrecht.

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Wistful stars and white faces

A Reflection for the Feast of St Francis

St Francis

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

Autumn – T.E. Hulme

The essence of our faith lies as much as our compassion for others as our relationship with God. Whenever we look up to God, we also see the faces of others, especially those in need. It is still a surprise to many people that Marlborough has its own Foodbank distribution point. Walking down the Marlborough High Street, it is indeed hard to imagine that in this wealthy community there are a considerable number of people who find themselves in a situation in which they need to appeal to the help of the Foodbank.

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