A sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7.55-60 & John 14.1-14
We have been adjusting to a new and unfamiliar way of life now for almost two months. We have come to realise the things we miss, and our hopes for the future. The news in these past few weeks has focussed almost solely on Covid-19, and I do wonder if we are indeed focussing too much on ourselves, but I will come back to this later.
The one day on which the news here in the UK was different, was last Friday: VE or Victory in Europe Day. I suspect a particularly poignant day for those of you who remember the first VE Day: Churchill’s memorable speech and street parties throughout the country. The question in how far the Church should be involved in civic celebrations such as VE Day and Remembrance Day has always been a topic of conversation, as there is a wide range of opinions on the relationship between our faith and armed conflict.
Continue reading “The way to freedom”
Reflection on the story of the Good Shepherd
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Psalm 23 & John 1.1-10
Our readings this morning make us reflect on God in the familiar image of the Good Shepherd. Although not many of us still live in a place where shepherding is a common profession, the Biblical stories have become very much part of our Western narrative, even for those who would not call themselves Christians.
That of course comes with its risks, because the way we imagine a shepherd nowadays, will have been very different from what they may have looked and behaved like two millennia ago. However, I don’t want to dwell on that thought too much, but rather share a story that made me think of the Good Shepherd a few weeks ago. I was out on my daily round of exercise on Granham Hill, just around the corner from where I live. Usually there are sheep roaming around at a distance, and the only interaction between them and me is a curious look at one another.
However, on this particular day, one of the sheep was stuck in some barbed wire. Being reminded of my pastoral profession, I felt a duty to see if there was anything I could do. Slowly I approached the sheep, at the same time not trying to scare it as well as thinking how I would go about freeing it. Whilst I was still at a good distance, the sheep was so shocked by my appearance, that this in itself was enough for it to free itself, and quickly it ran away.
Continue reading “The familiar voice”
Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
The Road to Emmaus – Luke 24.13-35
The beautiful and intimate story that we hear in Luke’s Gospel this morning brings us back to the first Easter Day. On the same day as the women discovered the empty tomb, two of the disciples are on their way to a village called Emmaus, which is a good two hours walk.
As we can imagine, they are discussing the events of the past days. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem, their hope that Jesus would now show himself to be the Saviour he had told them to be. But then, his capture, condemnation and crucifixion; and now the empty tomb. They are trying to make sense of it all, but I suspect without much success.
This intimate setting of just two people walking and discussing together is one with which we may have become familiar in the last few weeks as well. If we are in a household with more than one person, we too may have had similar walks: discussing the current events and how to make sense of them. Or we may have had these conversations on the phone, or two meters apart in the queue to Waitrose or on our daily round of exercise. In whichever setting, I am sure that we too have found ourselves sad, bereft and anxious, just like these two disciples on the road.
Continue reading “Taking bread”
Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
This passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus’ appearance to the disciples is traditionally read on the Sunday after Easter Day. It has striking similarities with the preceding passage, which we heard last week: Jesus’ appearance to Mary on the first Easter morning. Maybe one of the most striking differences, however, is the setting: where it takes place. Whereas Mary went to the tomb, searching, the disciples are in a house, hiding.
We hear that they have locked their doors, for fear of the Jews. Some commentators argue that the reason ‘for fear of the Jews’ was added in a later version of the narrative, as it does not appear when Jesus appears a second time a week later to reveal himself to Thomas also.
Continue reading “The doors are locked”
A reflection for Easter Day
It is Easter morning, and the first words on our lips are ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen!’. We then look at the news, in the hope to find the world a different place; a place in which we had never heard about Covid-19, and we felt safe and secure. Yet, we wake up to the same reality as yesterday: what we had wished to be a dream from which we wake, is the world in which we live.
Yet, today, everything is different, although it may not seem so. To understand, let’s look at the story of Mary, one of the most moving stories in the Bible. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary goes to the tomb where they had laid Jesus a couple of days earlier. She is on her own, and I wonder what she is looking and hoping for? Is she hoping that by visiting the grave, she will wake up from this nightmare, and realise Jesus is still there?
Continue reading “It makes all the difference”
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.
Continue reading “Thy Kingdom Come 2019”
“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.
Continue reading “The way of truth, life and love”
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.
Continue reading “Tell us plainly”