Art: A thing of beauty

The role of arts and the First World War

Sermon preached at the Calne Music and Arts Festival Evensong
14th October 2018, Genesis 4.3-11 & John 20.11-18

It is remarkable that in an era where society calls itself more and more secular, music, arts and literature festivals are increasingly popular. I would like to suggest this evening that a reason may be we are facing a level of disillusionment, and that arts, music and literature are a beacon of hope and truth. I would also like to suggest that this disillusionment is in many ways not dissimilar from where we were a century ago, at the end, and during the aftermath of the Great War.

David Jones
Copyright The Estate of David Jones

Of course, there are many ways in which our society is completely different now from the 1920s – as historians will be very able to point out. However, when I came across the following quote from the artist and author David Jones written in 1926, I sense that there are some parallels to be drawn too. In his first published essay since the Great War, Jones wrote that art must express contemporary culture and that, since today – 1926 – we are generally unable to create ‘a thing of beauty’, the only hope for authentic art is a counter culture determined ‘to avoid … the general decline.’[1]

Art: a thing of beauty, determined to avoid the general decline.

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Those whom God has joined together

A sermon preached at Marlborough College Chapel
7th October 2018, Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Mark 10.2-16

hands marriage
Photo credit Matthew Brown

Quite a controversial reading this morning, I suspect – I hope! When I looked at the reading suggested by the lectionary, my first thought was to choose another one. Although some of you may agree with my interpretation of this reading, I am almost sure that what I will say this morning may upset and offend some people. Others may think that I am plainly wrong. For someone who doesn’t like an argument, that’s not great.

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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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St Michael: The power of story and ritual

An address given at Marlborough College Chapel
Feast of St Michael and All Angels

Every year, on 29th September, the Church throughout the world celebrates the festival of St Michael and All Angels. As some of you may know, Marlborough College Chapel is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. I may be wrong, but the only reason I could find why was that it was consecrated on 29th September in the year 1886.

Michael

Now, celebrate may a big word for what is happening nowadays, but traditionally it was an important day in the year. Together with Christmas, Midsummer and Lady Day, it is one of the four so-called ‘quarter’ days, which mark the turning of the seasons. Of course, this day marking the end of the summer and the beginning of the autumn and the shortening of the days.

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We are the Body of Christ

Reflection on the local Church
30th September 2018, Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

James 5.13-20 & Mark 9.38-50

saltAs some of you reading will know, Marlborough is currently without a Rector. It is a strange thought that the local Church is currently without a leader. However, todays readings remind us that being the local Church, being the Body of Christ in a place, is a responsibility in which we all share. We all have a role to play in the local Christian community, each in our own way, as well as together in relationship.

Starting at the end of the Gospel reading, I’d like to work back toward the reading from James’ letter, making some observations on the way. The Gospel reading set for today ends with the phrase ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another’. At the face of it, two competing principles. Having salt in ourselves: standing up for what we believe in; and yet being at peace with one another: making sure that relationships are harmonious.

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Love with the love that is God

AugustineThe text below is written by St Augustine of Hippo, sometime early in the 5th century. St Augustine is one of the most important writers in Christian history, and I have to admit one of my favourites. I find the best way to approach his work is not as a Religious Studies textbook for the fifth century, but on the contrary, almost like poetry. Words that try to give meaning to something we feel or believe, but is very hard to articulate.

As often the case with poetry as well, the first time, or times, you hear it, a lot of it doesn’t quite make sense when you think about it. But, most of the time, there is even on a first reading, something that strikes you and resonates. So, as you read the reading below, I’d like you to try and read it as poetry, trying to look out for something that connects; something that strikes a chord. Continue reading “Love with the love that is God”

What you say is who you become

A reflection on what we say
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity: James 3.1-12

words

‘Not many of you should become teachers’, is how James starts the part of his letter that the lectionary suggests for this Sunday. Because those who teach have an even greater responsibility in getting things right. So, no pressure there for those who teach then this morning. However, James is not just talking about those sitting on the back rows, but to each one of us who has some sort of responsibility and authority, so I guess that means all of us.

Words are important, and words do have an impact, as we all know. We all will have heard things that have upset us, as well as things that have made us feel really good, for that matter. And equally, we will have said things that have upset others, as well as encouraged them and made them feel good.

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