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.
“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”→
Sermon St George’s Preshute, 26th May 2019 Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 16.9-15 & John14.23-29
The Easter season is drawing to an end, with Ascension Day this coming Thursday and Pentecost ten days later. Our readings this morning invite us to start moving our focus from the celebration of the Resurrection to the reality of living in the knowledge of that Resurrection; the reality of living the life of faith, both as individuals and as a Christian community. He, I would like to reflect on what this may look like for us today. As we do so, our focus will be on the unexpectedness of God’s gifts to us. As Jesus reminded his disciples: God does not give to us as the world gives.
We have already seen in our readings over the last few weeks from the Acts of the Apostles, that the life of the early Church was not always easy, but punctuated by moments of grace and hope, unexpected conversions of individuals, such as Lydia this morning, and unexpected moments of insight of what it means to be a body of believers, such as Peter’s vision to include the Gentiles last week. Continue reading ““I do not give to you as the world gives””→
Sermon St Mary the Virgin, Calstone, 19th May 2019
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 11.1-18 & John 13.31-35
I remember a Church meeting a few years ago, in which there was a disagreement over the right course of action. I don’t quite remember what the conversation was about, but maybe it was something rather trivial like the colour of painting, or maybe more precisely, the shade of white we were going to use to paint the church hall. It was clear it was hard to find a way forward as too many people had a too passionate opinion about the matter. Until one person said “Well, I have prayed about this and we need to go for ivory white.” So, the decision was made: it is hard to argue with God’s word.
Maybe on a first reading, we are left with a similar feeling about Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles. In the early days of the Church, the question whether Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish law, including circumcision and the avoidance of certain unclean foods, was hotly debated. Some Church leaders, such as Paul, felt that faith in Jesus Christ alone was enough to obtain salvation, whereas others placed a greater significance in the adherence to the law of Moses. Peter, being a Jew himself, may have been one of them.
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter Acts 9.36-43 & John 10.22-30
How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.
I wonder what you think about the question above; a question that the Jews ask Jesus in our Gospel reading today: is it an unreasonable request? Or is it a question we have asked ourselves at times too? If God exists, why doesn’t he show himself a bit more clearly? It is a question I often hear my pupils asking when we speak about the possibility of the existence of God. Their argument is fair enough: if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he show himself, why does he allow suffering in the world? It is an age-old question, and I don’t think that there is a completely satisfactory answer to it. For me, Jesus’ reply to the Jews this morning may point in the direction in which we may start to look for an answer, but not without difficulty.
The news over Holy Week and Easter was dominated by two devastating events: the fire at the Notre Dame and the horrendous Easter Day shootings in Sri Lanka. Now, at the beginning of May, both these events seem to have disappeared almost completely from the news headlines. On one level, this is understandable, as there is not much more news to report. However, it also makes us realise how quickly major events disappear to the background, unless we ourselves have been personally afflicted. Particularly when tragic events involve a loss of life, the lives of those who are left are changed forever, but for many others life carries on as before.
The previous reflections for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have focussed very much on who we are in relationship, who we are as members of a group, of a collective. It is very much the pattern of Holy Week, when the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem; when the disciples have their last meal with Jesus and when people gather around the Cross.
However, the encounter on Easter morning, at least in John’s version, is very much an individual encounter between Mary and Jesus. Early in the morning, while it was still dark – we hear – Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. Maybe she has taken the remainder of her costly oil to anoint the body of Jesus after his death. However, when she comes to the tomb, she finds it empty. Mary runs to the disciples; Peter and presumably John run to the tomb and they see it empty as well. They see and believe.